Ever since everyone found out that the NBA ended its lockout on a late November night back in November 2011, the offseason/free agency period has been absolute mayhem for the Mavericks and their fanbase. Countless mornings, afternoons and evenings constantly renewing Twitter feeds just waiting for the next “WojBomb” or big break from the recently-wronged-by-ESPN Marc Stein. There also have been countless moments of disappointment and heartbreak as the Mavs have pinned their offseasons on landing that coveted “Big Fish.”
After the 2000s saw the Donnie Nelson and Mark Cuban never having any salary cap to play with in the summer due to always being way over the cap, this decade has constantly seen them be forced to do something with a massive amount of cash to spend; not always yielding the best results. As MFFL’s sit at home and see big names like Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry announce that they’ll be entering the free agency fray this summer, they prepare for the Mavs to ready their best pitch and begin to gesture for the cash truck to begin to back up. Not so fast.
This offseason will likely be the least eventful one since the 2011 championship.
This might be a tough pill to swallow for the fans who just saw their team finish with their worst record since Dirk Nowitzki’s 1998-1999 rookie season, but the Mavericks brass had an important realization some time in the last twelve months: They’re in this for the big picture. There’s probably not a realistic move to be made this summer that will make them legitimate contenders next season.
The Mavs indicated their complete commitment to getting younger by dumping Andrew Bogut in the Nerlens Noel trade, simply letting Deron Williams chase a ring in Cleveland and filling out the end of their roster with early-20-somethings like Jared Uthoff and Nicolas Brussino instead of veterans that are on their last legs.
After making those moves, is the next logical one giving a four year, $100+ million contract to a 31 year old player like Lowry or any other big name veteran free agent?
Barring the Mavs somehow entering the Paul Geroge/Carmelo Anthony trade discussions, the most exciting addition to the roster this summer will likely be whoever they draft at number nine or wherever they land. The biggest contract they dish out will be the one they offer in order to retain Nerlens Noel.
There are a couple other big reasons behind this:
The Mavs probably won’t have enough cap space to even be in the ballpark for whatever big names are out on the market. With the new max contracts for veterans like Lowry, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin starting around $30 million a year and the Mavs dishing out big contracts to the likes of Harrison Barnes and Wesley Matthews each of the last two summers, they’ve simply eaten up a lot of their salary cap pie for this summer unless they make some surprising cap-clearing trades or Dirk Nowitzki takes a big pay-cut after not exercising his $25 million player option for next season. While the latter is certainly possible, it’s unlikely he plays for less than $10 or $15 million if the Mavericks aren’t really in the running to land an immediate difference maker to put next to Dirk for what might be his final season.
The exact amount of cap space the Mavs will have this summer is kind of foggy because it depends on a lot of yet-to-be-determined variables, but it definitely won’t be at the number they’ve had the last few summers. If they’re going to land a big name, it’s probably going to have to come via trade. While they do have some nice trade assets in their arsenal, it’s unlikely that it will be enough to land a player the likes of Paul George.
Dallas will likely sign a recognizable name for their bench, but it won’t be for more than a one year deal with an option for the second year. The three or four year deals will be reserved for young guys they’re gambling on with partially guaranteed deals. The Mavericks will need to preserve as much cap space as possible for the summer of 2018 when their savviest signing of last summer, Seth Curry, will be a free agent.
The conundrum with Curry is that Dallas does not have his “Bird Rights.” This means they cannot go over the cap to resign him like they will be able to do with Nerlens Noel this summer. So if Dallas wants to keep the younger Curry brother, which they will if his second season in Dallas is anything like his first, they will need to preserve enough cap space for next summer to be able to ink him before hitting the salary cap at whatever figure it stands after next season. The cap was set for $101 million for the 2017-2018 season.
Looking at how their contracts break down right now, the Mavs will have plenty of room to sign Curry to a $15-25 million per year contract after next season– which will be a fair market value for his contract if he’s able to even semi-replicate his 14.7 points per game he averaged in 42 games as a starter last season. The dilemma will be making sure they have enough room left over to still improve the team after that. Bottom line: the Mavericks will want to keep Seth Curry beyond next season, and their planning for making that happens needs to begin now.
It will be an important as ever summer for Donnie Nelson and the rest of the Mavs front office, but the most exciting moment for fans might be NBA Draft night on June 22nd. Hey, it might be next Tuesday night when they shoot into the top three picks during the draft lottery. Whatever the case, lower your expectations if you’re hoping for a splashy, eventful summer for the Mavericks.
Follow me on Twitter for more Mavs/NBA Playoffs thoughts: @DylanDuell
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