The Dallas Mavericks enter the offseason with a great opportunity to improve the 49-33 team of the 2013-14 season. While this year’s free agent class may not boast a singular, franchise-changing player, there are a number of players that could push the Mavericks to a higher seed in the Western Conference playoffs in 2014-15.
If the last two offseasons have taught the Mavericks and their front office anything, it is that they should not count on their number one target coming to Dallas. The Mavericks had their sights set on point guard Deron Williams two years ago, and big man Dwight Howard was their target last season.
By all accounts, both Deron Williams and Dwight Howard had Dallas high on their short list of teams they would consider joining, but in free agency, being second place gets you nothing but disappointment.
The Mavericks strategy after missing out on Dwight Howard proved to be sound given the limited number of options that Dallas had. Free agent acquisitions Monta Ellis, DeJuan Blair, Devin Harris and Samuel Dalembert all played key roles in ensuring the Mavericks returned to the post season in 2013-14.
Just because the free agent class is thin in 2014, don’t presume that the teams with cap room will not be spending big. Teams desperate to improve will have to overpay for players that may have commanded less money while part of a different free agent class.
2014 is clearly a players market; the premier unrestricted free agents this year include Pau Gasol, Marcin Gortat, Lance Stephenson, Zach Randolph (player option) and Luol Deng. If Carmelo Anthony decides to exercise his early termination option, he will ascend to the top of the free agent class.
With five unrestricted free agents of their own, the Mavericks will carry over $30 million in cap room into free agency. Expect the Mavericks name to come up as a possible destination for many of the top free agents. Dallas has made no secret of the fact they plan to surround Dirk Nowitzki with as much talent as possible as his spectacular career winds down.
Aside from the max offers that Dallas made to Deron Williams and Dwight Howard, the Mavericks have remained disciplined in their approach to free agency. If they continue with this approach they may very well miss out on Luol Deng, Lance Stephenson or Pau Gasol. If it takes a deal beyond a players worth then the Mavericks may pass early in free agency, and they would be smart to stick with this approach.
If this is the case then Dallas will be looking to spend their money on the players that do not immediately receive a multi-year offer. Let’s take a look at a few of the less obvious names that Dallas may choose to target.
Trevor Ariza – Small Forward
Trevor Ariza picked the perfect time to have the best season of his career. The nine-year veteran averaged 14.4 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game in 2013-14. Ariza shot 46 percent from the field and he connected on career-best 41 percent of his three pointers.
Ariza’s play this year ensures he won’t be a bargain in free agency, but he could be a target for a Dallas team that finds the price on Luol Deng to be too high. There is always trepidation when signing a player coming off a career year, and it will be interesting to see what the market holds for Ariza. If Ariza does not command a contract that will be problematic down the road, the Mavericks will certainly have interest.
Ariza is the kind of versatile, athletic weapon the Mavericks need. Ariza can hit the open three-point shot and he would give the Mavericks starting lineup another dependable scoring option.
Jordan Hill – Center
The 2013-14 season was disastrous for almost everyone involved with the Lakers. Everyone except big man Jordan Hill. Hill only averaged 20.8 minutes per game, but he put up 9.7 points to go along with 7.4 rebounds each time he hit the court.
Hill was the eighth overall pick in the 2009 draft and he has shown improvement in each of the last two seasons. Hill is 6’10” forward/center who is a strong rebounder and a hard worker on the court. The Mavericks ranked No. 22 in the NBA in offensive rebounds per game, and Jordan Hill would immediately help in that capacity.
The duo may not equal the production of a Dwight Howard or Tim Duncan, but a combination of Dalembert and Hill would give the Mavericks a solid rotation at center. If the Mavericks do not pursue Marcin Gortat or Pau Gasol, they may set their sights on Jordan Hill.
Spencer Hawes – Center
It would be shocking if the Mavericks did not upgrade their center position this offseason, and Spencer Hawes is another big man the Mavs may target.
If the Mavericks were to acquire Hawes, it would likely send Samuel Dalembert to a bench role. Dalembert’s play improved throughout the season, but foul trouble and inconsistency remained an issue for the veteran center.
Hawes is only 26 years old and he is coming off a season that saw him average 13.2 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game. Jordan Hill’s physicality gives him an edge over Spencer Hawes in terms of what the Mavericks need, but adding Hawes to the Dallas rotation would be a massive upgrade over current backup Bernard James
Andrew Bynum – Center
Just kidding here, Dallas kicked the tires on Bynum last season and they wisely chose not to make him an offer of any kind.
Al-Farouq Aminu – Small Forward
If the Mavericks and Shawn Marion do not come to terms on a deal that will keep the defensive stalwart in Dallas for a few more seasons, Aminu is a player the Mavericks could target.
While he wouldn’t stretch the court, Aminu would become a defensive weapon for Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle to employ. Aminu is 6’9”, 215 pound small forward who has the ability to cover shooting guards, small forwards, and power forwards. Sound like anyone that has played in Dallas recently?
Unlike the great Shawn Marion, Aminu will only be 24 years old when the 2014-15 seasons kicks off. While there are benefits to having a team full of veterans, adding a young, athletic player like Aminu would pay dividends. Aminu was the eighth overall pick in the 2010 draft and he averaged 7.2 points and 6.2 rebounds per game for the Pelicans last season.
Restricted free agents that could be of interest to the Mavericks include forwards Greg Monroe, Ed Davis, and Patrick Patterson.