By: Spencer Bogan
Heading into the 2021 NBA offseason, many teams will have holes to fill and key pieces to replace. Among the teams that will be making changes this offseason, the Dallas Mavericks may have the most pressing of tasks. The Mavericks have been active early already this offseason with the hiring of Nico Harrison and Jason Kidd as General Manager and Head Coach respectively. While there have been conversations about whether or not these were the greatest candidates to fill the vacancies left by Donnie Nelson and Rick Carlisle, but at this point there is no point but to hope in their success moving forward. Donnie Nelson and Rick Carlisle are the most accomplished GM and Coach in Dallas Mavericks history and subsequently, Nico Harrison and Jason Kidd will have quite the large shoes to fill. With that being said, Nico Harrison should be poised to have an active offseason for the Mavericks, as the Mavericks may need more roster turnover than any other playoff team in the NBA in order to be true contenders. Luka Doncic is a generational talent, but as NBA fans have watched with generational talents such as Damian Lillard in Portland or Anthony Davis when he was in New Orleans, having a generational talent doesn’t guarantee for a team to be an automatic championship contender. On the other end of things, though, the Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns can be seen as templates for how the Dallas Mavericks should rebuild moving forward. To put it bluntly, teams that aren’t willing to make the sacrifices necessary to build around their star talents will be stuck in a state slightly above mediocrity, but if a team is willing to go the extra mile to build around their star and put all the chips on the table then the rewards can be bountiful. Obviously this is a dangerous game to play, but the Dallas Mavericks will only have Luka Doncic’s patience for an indiscriminate amount of time, and the clock may already be ticking. Therefore, Nico Harrison should be tabbed to have quite the active off-season. Between playing the trade market, free agency, and the NBA Draft, there will be plenty of time to revamp the roster for the Dallas Mavericks team that got bounced by the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round. This article will be the first of two parts, breaking down some potential options for the Dallas Mavericks for the 2021 NBA off-season. Part one will focus on some of the top free agent targets for the Mavericks, and Part two will focus on some NBA Draft prospects that Dallas could trade into the draft for as well as some potential draft night trades that the Mavericks could be looking to make. Without further ado, here is part one of the Dallas Mavericks Off-Season preview.
The number of directions that the Mavericks can move in during free agency is truly limitless, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some glaring issues that should stand out above others. When it came to the 2020-21 NBA season, one of the major issues that the team faced came in the form of playmaking. It seemed more often than not that if Luka Doncic wasn’t running the offense, then the offense just became stagnant. The Mavericks ranked 26th in the NBA in assists per game last season, and while part of this may be due to their 24th ranked pace of play, it was still a pretty jarring issue for this team to really play make. This could lead the Mavericks to heavily target some secondary ball-handlers in free agency, and this may prove to be beneficial for the offensive system heading into the 2021-22 season and would allow for the load to be taken off of Luka Doncic ever so slightly. Moving forward, these are some playmaking options that the Mavericks could look to explore during the off-season.
DeMar DeRozan- Unrestricted Free Agent
It may be putting it lightly to say that the San Antonio Spurs had quite the tumultuous season this past year. The franchise moved on from LaMarcus Aldridge and seem ready to move into the youth movement with the rest of the roster moving forward. Despite all this being true, none of that seemed to stop DeMar DeRozan from being an effective scorer and playmaker this past season. At 21.6 points and 6.9 assists per game this past season, DeMar DeRozan continues to let his game grow with his age. DeRozan has showcased the ability to be a great option as a secondary ball-handler/playmaker and will likely only benefit even more from the spacing currently provided within Dallas’ roster. While DeRozan’s percentage from behind the arc may not make him the most ideal fit to play alongside Luka Doncic, he should still be able to thrive due to the spacing provided by just about every other player on the Dallas Mavericks roster. DeRozan would add size and playmaking from the wing for the Mavericks, and he can still be a solid defender as well. Admittedly, amongst these 3 options, DeRozan may look the least appetizing on paper, but the potential to make the fit work is there. If Nico Harrison can nab the former all-star, then Mavs fans should be happy for the time being and should wait to see how Jason Kidd makes the pairing work.
Mike Conley- Unrestricted Free Agent
Among secondary ball-handlers who will be available in free agency, Mike Conley should be near the top of the list for the Mavericks. Conley averaged 16 points and 6 assists per game last season with the Utah Jazz while helping to lead the Jazz to the 1st seed in the Western Conference. Conley would be an ideal fit next to Luka Doncic as he is a solid shooter who has grown accustomed to playing off-ball alongside Donovan Mitchell these past few seasons, but can also handle ball-handling duties when the need arises. While his playmaking and shooting stroke make Conley a highly valuable acquisition, it may be his defense that proves to be the most valuable. Conley isn’t the defensive stalwart that he once was in Memphis, but averaging 1.4 steals per game this past season in Utah would be something highly valuable for a Mavericks roster that ranked dead-last in steals during the 2020-21 NBA season. Amongst all of the free agents in the 2021 class, Mike Conley should be right near the top of every Dallas Mavericks fan’s wish list.
Spencer Dinwiddie- Unrestricted Free Agent
Spencer Dinwiddie missed most of the 2020-21 NBA Season due to injuries and as a result he only ended up playing in 3 games. However, that shouldn’t be too much of a deterrent for the Mavericks heading into the off-season. Dinwiddie has shown growth as a player each year of his career and in his 2019-20 campaign he posted career highs of 20.6 points and 6.8 assists per game. Dinwiddie has consistently grown as a ball-handler and playmaker, and he would be a great fit alongside Luka Doncic. Dinwiddie is a plus-offensive player and an overall pretty neutral defender. Dinwiddie could be staggered to play off the bench for the Mavericks and could help provide a lethal second unit if the roster is constructed correctly, and this could be exactly what the Mavericks need in order to give Luka Doncic some help heading into the next season.
While gaining a secondary playmaker should be near the top of the list in terms of needs for the Mavericks during the off-season, there are still plenty more needs to fill as well. Namely, amongst those other roles that will need to be filled, at least one swingman defender will need to be added to the roster in order to succeed. Dallas was dead last in the league last season in steals and were 25th in the league in opponent turnover percentage. NBA fans will be hard-pressed to find an NBA contender with these kinds of defensive statistics. This should make the addition of a swingman defender who can take pressure off of Luka Doncic defensively of paramount importance heading into the 2021-22 off-season. These could be some names to watch and look out for that could fill a defensive void heading into the deep of summer.
Kawhi Leonard- Unrestricted Free Agent (Player Option)
Among NBA superstars who would pair nicely alongside Luka Doncic, maybe no one would fit better than Kawhi Leonard. Leonard has been one of the best defenders in the NBA for years now and would be the perfect pairing alongside Luka. A good comparison would be to see Kawhi Leonard as being to Dallas what Klay Thompson has been for Golden State. Kawhi would take defensive assignments to put less strain on Luka, and on the other end would benefit from his playmaking as well. Overall, Kawhi Leonard would be the perfect fit for the Dallas Mavericks and the organization should be prepared to throw everything and the kitchen sink in order to make an offer for Kawhi. As difficult as it would be to make Kawhi come to Dallas, they will need to do their due diligence in order to prepare to make him a Maverick. It is possible that Kawhi will take his player option as a result of the injury he sustained in the playoffs, but if Dallas is honest about wanting to make Luka stay in town long-term, then they need to attempt to do everything possible to make Kawhi join the roster and help make them instant championship contenders.
Danny Green- Unrestricted Free Agent
Danny Green is a name that is likely going to elicit very different emotions for each fan. Some cherish the contributions of Danny Green as a valuable piece towards a championship contender, and some have experience being infuriated with his streaky play. Regardless of his scoring tendencies, Danny Green should be a hot commodity for the Mavericks heading into the off-season. Danny Green is a veteran defender who excels at being a pest to opposing guards and plays great defense as a whole. Danny Green would be a valuable addition to the Dallas Mavericks roster as a primary defender on one end of the floor and can be an off-ball shooter who can thrive from the playmaking of Luka Doncic on the other end of the floor. Green’s acumin should make him a primary target for the Dallas Mavericks moving forward.
P.J. Tucker- Unrestricted Free Agent
P.J. Tucker seems to find his value increase in the playoffs every season, and for good reason. Tucker is a gritty defender who excels at getting under the skin of opponents and has become one of the most premier defenders in the NBA at stopping superstars. Tucker always draws the assignments of stars like Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, and LeBron James. If there is something that the Mavericks need, it’s someone to defend the stars of the league. P.J. Tucker would be an ideal fit toward improving the roster in Dallas, as Tucker would be the ideal defender for the Mavericks and could fit in as an off-ball shooter on the other end of the floor to compliment Luka.
Of all the aforementioned directions that the Mavericks may decide to seek out during their free agency, maybe the most important role they will need to fill hasn’t even been mentioned yet. While I still believe that the Mavericks should break the bank to bring in Kawhi if there is even a remote possibility, the chances are that the signing of Kawhi will either be a long shot or look less enticing now due to Kawhi’s injury that he suffered in the playoffs. This means that the Mavericks are likely to spend less money on the wing position and could spend more in free agency to bring in a true paint presence. For seasons now, the Mavericks have been plagued by not having a true paint dominant big to compliment Luka Doncic. Kristaps has the size to be a threat around the rim, but he simply isn’t a good enough rebounder or rim protector to be what the Mavericks need. The rest of the bigs currently on the roster are all floor spacers who can stretch the floor, which is certainly valuable in stretches, but the mavs not being able to protect the paint and the defensive glass may be what did them in during the playoffs. With that being said, there are a few names available who might entice the Mavericks enough to give them an opportunity, and who could really raise the Mavericks’ ceiling come the 2021-22 season.
Richaun Holmes- Unrestricted Free Agent
Richaun Holmes seems like the perfect fit for the Dallas Mavericks heading into the next season. Holmes has improved every season during his career, and last year posted career high’s of 8.3 rebounds per game and 1.6 blocks per game in 29 minutes per game for the Kings. Holmes’ activity on the glass and pain presence could be exactly what the Mavericks need, as the team has been longing for a solid rebounder for seasons now. Holmes may also be a suitable fit alongside offensively too as he would add another athletic pick and roll threat for Luka to dish it off too. All in all, Richaun Holmes may be the perfect paint presence to help the Mavericks see a substantial boost on the glass and in the paint heading into next season.
Bismack Biyombo- Unrestricted Free Agent
Biyombo would be more of a budget option for the Mavericks, but would still be a solid option to add to the roster. Biyombo averaged 1.1 blocks per game and 5.3 rebounds per game in 20 minutes a game in Charlotte last season. These numbers aren’t going to blow anyone away, but they are still solid enough to make a difference for the Mavericks. Dallas ranked 26th in blocks per game last season and adding Biyombo would be likely to swing that statistic, even if just minimally. Biyombo won’t be Dallas’ primary target, but if he is the last option brought in then Maverick’s fans shouldn’t be disappointed with his addition given the difference he can make around the rim.
Jarett Allen- Restricted Free Agent
Jarett Allen’s availability may depend heavily on the direction that the Cavaliers go in the draft. Right now, it seems a foregone conclusion that the Cavaliers will end up with either Jalen Green or Evan Mobley. If Evan Mobley ends up being the selection then the Cavaliers may not go crazy to match any offer sheets on Jarett Allen, but if Jalen Green ends up being the pick then I think it would be in the Cavaliers best interest to match just about any offer for Jarett Allen. This puts a team like the Mavericks in an interesting position, and the front office will need to be vigilant about Allen’s accessibility heading into the offseason. If by some miracle Allen does end up in Dallas, Maverick’s fans should be rejoicing. Allen would bring in elite shot blocking and rebounding ability to a roster that was heavily devoid of both of those things just a season ago. Allen averaged 1.4 blocks per game and 9.9 rebounds per game, and those would be ideal additions to the roster in Dallas. Allen would be the ideal paint presence to give a layer of safety to Luka, and would also be a great pick and roll threat on the other end of the floor. Nico Harrison will have his work cut out for him determining the availability of Allen in free agency, but if there’s a possibility, I would suggest going big for Allen if the opportunity arises.
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