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The Way Too Early Mavs 2018 Free Agent Watch

The free agency of 2018 is going to be so big, with names such as LeBron James, Paul George, DeMarcus Cousins, and Isaiah Thomas, it warrants taking a “way too early” look at some possible Mavs free agent targets.

Photos: Michael Lark/Dallas Sports Fanatic

The Way Too Early Mavs 2018 Free Agent Watch

Training camp hasn’t happened yet. Nerlens Noel isn’t signed yet. The 2017 season hasn’t started yet. But the free agency of 2018 is going to be so big, with names such as LeBron James, Chris Paul, Paul George, DeMarcus Cousins, Isiah Thomas, and Yogi Ferrell to name a few, that it warrants taking a “way too early” look at some possible players that could get attention from the Dallas front office.

Heading into the 2018 free agency period Dallas will only have 8 players under contract, not including Noel . Seth Curry and Yogi Ferrell are two of the more prominent Mavs that will be free agents and have the opportunity to cash in depending on if they can build on their solid 2016-2017 season. Dirk, Maxi Kleber, and Powell are the only front court players that have a deal extending into the 2018-2019 season. The front court is going to be a huge need for the Mavs during the 2018 free agency period.

Keeping the outlook of the current roster in mind, the list is broken into three categories: Superstar, All-Star, and Role Player.

Superstar

This category is for the NBA’s most elite players.

DeMarcus Cousins

The only way I see this happening is if Nerlen’s and the Mavs do not reach an agreement and he plays on his qualifying offer in the upcoming 2017-2018 season. Assuming Nerlens leaves after the season, the Mavs will once again be searching for a center. DeMarcus Cousins should be on their radar, and every other teams radar too. Cousins is known to be both volatile and dominant. He has 108 technical fouls and 11 ejections in 487 games played. Although he has what some would see as a “character issue”, he is 6 foot 11 inches tall, weighs 270 pounds, and has averaged 10+ points and 10+ rebounds in five of the seven seasons he has been in the league. Over that span he has averages of 21.2 points and 10.8 rebounds . Simply dominant. Not to mention, he is only 27 years old.mavs-fanatic-21-of-29

 

What about fit? Another phrase that accompanies Cousins is “coach killer” (he had 6 coaches during his time in Sacramento, and now has had 7 coaches in his 7 years in the league with his trade to New Orleans). Would Dallas be willing to throw a ton of money at him with his reputation? I think so. Coach Rick Carlisle has had plenty of experience dealing with volatile personalities (see: Metta World Peace, Rajon Rondo). The Sacramento management was also nothing short of horrible during his tenure, so they are also responsible for the coaching carousal. From an unbiased point of view, I think Cousins suffers from being too passionate as opposed to not getting along with coaches. Under the right guidance and nurturing, I think he can really blossom into the player he can be and stay on the floor too.

How about price? Max. No doubt about it. He is a freak of nature and the only other players in the NBA who come close are Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Davis. He should command an average salary between $35-39 million per year, possibly higher, if he gets a deal similar to Blake Griffin’s. With no apparent replacement for Dirk and a giant question mark at the center position, investing this much money into a player of this caliber and potential makes sense for the rebuilding Mavs that are looking for a mixture of youth and veteran experience.

Paul George

The rumors about Paul George going to LA have been rampant for the past two years, so I do not think the opportunity is as realistic as Cousins. With that in mind, George fits the age spectrum for the Mavs as he is only 27 years old. He is a four time All-Star, has been on the NBA All-Defensive teams three times, and he gets buckets. He has career averages 18.1 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 3.2 assists in 32 minutes played. He came back from a horrific leg injury that could have cost him his career and has played in 81 and 75 games in the two years since.

In terms of fit, he plays at the SG/SF positions, and the Mavs have Wesley Matthews and Harrison Barnes starting at those spots. If the Mavs are at the bottom of the standings towards the trade deadline, do not be surprised if they move Matthews to a contender and take on some salary dump contracts in return. The only way I see George being an option is if they move Matthews, which Mark and Donnie have told media that he is “un-tradeable”. Imagine it though, a potential starting five of Smith Jr., George, Barnes, Dirk(Powell), and possibly Nerlens. I think they could compete in the west.

In terms of price, George is going to command a max deal. He is entering his prime and has fully recovered from his injury. The 2016-2017 was arguably his best shooting year as he averaged 23.7 points on 46% from the field, both career highs. There aren’t many forwards who can compete with LeBron James and Kevin Durant, but I would say Paul George is one of them.

All-Star

This category includes players of All-Star (or close to) caliber or potential.

Joel Embiid 

Embiid will be a restricted free agent during the 2018 free agency. He has only played in 31 of the possible 246 games that have taken place since he was drafted in 2014 by Philadelphia after problems with his feet. During the 31 games he played last year, before being shut down due to a bone bruise and a meniscus tear in his knee, he averaged roughly 20 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 blocks in 25 minutes. He was heavily considered to be rookie of the year even though he hardly played due to how good he was when he was on the floor.

Because he plays center and is young and with the Mavs potentially having to search for a center, he fits perfectly. He is only 23 years old and is 7 feet tall. This summer he has posted videos of him knocking down three pointers and last year he shot 36% from three, knocking down 36 of the 98 he attempted. So he has the ability to be an outlet for an alley-oop or a shooting option when he pops out of the pick and roll. He is what some would say the future of NBA centers will be: able to finish at the rim, rebound, block, as well as shoot from outside the paint from time to time. The Mavs have one of, if not the best, medical staff in the NBA. Maybe they would be able to win him over with the promise of being able to keep him healthy and on the floor.

It is hard to put a value on him right now. Depending on how the 2017-2018 season goes for him, he could command close to a max contract. I don’t think he will get a max, simply because he has only played in 13% of the possible games since he was drafted. The durability concern dampens his value a lot, which is why we will have to see how this season goes. I think it will be anywhere from $23-28 million a year if he can keep up the level of play he showed the NBA during his 31 games last season for a full season.

Jabari Parker

Although he has been injury prone during his brief 3 year career, Parker is the one I am most interested in in the “All-Star” category. Before he went down with a knee injury last year Parker was averaging 20 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 assists in 34 minutes. He shot 49% from the field on roughly 36% from three last year. Parker is only 22 years old and is listed at 6 foot 8 inches tall and 250 pounds. He will be a restricted free agent during the 2018 off-season.

This guy, if healthy, could be a major upgrade over Dwight Powell. Because he has been stretching the floor a little bit more (last year he shot 178 three’s, making 65 of them) he would be a suitable replacement to fill in the huge whole Dirk will inevitably leave when he hangs it up. Plus, he is in the age range that the Mavs are looking for. He is a little bit undersized at the power forward position, but based on his numbers in 51 games last year, he could be a dominate young force in the NBA. Imagine the sets coach Carlisle could draw up with Dennis Smith Jr. and Parker running the pick and roll or pick and pop together. A starting lineup of Dennis Smith Jr., Seth Curry, Harrison Barnes, a healthy Jabari Parker, and Nerlens Noel sounds really really nice.

He will be a restricted free agent and I think Milwaukee will match to a certain extent. If someone offers him a max deal, which I don’t see why they would, then they will let him walk. His injury history makes it hard to put a value on him, but if he commands a deal similar to what I think Nurkic will get ($17-22 million per year), then I think the Mavs would pull the trigger. The Mavs medical staff might also be a bonus to Parker, who can’t seem to get past the injury bug.

Jusuf Nurkic

After being shipped out of Denver to Portland, Nurkic flourished under coach Terry Stotts. In the 16 games he played for the Blazers he averaged 15 points, 10 rebounds, and 2 blocks in 29 minutes per game. He also shot 50% from the field, which is on par with his shooting average when he was only getting 17 minutes per game in Denver. He will be a restricted free agent heading in the 2018 off season, and I believe Portland will match, especially if he continues last year’s level of play through a full 82 games.

Just like every center on this list, he fits if Nerlens isn’t here. He is 22 years old so he fits within the Mavs age spectrum for rebuilding and he is seven feet tall. Although he wouldn’t bring the same above the rim attack the Nerlens does, he has proven to be able to make shots around the basket and has also averaged more rebounds in extended minutes (10.4) than Nerlens has (8.1).  On the defensive side, both players have similar blocks per game, with Nurkic averaging 1.2 blocks in his career and Noel averaging 1.5.

He is a restricted free agent so some team might be crazy enough to offer him max, or very close to max money, in the hopes that Portland will match. I assume he will get a deal ranging anywhere from $17-22 million per year if he does not get the max. If we can get him at that deal and no other athletic big is available then I say go for it. It is similar to what Dallas has reportedly offered Noel.

Derrick Favors

He has never been an All-Star in the seven years he has been in the league. But, he was in consideration between 2014-2016, where he averaged roughly 16 points on 8 rebounds, shooting 51% from the field. Last season he only averaged 9.5 points and 6 rebounds in 24 minutes in the 50 games that he played, so it seems he regressed. Now that Gordon Hayward is out of Utah, there will be more time to go around and Favors could perform well given that it is a contract year.

I don’t like the fit because of Dwight Powell. Favors and Powell are the same height but Favors has about 20 pounds on Powell. Because of that Favors is not a “high-flyer” like Powell is. Both players have not been able to stretch the floor. Favors has only attempted 26 three pointers in his career, compared to Powell’s 101. Both players are also the same age. They are too similar and Powell’s contract is guaranteed through 2019, with a player option in 2020.

The yearly salary that the Mavs will have to pay for him will be higher than the yearly salary of Powell, due to the increasing salary cap. It would be redundant to pay more money yearly for the same player that you already have on your roster.

Julius Randle

After starting his NBA career by breaking his leg in his first NBA game, Randle has quietly developed himself into a young, promising power forward. Last season he averaged 13.2 points and 8.6 rebounds in 29 minutes per game. During the 2015-2016 season Randle was 6th in the NBA in total rebounds, so he has a knack for finding the ball. He is 22 years old, 6 foot 9 inches tall, weighs 250 pounds, and plays the power forward position. He will be a restricted free agent on a Lakers team that seems to be trying to quickly rebuild and will be looking to spend big money in the free agent market on the likes of LeBron James and Paul George.

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Parker fits on the Mavs similar to Dwight Powell. He doesn’t stretch the floor with his three point shooting (he made 17 of 63 threes, for 27%), is slightly undersized, and the average distance of his shot last year was 7.1 feet from the basket (Powell’s was 10.1 feet). I think his ceiling and floor are both higher than Powell’s, and he is younger, but once again I don’t see the need to have two of the same players on your team, especially if you have to pay one more than the other.

He will be a restricted free agent but with the Lakers eyes on the big names will he get his rights renounced? It is a definite possibility. Especially since the Lakers have a back up plan with Larry Nance, who is signed through 2020 at a very bargain contract of roughly $2.5 million a year.  Nance plays the same position and has wowed Lakers fans with his high flying dunks. He also has been able to step out and shoot the ball a little further than Parker. Where does that put his value to the rest of the league? I think he could get similar to what Nurkic will get, maybe a little less. So I will say $14-18 million a year. We have Powell on contract for around $10 million a year. No reason to pay someone else more to do the same thing.

Seth Curry 

Seth Curry is the first guard I have featured in the list, and yes, I put him in the All-Star category. In his 4th NBA season, 1st with Dallas, Curry averaged 12.8 points, 2.7 assists, and 2.6 rebounds while shooting 48% from the field and 42.5% from three in 29 minutes. During the 2016-2017 season he was 6th in the NBA in three point shooting percentage, beating out older brother Steph Curry who shot 41.1%. Curry also finished 12th in the league in effective field goal percentage at 57.8%. He is 27 years old and is listed at 6 foot 2 inches tall, weighing 185 pounds. Going into the 2018 off season Seth will be an unrestricted free agent.

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The Dallas front office is high on Seth, which is why they gave him a 2 year roughly $6 million contract in the 2016 off season after he had bounced around the league and started making some noise his last few games in Sacramento. He had to earn his way into the league after playing for 6 teams in 4 years, also making stints in the D-League, so he fits the Mavs “hard work” culture. If he continues to develop his handles and mid range game, the way he spaces the floor and finds teammates could have a similar, but not exact effect, that his MVP brother Steph has. To put it into perspective, Steph had his first All-Star season in his 5th year in the league at age 25. In his 4 seasons prior, Steph played 9100 minutes in 258 games. Seth, although 27, is in his 4th year in the league and has totals of 2755 minutes played in 120 games. Simpy put, we have seen what Steph has developed into after getting to play heavy minutes and be a featured player on his team, so there is a lot of intrigue to the upside of Seth. Plus the dude can shoot lights out just like the rest of his family. Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson view him as a foundation piece for this rebuilding team and I believe the Mavs will be trying very hard to resign him.

Because the NBA pays a premium for shooting, I can see Seth getting anywhere from $13-20 million a year. That number will of course depend on if he can keep up his progress from last season and how much the salary cap increases. There is going to be a lot of money thrown around in the 2018 off season, and this may help Seth get more money due to the market or hurt him because the market will dry up quickly, like it did to Nerlens this year. Regardless, the Mavs are going to want him to come back, and since Dallas was the first team to truly give him a chance with extended minutes, I think the feeling will be mutual.

Josh Richardson

Richardson will be 24 years old  at the start of the 2018-2019 season and he is listed as 6 foot 6 inches tall, weighing 200 pounds. He is listed as a shooting guard but because of his length he can also guard small forwards. In the 2016-2017 season he averaged 10.2 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 2.6 assists in 30 minutes playing for a Miami Heat team that almost pulled off an improbable comeback to make the playoffs. Richardson will be a restricted free agent during the 2018 off season. He was the recipient of the March 2016 Rookie of the Month award.

Richardson only fits here if Seth Curry and Wesley Matthews both leave, either via free agency or trade. To me, he is the poor man’s version of both Matthews and Curry combined. Richardson shot 41% from the field and 33% from three during his sophomore season, which was marred with soft tissue injuries in his left foot and knee. During his rookie campaign he shot 45% from the field and 46% from three, so he can obviously shoot the ball. In terms of defense, he averaged 1.9 steals and 1.2 blocks last year (Matthews averaged 1.1 steals and 0.2 blocks). Richardson has spent time in the D-League after being drafted in the second round of the 2015 draft, so he has had to work his way onto an NBA roster. He will only be 24 so he fits on the Mavs age radar and he is crazy athletic.

The only factor that could dampen his value is that he has only played in 52 and 53 games in his first two seasons. Since he will be a restricted free agent I can see a team offer him a bloated contract in the hopes of making Miami match. I think he could get anywhere between $15-20 million a year, similar to the one year deal that Kentavious Caldwell-Pope signed with the Lakers for roughly $18 million this offseason. For a player that is young, athletic, can shoot, and had to earn his spot on an NBA roster, I think it would be a good investment.

Zach LaVine

Although he tore his ACL last year, LaVine was playing his best basketball for Minnesota before he went down with the injury. He is not expected to be ready for the start of the 2017-2018 season and an ACL injury is hard to come back from, especially for someone who has won the dunk contest because of his jumping ability. In the 47 games he played in and started last year, LaVine averaged 18.9 points, 3.0 assists, 3.4 rebounds on 46% shooting from the field and 39% from three in 37 minutes. He will be a restricted free agent with the Bulls owning his rights after they traded for him this summer in the Jimmy Butler deal.

LaVine seems like a player Dallas would go after if it loses Curry and/or Matthews. Although he doesn’t have the defensive capabilities Matthews has, he can shoot the ball and also take it inside for a high flying dunk. Dallas took a chance on Matthews with his Achilles injury and has also taken chances on banged up players like they did with Tyson Chandler. He fits the age the Mavs are looking for as he will be 23 to start the 2018-2019 season. Plus, he has had starting experience at both the point and shooting guard positions.

As with all injured players, it is difficult to determine what his market value will be once he comes back from his ACL injury. Assuming that it is a slow recovery and it takes him time to get back into form, he won’t command anything near the max and probably wont get offered a long term deal either. I bet teams offer him a one or two year deal between $8-14 million a year in the hopes that he will prove to them that he is back to his old self. If Dallas loses either of their incumbent shooting guards then I believe they will throw an offer at him in this price and year range, but Chicago can always match if they choose to.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

KCP had his restricted free agent rights renounced by the Pistons this off season and wound up betting on himself by signing a one year deal worth roughly $18 million with the Lakers instead of signing a long term deal. During his four years in the NBA, all with Detroit, KCP has averaged 11.7 points, 1.6 assists, and 3.3 rebounds on 40% shooting from the field and 33% shooting from three. Last year he averaged 13.8 points on 39% from the field and 35% from three (a career high) in 33 minutes. He is listed as a shooting guard and is 6 foot 5 inches tall and weighs 205 pounds.

His length and weight allow him to be able to guard spots 1 through 3. Although he isn’t the most accurate shooter, he has still made at least 100 three pointers in his last three seasons. He should be able to fill in the role that Curry or Matthews would leave behind if they are not on the Mavs roster. Playing under a very demanding Stan Van Gundy is also good preparation to play under also very demanding coach Rick Carlisle. KCP should be on the Mavs radar because he is young, can shoot, and has the length to be versatile on defense.

He is in a contract year and this season will largely determine how much money he is going to get in 2018. Some would say he made a smart move by letting himself be in the free agent market in 2018, where the market value for shooting guards may be boosted due Paul George and Avery Bradley also being free agents. If he performs as well as he did last year or better, I expect him to get a yearly salary higher than the $18 million he will make this year, likely in the $20-23 million range per year. If he under performs in his contract year then I assume his salary will stay somewhat the same as it is this year. I am not sure that Dallas sees him as a good enough player to dish out that type of money.

Role Player

This category is for players that don’t quite meet the All-Star level at this point in their careers.

Yogi Ferrell 

Ferell went undrafted and had stints with Brooklyn and in the D-League before being called up by Dallas and earning himself a roster spot after playing on a 10-day contract. During his time with Dallas last year he averaged 11.3 points, 4.3 assists, and 2.8 rebounds while shooting 41% from the field and 40% from three in 29 minutes played. He went on to start 29 of the 36 games he played for the Mavericks, most of them after Dallas waived Deron Williams. Ferrell was named to the All-NBA Rookie second team, the only un-drafted player to make a All-NBA rookie team last year.

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The Dallas fans love him and it was obvious due to the “Yogi Mania” that was going around town. The former Indiana guard stole the hearts of Dallas’s fans and players when he scored a career high 32 points in a win against the Portland Trail Blazers. He will be pushing Dennis Smith Jr. for the starting role, but will most likely wind up being the second point guard in the rotation. His work ethic and tough route to the NBA fit well with the culture that Dallas has established. He is here now and I expect him to be here next year as well.

Yogi will be coming off of his rookie deal and will be a restricted free agent, so the Mavs can match any offer he gets if they choose. Since he is still young, and will most likely be backing up DSJ, I imagine a team would offer him anywhere from $3-8 million per year. This is pretty reasonable for a guy that came out of nowhere and finished the season as the Mavs starting point guard. Expect him to be back in Mavs blue going into the 2018-2019 season.

Tyreke Evans

A few years ago I would have argued that Evans was worthy to be in the All-Star category of this list, however injuries have diminished that upside for him recently. For his career, Evans has averages of 16.1 points, 5.1 assists, and 4.8 rebounds in 32 minutes played. He has shot 44% from the field and 29% from three during his 8 years in the NBA. Last year, in the 40 games he played for Sacramento and New Orleans, he averaged 10.3 points and 3.1 assists. He is 6 feet 6 inches tall and weighs 220 pounds and is only 27 years old. He will be an unrestricted free agent in the 2018 off season after signing a one year deal with Memphis this off season.

I like Evans as an option for Dallas simply because he can play and guard positions 1 through 3 on the defensive and offensive end of the floor. He has run a lot of point guard in his career, so having him on the roster would allow Dallas to run sets that put their point guard off the ball, turning the PG into a shooting option instead. He has enough weight on him to be able to body the small forwards in the league. His stature simply allows him to be a versatile player on the roster. Although he is not the most accurate shooter, he has the ability to dribble through and score in traffic. He also has a ton of NBA experience that he could pass on to Yogi, Dennis, and Seth. I could see him taking over for Devin Harris if he is no longer with the Mavs. Plus, the Mavs training staff might be able to get him right so he can stay on the floor.

Evans is making $3.29 million during the 2017-2018 season. If he is able to stay healthy and play more than he might be able to fetch a contract in the $4-6million per year range. With his versatility and NBA experience, I think he should be considered by the Mavs if they think they can get him healthy.

Brendan Wright

With a previous stint in Dallas, Wright is a 6 foot 10 inch power forward that has dealt with the injury bug his entire career. Over the previous two years he has only played in 40 games due to injuries to his knees and feet. He is lanky at 6 feet 10 inches and 210 pounds. He has career averages of 7.1 points and 3.7 rebounds in 16.4 minutes per game. I would argue that his best moments came in Dallas between 2011 and 2015, where he played the most games out of any other seasons in his career.

He fits here if Salah Mejri leaves the Mavs in the 2018 off season, otherwise I am assuming the Mavs would bring back Mejri or give the spot to Jonathan Motley. When he last played in Dallas, he was an able pick and roll finisher who had a soft touch around the rim and a few feet outside of the basket. Wright has never averaged more than 4.3 rebounds in a season.

He should get the veterans minimum simply due to how he has not been very durable during his career. If the Mavs think they can get him healthy once again then he should be considered as a cheap, back up big man.

Tarik Black

Tarik Black is a 6 foot 9 inch 250 pound 25 year old center who has played for Houston and LA during his 3 year NBA career. Last year he played in 67 games, the most of his career, and averaged 5.7 points and 5.1 rebounds in 16 minutes per game.

Black has bounced in and out of the league, shuffling between the D-League and the NBA roster. Although he is undersized for a center, he is a serviceable, physical big man who can body almost any player in the NBA. You know what you are getting with him – hard nosed defense and rebounding. This is what the Mavs should be looking for in a role player. He also fits the age that Dallas is looking for.

He will make roughly $3.3 million this year and is an unrestricted free agent going into 2018. I imagine that he will get a contract similar in per year dollars, most likely a little higher if the salary cap increases. I can see a team offering him anywhere from $3.5 to $6 million a year for his services. This is a decent range for a back up big and should be on the Mavs radar.

Nick Stauskas

Sauce Castillo, as he is referred to in Philly, is a 6 foot 6 inch 23 year old shooting guard who has spent the last two seasons with the Sixers. He sports averages of 9.5 points and 2.4 assists on 40% shooting from the field and 37% shooting from three. Primarily a three point option in the offense, Stauskas has canned over 100 three pointers the past two seasons.

A team can never have enough shooters and that is what Stauskas does. He doesn’t bring anything defensively, he doesn’t rebound, and he has averaged almost a 1 to 1 assist to turnover ratio throughout his career. If the Mavs lose some shooting if Curry, Matthews, or Devin Harris leave, then he should be on the radar. He fits on the three point line, which every team needs.

Stauskas is a restricted free agent in 2018. He will make $3.1 million this year and now has competition for playing time with the addition of Ben Simmons, Markel Fultz, and JJ Redick. I doubt he gets anywhere close to what other shooting guards will get, so I am just going to throw out an assumption of anywhere between $5-8 million per year. The Mavs should only consider him in this range, as he brings nothing more than a three point shot to the team.

Staff writer covering the Dallas Mavericks | I was in Miami when the Mavs won in 2011 and I was in the building to see Dirk's 30K point. I follow the Mavs and NBA religiously, with the Cowboys and Rangers sprinkled in. Outside of sports I like The Office, cooking, and good beer.

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