DALLAS - This year’s free agency class is stocked with quality players. However, the Dallas Mavericks are no longer prioritizing “big fish” free agents as they have over the past few years.
Unless something significant changes, Mavs fans shouldn’t hold their breaths for All-Stars like Gordon Hayward or Blake Griffin. Danilo Gallinari opted out of the final year of his contract with the Denver Nuggets, and he is a more realistic target for Dallas.
The Mavericks are familiar with what Gallinari can do on the court having been on the receiving end of his 47-point game, shooting an impressive 15-of-23, in 2015. He can score from just about anywhere on the floor, and shot a healthy 39% from three last year.
He’s also one of the best in the league at getting to the free throw line where he shot 90% last year. Gallinari averaged 18.2 points, slightly down from 19.5 points in 2015-2016.
Signing Gallinari would be a change in strategy for the Mavs. Turning 29 before the start of next season, Gallinari, who hails from Italy, isn’t exactly an old player, but he would be older than who the Mavs have been targeting during their youthful rebuild. Recent injuries have cost him a significant amount of time and he hasn’t played in more than 63 games in the last three years.
Gallinari is opting out of $16.1 million, and it’s reasonable for him to expect a raise. Ryan Anderson received a $20 million per year contract from the Houston Rockets, and Gallinari is a more versatile player. Teams can offer Gallinari around $30 million per year, with the Nuggets able to add a fifth year to his contract.
The Mavs have about $22 million in cap space to sign players, but that will change once they address their own free agents Nerlens Noel and, should the team decline his option, Dirk Nowitzki.
Recent reports state that multiple teams are interested in signing Noel to a max contract starting at around $26 million for the first year. The Mavericks, should they match, will be on the hook for that amount although they could reach an agreement with Noel beforehand.
Dallas gave Nowitzki a generous contract last year after years of benefiting from him sacrificing salary for the team. It is possible Dirk gives another hometown discount so the Mavs can sign the right player. Could Gallinari be that player?
Despite his age and potential contract, Gallinari is an attractive option for a team in need of scoring and playmaking. The 6’10” Gallinari has been used mostly as a small forward, and he would start alongside Harrison Barnes. Both are natural small forwards, but last season Coach Rick Carlisle played Barnes at power forward while Nowitzki rested.
There’s mutual interest for Gallinari to return to Denver. The Nuggets made a surprising push for the playoffs this year despite many of their key players missing significant time due to injury. Gallinari said in an interview, “I would love to reach an agreement to remain in Denver. I love it here. And I would love to remain with the Nuggets.”
However, the Nuggets are building around their youthful core of Nikola Jokic, Gary Harris and Jamal Murray. Gallinari could become a cap casualty as the team maintains the flexibility to re-sign their younger players when their rookie contracts expire.
Should the Mavericks decide to try to sign the Italian sharpshooter, they will not be alone. Teams with cap space and in need of offense, including the Brooklyn Nets, Orlando Magic, and Boston Celtics, could make attractive pitches. An interesting option, Gallinari is someone worth keeping an eye on as free agency rolls along.
Are you interested in Gallinari? Share your thoughts with Jeff on Twitter @JeffMapua.
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