There are, as I’ve often said, three ways for a team to get better. It can draft, trade, or sign. Over the last few years, the Mavs have generally pursued big signings at the expense of the others. This last year they returned to something they do very well – swinging small trades for quality pieces, netting Nerlens Noel – and, for the first time in a while, something they haven’t usually done too well, drafting Dennis Smith, Jr. with the ninth pick in the draft. As a result, after years of striking out, the Mavs suddenly have some young talent on long-term deals. Most people presume that group will soon include Noel.
It’s overall good news. But, it also means an unusually boring offseason. In recent years, the Mavs were linked to the top free agents in every class, and when they missed there was a flurry of activity to try to pick up bargain talent on one-year deals. This year, with most roster spots filled and no real chance of competing, the Mavs seem content with what they have. There is a strong sense that if they can nail down a Noel deal, which is generally expected, they can spend the year enjoying Dirk and letting the core grow together. The move to trade the probably not-viable A.J. Hammons for veteran frontcourt depth in Josh McRoberts is more or less their only move so far.
Still, it remains possible that they will make another small move or two. There have been a few players I would have been interested in, going on cheap deals and there will be more to come. While the Mavs are likely to wait until Noel decides, see how much money they have, and see who might be willing to take a flyer, I think there are some very intriguing names still available.
The top name for me might be Nikola Mirotic. Whether he’s gettable or not, I have no idea. On the one hand, Bulls writers I’ve spoken to think his price tag is likely to be in the double-digit millions while, on the other, no news of a serious offer has yet leaked. Mirotic is young, at 26, and an intriguing talent. His percentages aren’t great, but he shoots threes, grabs rebounds, and draws fouls. The problem is that he’s an RFA and the Bulls may well be doing the same thing with him as the Mavs are doing with Noel. On the other hand, getting rid of Jimmy Butler suggests a rebuild situation in which they may not want to invest.
For a lower cost, but similar option, I’d be interested in the Mavs kicking the tires on Donatas Motiejunas. Motiejunas seemingly emerged as an impact player with the Rockets, averaging 12 points and 6 boards in 2014-2015 while shooting an excellent .504/.368/.602 line. He was unhappy in Houston and ended up in New Orleans where he didn’t make any kind of sense at all.
Other interesting names include Monta Ellis, Ersan Ilyasova, Shabazz Muhammad, and Ian Clark. Monta is particularly unlikely, given how things ended here, and wouldn’t necessarily be a good fit with the present team. But the Mavs have a habit of keeping tabs on guys they’ve had around before. Ilyasova fits the mold of the kind of stretch power forward the Mavs have historically been interested in and at 30 is not too old to benefit from time in Dallas. Muhammad is more or less just a scorer and has not yet made much of a mark in the four years he’s been in the league, but he could be a productive offensive option behind Harrison Barnes.
So far, the Warriors have defied the luxury tax and re-signed guys like Andre Iguodala, but it is pretty unlikely they’ll keep Clark, who is a luxury himself that they can afford to lose. However, he shot nearly 50% from the floor last year and 37.4% from three, and obviously could benefit from getting some serious minutes. Tony Allen might be another interesting name, although what he might cost is hard to say. Rumors, a few days ago, linked him with the Clippers but nothing seems to have come of it so far. Allen has a very limited offensive arsenal, but, at 35, is still a top defender. Depending on the price and length of contract, he could make sense as a DeShawn Stevenson type for the Mavs.
In free agency, of course, things are likely to change very quickly. Just some thoughts here, and more to come.