It’s that time of year again folks. Rumors swirling, stars on the move, agents making power plays; it’s officially free agency season in the NBA.
For a lot of fans and players alike, it’s the most exciting time of the NBA season and for good reason. It’s a time of hope and a time for change, something that all NBA teams, aside from maybe the team that brought home the Larry O, should look forward to. It doesn’t matter if you’re contending, rebuilding, or like the Mavs, are somewhere in between.
It’s understandable that some of the Mavs fans have grown cynical about the free agency process, given that they have been spurned by it maybe more than any other franchise. The teams “all in” approach in landing big names like Dwight Howard, DeAndre Jordan, and Deron Williams put them in a bad spot when those guys chose to play their basketball elsewhere.
So, as the Mavs head into this years frenzy with somewhere between 30 to 40 million dollars worth of spending money, there has been an internal conversation among the fans and assuredly among the teams decision makers about how that money should be allocated.
Should they cast their line and hope for a big fish? Or should they go the safer route and find some reliable, cost effective role players? It should be noted that these two aren’t mutually exclusive, but given the team’s history, it makes sense you’d want to at least come away with one or the other.
When considering this question, it’s important to understand the differences, namely two of them, between the versions of the Mavs who failed in free agency vs. the current iteration preparing to take their swing.
The drafting of Luka Doncic and trade acquisition of Kristaps Porzingis not only gave the team two under-the-age of 23 stars, it also gives them a safety net for things like this. If they whiffed during free agency back in 2016, they were left to pick up the pieces by maxing Harrison Barnes, trading for a broken down Andrew Bogut, and rolling the dice on the lesser known Curry brother. But now if they fail, they’ll recover by trotting out a 20-year-old Luka Doncic and a 7-foot-3 unicorn by the name of Kristaps Porzingis.
Having these two unique talents not only affords them lineup and play style flexibility, it also gives them team building flexibility. Swinging for the fences and striking out isn’t the end for Donnie, Cuban, and Co., because they don’t have all their eggs in that basket, and Luka and KP afforded them that luxury.
But more than anything with the two young studs, is that they are a draw for players who may be looking for a new home. Luka plays an undeniably fun, aesthetically pleasing game that exudes contagious joy. KP possesses an incredible combination of size and skill which spawned one of the more unique superstar nicknames in some time. Objectively, these two create an intriguing foundation for both the now and the future. Landing that elusive third star, through the means of free agency where they have had repeated public failures, would truly signal the dawn of a new day for the Mavericks franchise, if Luka’s ascension didn’t already.
A healthy dose of pessimism never hurt anyone though, right? We know things don’t ever really go according to plan with the Mavericks and their offseason hopes. Adding a dynamic star of Kemba Walker’s caliber or another youngster in D’Angelo Russell sounds great, but playing the free agency game can be fickle. These guys are good players and there are an unusual amount of teams this year with the salary cap room to nab them.
We’ve talked about how things are different this time, so what happens when they don’t land their big fish? Well, they’d likely shift their focus to smaller, more attainable targets. The Patrick Beverley’s, Danny Green’s, and Malcom Brogdon’s of the world. Some would argue that even those guys are unrealistic for the Mavs, that’s how bad it’s been for Dallas this time of year. But with their new European dynamos, any decent combination of free agents that can adequately address their shooting deficit, perimeter defense, help out on the glass, or just flat out add another playmaker can put this team back into contention. Not necessarily for a title, they are still several years away from that being a realistic expectation, but surely for a playoff spot.
That’s the beauty of Luka and KP being on the roster. The foundation the Mavericks repeatedly failed to find on the open market, this time is already in place. Their pairing was a well constructed fail safe for when the Mavs inevitably miss out on this year’s top free agents and settle for scraps. Or, it was a perfectly executed plan to attract some of the leagues elite to come play in Dallas.
Who will wind up being the beneficiary of Mark Cuban’s deep pockets and desire for competitive basketball? We will find out soon enough, but what we do know is this: Whoever they do or do not sign, with Luka and KP on board for the long haul, the Mavericks cannot fail the summer.
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