Bringing their own free agents back will not fix what ails the Dallas Mavericks.
This is why the team must look heavily at free agency. Since the combination of Collison and Mayo turned out to be more troublesome than productive, Dallas should pursue a starting point guard.
Obviously, the front office will make a run at current Clipper Chris Paul, but, as stated in the first part of this rundown, will come up short. Dallas simply cannot compete with the appeal of Los Angeles. However, one name does jump to the forefront of available point guards and it is not Jose Calderon, who was a rumored target of the Mavericks before the trade deadline this season.
Though he is a restricted free agent, Jeff Teague is a player that should be heavily pursued this summer. Since he is restricted, the Atlanta Hawks have the opportunity to match any offer sheet that Teague may sign this summer.
While this may sound like a detriment to acquiring Teague, it is not impossible. Last summer, the Houston Rockets structured an offer to Jeremy Lin, then a restricted free agent with the New York Knicks, wherein they increased his pay each year. It eventually ballooned in the final year of this three-season contract.
New York didn’t –– and if you ask ownership, couldn't –– match the offer and Daryl Morey, Rockets’ general manager, got his player. It is not out of the question that the Mavericks could structure a similar deal for Teague.
What could make Teague a more attainable player is the volatility of the situation in Atlanta. Josh Smith, the Hawks’ versatile small forward, will likely seek a max contract in free agency. It remains to be seen whether the Hawks are willing to pony up the cash Smith thinks he deserves.
With head coach Larry Drew’s departure to Milwaukee, one can surmise that if Smith leaves the Hawks will be in rebuilding mode. Where Teague fits into that scenario is anybody’s guess but hypotheticals are beyond folly to discuss.
Nonetheless, Teague is the Hawk the Mavs should attempt to acquire, not Smith. He fits their needs better and has a higher basketball IQ even though he has been in the league only four years.
This season he averaged 16 points and 7.9 assists per 36 minutes. He’s adept at getting into the paint –– something that the Mavericks guards struggled to do –– as he took over 50 percent of his shots within eight feet of the basket. Not only that, but he has played with a player with similar abilities to Mayo in Lou Williams.
Williams was sidelined due to injury for much of the season but results were positive in the 38 games he played with Teague.
Point Guard isn’t the only area in which the team needs to upgrade. In 2012-13, Vince Carter admirably displayed the ability to play multiple positions on the floor in a starting role. However, he’s at his best coming off the bench.
Last year, he was the Sixth Man, shooting guard, small forward, primary ball handler and low percentage 2-point shot taker. That is quite a number of roles for a 36-year-old to manage. While rookie Jae Crowder alleviated some of Carter’s load (albeit not offensively) at times, the Mavericks need to invest in another bench role-player.
There was much speculation that Dallas could make a trade for Milwaukee Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings before the deadline. The trade never happened and those with a vested outside interest in the Mavericks breathed a sigh of relief.
Jennings is a restricted free agent this summer and will likely be on the Mavs’ radar. His teammate Monta Ellis, who is unrestricted, will likely pique their interest as well. However, these are not the players that Dallas should be looking at if they are taking aim at Brew City.
Obviously, it would be a heck of a steal if the Mavericks could land Larry Sanders, but that could only happen via trade this summer. He’ll be a restricted free agent after next season.
Dallas should be targeting J.J. Redick.
The former Duke standout has developed quite a scoring touch during his professional years. He may no longer be the leading scorer he was in college, but opposing defenses shudder when he finds an opening.
Dallas lacked a consistent scoring punch off the bench outside of Carter. Collison provided help on most nights after being demoted, though he could be sporadic. Redick, who averaged 15.4 points and 3.4 assists per 36 minutes with Milwaukee, will aid the production off the Mavs’ bench.
Although Dallas had the best scoring bench in the NBA, 41.5 points per game in 20.3 average minutes per position, an able scorer like Redick, who works well off of screens and picks (not to mention spot ups), has the ability to spread the offense with his shooting.
Playing alongside Nowitzki would be rather beneficial, as it would allow Nowitzki to work in the high post, likely without a threat of a double team from Redick’s defender.
Perhaps the biggest area of concern, though, is in the middle. While Dallas ranked in the middle of the pack in terms of overall rebounding, they were near the bottom of the league in terms of allowing opponent rebounds.
The Mavericks were ranked 27th in opponent offensive rebounding and 29th in opponent defensive rebounding. What really hurt the team were all the second chance opportunities they gave up when they didn’t secure the defensive rebound.
Carlisle used five different centers, including Eddy Curry, throughout the season in an attempt to remedy the team’s rebounding woes. Unfortunately, he only found stopgap solutions.
Dwight Howard, of course, tops every team’s list when it comes to free agent centers this summer. However, the chances he leaves Los Angeles for Dallas are slim. There are centers on the market that can make an impact and help the Mavericks in the middle, though.
Nikola Pekovic will likely be the most sought after center after Howard. The 6’11” Montenegrin is a restricted free agent with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Dallas shouldn't chase too many restricted free agents this summer but Pek deserves a long, hard look.
Though he is not a stellar rebounder (only collecting 15.9 percent of total rebounds available when he was on the floor this season) he did average 10 rebounds per 36 minutes.
Where Pekovic is most useful is on the offensive glass. He led the league in offensive rebounding percentage during the 2011-12 season and posted a percentage of 13 this season.
Pek is also a capable scorer, averaging 18.6 points per 36. Combine that with his willingness to run the floor in transition, ability to finish at the rim, and familiarity of playing alongside a stretch four (Kevin Love) and it is no wonder why teams will show a strong interest in him despite the Timberwolves being able to match any offer he may receive.
The attention Pekovic will garner combined with his status as a restricted free agent means that he might be yet another player just beyond the reach of Dallas. Luckily, the crop of big men available is sizeable.
Utah has two players in Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap who will be unrestricted free agents. With two young players in Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter nipping at their heels for minutes, the Jazz will be hard pressed to keep both of their veterans.
Neither Jefferson nor Millsap are old, at 28 and 27 respectively. Jefferson has been in the league for eight seasons after entering the Draft directly out of high school. Of the two, Jefferson plays a more traditional, post-up style of offense common to most of the league's centers.
Forty-six percent of his shots have come either in the post or in close range of the basket. In terms of spacing, Jefferson’s propensity to operate in the post could help the Mavs. Bernard James, though not near the quality of Jefferson, played in and around the post exclusively and Jefferson’s role would be much of the same.
Where Jefferson could really help Dallas is with his rebounding. He isn’t a great offensive rebounder but he gathered 25.6 percent of the available defensive rebounds while he was on the floor.
Jefferson, though, will command a formidable salary. He has made $15 million each of the past two seasons and will likely command a similar price, if not higher, once he enters free agency. If Dallas is to make a serious bid for Jefferson, it could hamper their ability to chase a myriad of quality free agents.
While Jefferson offers a more traditional post up player, Millsap offers a hybrid model. Millsap, like Jefferson, scores the majority of his points at or near the rim. However, he has the ability to stretch the defense and knock down 3-pointers.
He is also a serviceable rebounder collecting 13.8 percent of the total rebounds available when he is on the floor. But he is too small to be a starting center and would likely serve as Nowitzki’s backup, and possible replacement, if the Mavs were to pursue him. Though he could theoretically be less expensive than Jefferson, Millsap’s style of play may not be what Dallas needs to invest in this summer.
It might even be worth signing Andrew Bynum to a contract. Bynum, an unrestricted free agent, was much maligned for missing the entire 2012-13 season with the Philadelphia 76ers. However, he has shown flashes of his true potential during his career.
What has really hampered his development, and his perception around the league, is the injuries he has suffered throughout his eight-year career. With all that being said, he will only be 26 come late October. With his size and skills, Bynum just may be worth the risk.
There are reasons that teams still take an interest in Greg Oden –– big men who are able to be dominant inside are rare commodities in the NBA. The league may be becoming faster with an emphasis on players that can play multiple positions, but almost every team would like a true center (except maybe the Heat).
There are other players that may blip on the Mavs radar this summer. Emeka Okafor has an early termination option, Tiago Splitter has shown his worth in San Antonio, and J.J. Hickson, flaws and all, has proven to be a solid rebounder.
The path the Mavericks take will be up to them as the front office evaluates the needs of the franchise. What is apparent, though, is that this summer does not hinge on just two players. While Howard and Paul will monopolize the headlines, the options before teams are plentiful. Expending too much energy chasing ghosts, for both the Mavs and their fans, will only lead to future disappointment. Expectations should be grounded and reasonable.
One summer will not determine the future of the franchise. Improvements will happen every year as the team drafts and shuffles players. Winning consistently is not a trait of the stagnant and the Mavericks will remain vigilant in the pursuit of a return to the championship pedigree they established in 2011.