State of the Union
The Dallas Mavericks are coming off of a 43-32 season in which they had a playoff berth in the Bubble. The Mavs had an historic offensive season, posting a 115.9 offensive rating, which is the best by any NBA team ever. However, the team was 18th in defensive rating, posting a 111.2, giving them the 6th best net rating in the league of 4.8. The team was led by the meteoric rise of Luka Doncic, who was All NBA First Team this past year. Doncic absolutely dominated in his sophomore season, putting up 29/9/9 a game and just being totally in control of the offense at all times. Doncic was accompanied by Kristaps Porzingis, who also had a solid season despite a shaky start. With Doncic and Porzingis under contract for the long haul, Dallas main objective moving forward has to be surrounding them with talented role players that complement those two styles of play. Players like Dorian Finney-Smith, Maxi Kleber, and Seth Curry are already under contract and fit well around the two stars, but Dallas should always be in roster improvement mode. It would seem that the Mavs have a title window for the foreseeable future, but windows can shut quickly as we’ve seen before. This offseason, the Mavs do not project to have much cap space unless Tim Hardaway opts out of his player option, which is unlikely. However, the team should be able to sign a key player this offseason with the mid-level exception, as there isn’t a lot of money available throughout the league.
Salary Cap Analysis
-Current Cap Room: ($21,735,219)
-Max Cap Room: $22,140,191
-Projected Cap Room: ($2,595,714)
-Path to a Max: Difficult. It would involve Tim Hardaway turning down his player option and getting off of Delon Wright or Dwight Powell while receiving no money back.
-Best Contract on the Books: Luka Doncic. No brainer, top 5 player in the NBA on a rookie scale deal. It doesn’t get better than that.
-Worst Contract on the Books: Dwight Powell. A head scratcher when it was signed, 3 year 33 million left coming off of a torn achilles tendon.
-Potential Offseason Targets: Justin Holiday, Jae Crowder, Goran Dragic, Derrick Jones Jr, Joe Harris, Davis Bertans.
The Big Question(s)
Do the Mavs trust Kristaps Porzingis enough to consistently stay healthy? Porzingis has played more than 80% of a season once, his rookie year, and missed the 2018-2019 season completely while recovering from a torn ACL. At his 7’3” frame and his history of recurring health issues, there is no guaranteed free bill of health for the rest of Porzingis’ career. With Doncic ascendance into superstardom, Dallas needs to be able to rely on Porzingis being able to play when it matters. However, he is the perfect fit on the court with Doncic. Porzingis’ ability to stretch the floor past the three-point line opens up the floor for Doncic to get to the rim at will. In their first season together, the duo was able to put up the best offensive rating in NBA history. This offense could be something really special for years to come. On the defensive side of the ball, Porzingis’ length and rim protection gives Doncic a little more slack to rest up a bit on defense. However, the most important ability is availability, and the Dallas Mavericks need to be 100% certain on the health of Porzingis, as the future of their franchise depends on it.
The Offseason Playbook
With virtually no cap space available this offseason and big plans for the offseason of 2021, depending on where the salary cap line ends up being this year and next, the Dallas Mavericks are left with only the non-taxpayer mid-level exception this offseason. This number should be right around ~$10 million, again depending on the salary cap line. However, with a tight market this offseason and uncertainty surrounding the future finances in the league, the team could be able to find a bargain. Some players that the team could target with the MLE are: Justin Holiday, Goran Dragic, Joe Harris, Davis Bertans, Jae Crowder, Montrezl Harrell, and Derrick Jones Jr. Holiday would give the Mavericks a 3 and D wing that would fit well around Doncic and Porzingis. Bertans would help take the Mavericks historic offense up another level; however I would assume that the Wizards would offer Bertans a deal much greater than the MLE. Additionally, Harris is assumed likely to receive a deal at a higher number than the MLE from Brooklyn. But Brooklyn could balk at such a deal, as they are deep in the luxury tax already before a Harris deal. This could open the door for the Mavs to make an offer. In the case of Dragic, Crowder, and Jones Jr, the Miami Heat are also hoarding cap space for the summer of 2021, which could lead the Mavericks to come in and offer a multi-year deal. Would Goran Dragic prefer a multi-year deal at the MLE from the Mavericks to play with fellow Slovenian Doncic, or accept a likely one-year balloon payment from the Heat in the 15-$20 million range? At 34, this offseason could be the last time Doncic is going to have a chance to lock up some long-term money. The same could be said of Jae Crowder at the age of 30. Derrick Jones Jr seems to be the most gettable as he has not made much money at all as an undrafted player. He could probably be had for less than the full MLE as well, leaving some room left over. Or the Mavericks could look to shore up the questionable center position. With Dwight Powell coming off injury, the team could look to find a more capable starting center that could look to lighten the load on Porzingis in the paint. Enter Montrezl Harrell, who could give the Mavericks a low post scoring punch and give Porzingis a breather from banging down low. With his less than stellar performance in the bubble, partially due to circumstances out of his control, Harrell could potentially sign a one plus one at the MLE with the Mavericks and try the market next summer where the league is flush with cash.
As far Dallas’ own free agents, there is not much drama. Courtney Lee’s services will not be retained. It appears that JJ Barea has a standing offer from Mark Cuban at the minimum every year for as long as he wants it. Trey Burke impressed in the bubble, but can only be brought back at the minimum.
-18th Pick: Tyrese Maxey, Cole Anthony, Josh Green, Saddiq Bey, Aaron Nesmith, Desmond Bane
-31st Pick: Tyrell Terry, Zeke Nnaji, Isaiah Joe, Cassius Stanley
Nick Thoreson is a young professional working in finance who is passionate about the NBA and especially all things salary cap related.