The Mavericks approach another offseason with a familiar item at the top of their to-do list. What would an offseason be in Dallas without searching for a starting center? The Mavericks have never been shy when it comes to paying big men that may or may not be the answer. Whether it was Raef LaFrentz, Erick Dampier, Chris Kaman or Samuel Dalembert, the Mavericks’ never-ending search for a capable center has led them a number of different directions. Unfortunately they chose not to retain Tyson Chandler, the only capable starting center the Mavericks have had in the past 20 years.
This year the Mavericks may have their sights set on a familiar name when the free agency period begins. In July 2009 the Mavericks signed Marcin Gortat to an offer sheet worth $34 million over five years. At that time Gortat was Dwight Howard’s backup in Orlando and Dallas was hoping that Orlando would not want to commit $34 million to a backup center.
Orlando had the option to match the contract that Dallas proposed and that is exactly what they did. The Magic chose to retain the Polish big man even though Dwight Howard’s presence kept him on the bench. Gortat was vocal about his desire to join the Mavericks starting lineup prior to Orlando’s decision to retain the free-agent center. Gortat has since played for the Phoenix Suns and most recently, the Washington Wizards.
The Mavericks are in a similar position to the one they were in 2009, they have a center on their roster with only one year remaining on his contract, and they desperately want to upgrade the center position.
What is he worth?
When the Mavericks pursued Gortat in 2009 he was a backup that had excelled in limited opportunities on the court. Dallas was banking on potential when they offered Gortat a five-year contract. In the last five seasons, Gortat has gone from a backup with potential to a bona fide starter in the NBA.
In his last three seasons as a starter in Phoenix and Washington, Gortat has shot an impressive .540, while averaging 13.2 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. Gortat was also a key factor in the Washington Wizards impressive playoff run this season.
In an NBA landscape void of quality centers, expect Gortat to command a sizeable contract this offseason. We can take a look at the contract the San Antonio Spurs gave free-agent center Tiago Splitter last year as a basis of comparison.
Splitter was coming off a season that saw him average 10.3 points and 6.4 rebounds per game, but that was enough to land him a four-year contract worth $36 million. With that in mind, it’s not hard to see Gortat commanding a deal that pays him anywhere from $10 million to $13 million per season.
How far would Dallas go?
The Mavericks will have to decide what area of their team they want to improve, and then determine if Gortat is the direction they want to go in. The Mavericks may choose to bolster the small forward position with a number of attractive free agents that include Luol Deng, Lance Stephenson and Trevor Ariza. If that is the case, they certainly will not have adequate salary cap room to land Gortat.
If Dallas were to land Gortat, they would strengthen their center position and then attempt to land perimeter players that would come at a deep discount. The decision making in Dallas will not only come down to their desire to sign Gortat, it will come down to the rest of the team they would have if they were able to lure the big man to Dallas.
If signing Gortat severely limited the talent and depth of the rest of the Mavericks roster, they may very well choose to sign one of the less expensive options at the center position. That could include centers like Jordan Hill or Spencer Hawes. Gortat is 30 years old and this will likely be the last sizeable contract he receives in the NBA.
He won’t come cheap and there will be multiple teams calling his agent when the free-agent period begins. The Mavericks tried to sign him once, and it will be interesting to see if they will try for a second time.