While we all have our eyes looking forward onto what the Mavs will add in free agency this week and beyond, it’s easy to forget that there are plenty of players they’ll need to consider retaining. Whenever a team is anticipated to have $30 plus million in cap space, it usually means that they have no shortage of contracts coming off their books. This is the case for the Mavericks in 2019, but after they already dealt the mega-salaries of DeAndre Jordan, Wesley Matthews and Harrison Barnes during the season, the salaries coming off the books for Dallas are relatively small.
Reports began to surface this week that the Mavericks will offer the max, five-year/$158 million contract extension to restricted free agent Kristaps Porzingis and the 23-year-old will accept. It’s also worth nothing that the 2019-2020 salary of Ryan Broekhoff ($1.4 million) became guaranteed on Saturday and it if he is let go by Dallas anytime soon, it won’t be for salary cap reasons. With those details in mind, here is a look at some of the other notable players who could have been/will be testing the free agency waters this summer.
Dwight Powell (Player Option)
News about Powell’s future plans started to circulate virtually right after the season with Mark Cuban making the somewhat premature proclamation that Dallas would be signing the soon-to-be 28-year-old big man to a three-year extension after he opted into his player option for the 2019-2020 season for roughly $10.3 million. By mid-June, those plans were at least partly set into motion when Powell officially exercised his player option.
An extension for Powell, on the high-end, will be somewhere around four years and $55 million.
After being acquired by the Mavericks in the infamous Rajon Rondo trade in December 2014, Dwight Powell has almost made the ugly breakup with Rondo an after-thought with his hard work on and off the court in Dallas over the last four and a half years. In 24 games after the All-Star break last season, Powell averaged 14 points and 8 rebounds in roughly 31 minutes a game. Admittedly, the Mavericks win/loss record after the break last season was not pretty, but Powell has proved that he can be a part of an elite offense if given the opportunity. His ability to roll to the basket flourished when playing with J.J. Barea and was arguably better when he was on the floor with the vision of Luka Doncic.
Maxi Kleber and Dorian Finney-Smith (restricted)
News broke on Wednesday afternoon that both Kleber and Dorian Finney-Smith would receive qualifying offers from the Mavericks to make them restricted free agents this summer. With this move, it seems more and more likely that both will remain in Dallas as valuable pieces in Dallas unless a team really floored either with an offer that the Mavericks deem too steep for their tastes.
QO on Kleber is $1.8M and Finney-Smith $1.9M. Low cap hold on both gives Dallas an advantage to use cap space first and circle back to sign each player (exceeding the cap) after room is used. https://t.co/wkHvzIOCs0
— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) June 26, 2019
Since both of these players are gems Dallas found outside of the draft, their potential salary situations are quite different from others and are certainly more complicated. Luckily, guys like Bobby Marks used to be GM’s and can now explain things to us normal people on Twitter. While it’s certainly possible that teams will totally stay away from Finney-Smith and Kleber because they think Dallas will match any offer and that leads to the pair playing for $1.8 and $1.9 million this season, it seems especially unlikely for Kleber.
The heir to the “Dallas Maverick from Wurzburg, Germany” throne had some major high moments this season for Dallas. Despite having several lingering injuries throughout the season, including a toe injury that seemed to stick around all season as I would always see him taking off a sizable brace off one of his big toes after every game, Kleber appeared in 71 games for the Mavs and even started 18 as a dependable defensive force in the paint averaging over a block per game. His shooting from beyond the arc was solid overall on the year at 35%, but if you take out the 17/70 (24%) stretch in November and December, his three point shooting percentage for the season goes up to 41% (60/148). Avoiding major cold streaks from beyond the arc would be a big help for this Mavs team as they look for finishers off of brilliant Luka Doncic finds next season.
Based off some fun time on Larry Coon’s Salary Cap FAQ page, the most likely way a team will try to pry Kleber away from Dallas is to get him to sign an offer-sheet similar to the Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik to the Rockets in 2012/Tyler Johnson deals that start out slightly modest in salary for the first two seasons and then spike north of $15 million in the third and fourth seasons. A contract offer of that size seems unlikely for Kleber after just two seasons, but there is a lot of cap space among NBA teams this summer and not everyone is going to be able to sign Kevin Durant or Kawhi Leonard.
The bottom line is that it seems like Dallas really wants to keep both of these guys around and is taking the steps necessary to make sure they have the inside track to making that happen. It’s a smart move because while neither of them are likely to have a ceiling that is much higher than their current level of play, they are hard-working energy players who seemed to be absolutely positive influences on the morale of the team on the court and in the locker room.
J.J. Barea (Unrestricted)
Ever since Barea’s 2018-2019 season was tragically cut short by an Achilles injury in January, it has been widely assumed that the Mavericks would bring him back next season even if he wasn’t going to be ready for the start of it.
The 35-year-old appeared in 38 games for Dallas last season before his injury and was vital in helping the Mavericks bench offense run incredibly effectively. While his individual shooting percentages of 30% from three and 42% overall aren’t the least bit impressive, Barea averaged close to six assists in less than 20 minutes per game.
Barea told media back in January that his recovery time is expected to last between six-to-nine months. Six months would put him as ready in mid-July and there have been no indications by any tapped-in Mavericks media that he is vigorously working out or anything. Perhaps he is ready for the start of the season, maybe he isn’t. I would think it would be a safe bet that J.J. Barea is back in a Mavs uniform before Christmas and is playing on a one-year vet’s minimum contract.
Not likely to return (the rest)
Devin Harris might be at the end of his NBA journey as a player. The 36-year-old’s 15th NBA season was far from his best as he shot just 38% from the field in 15.8 minutes per game, his lowest minutes load since he played just 15.4 during his rookie season in 2004-2005. While his maturity and presence are certainly appreciated in the locker room, the emergence of Jalen Brunson will likely take priority over any minutes for Harris next season. The Mavericks didn’t sign him until August last summer and Harris even stated that he got more offers for coaching jobs than he did for player contracts then. It will probably be more of the same this summer.
Salah Mejri has already been waived by the Mavericks in 2019, they’ll likely be letting him go again this summer. After getting many, many DNP-CD’s throughout the season, Dallas let Mejri go when they needed to clear a roster spot after the Harrison Barnes trade in February. He did re-sign with Dallas and suddenly find his three-point shooting stroke at the end of the season. If the Mavericks re-tain Dwight Powell and Maxi Kleber, add Kristaps Porzingis, potentially another rebounding big-man for the bench this summer and then maybe even play second round pick Isaiah Roby a little bit in 2018-2019, there will be even less room for Mejri than there was this season. His close relationship with Luka Doncic and his low price could be factors in a return, but I just wouldn’t count on it.
Trey Burke can play in the NBA. There is no doubt about that. It’s just hard for the former top-ten draft pick to find a team willing to commit to him. Dallas was his fourth team (Utah, Washington, New York) in six NBA seasons. Burke’s personality in the Dallas locker room always interested me before and after games. He was always very reserved and would seem to get in-and-out as quickly as possible. Not in an unfriendly way, just as if he wasn’t totally comfortable. His NBA career hasn’t been the easiest so far, but he did show some flashes with Dallas in the back half of the season with six games of 15+ points in 25 appearances after the Porzingis trade. Similar to Harris, I think Dallas is committed to growing their new draft surprise in Brunson more so than giving undersized veteran guards opportunities to prove themselves off the bench. Burke should certainly find a low-level, minimum-type contract from someone this offseason – perhaps more? Barring some sort of surprise, that won’t be in Dallas.
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