The Dallas Mavericks will have a number of decisions to make when the free agency period begins on July 1. Before dipping their toe in the free-agent market, the Mavericks must first determine which of their own free agents are priorities for the team moving forward.
It’s a given that Dirk Nowitzki will remain in Dallas for the foreseeable future but he is the only free agent on the current roster that is certain to return. The remaining free agents include Vince Carter, Shawn Marion, DeJuan Blair and Devin Harris.
Each one of these players had key contributions during the Mavericks 2013-14 season. Without any of these players, the Mavericks may have been on the outside looking in when the Western Conference playoffs began. When the difference in participating in the playoffs and watching them from home is only one game, every player and the contributions they make become magnified.
During the regular season, most head coaches continuously tinker with their roster in an endless quest to determine what players and combinations of players succeed in various situations on the court. Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle is no exception to this but when the playoffs arrive, the experimentation ends and the players that are difference makers find their way to the court.
Devin Harris may have been signed to backup starting point guard Jose Calderon, but the line between starter and reserve was blurred during the Mavericks first-round playoff matchup against the San Antonio Spurs.
Harris is a superior defender to starting point guard Jose Calderon and this was critical to a Mavericks team working hard to contain Spurs point guard Tony Parker. Harris contributions were not limited to the defensive side of the court. Harris speed was difficult for the Spurs to contain on the offensive end of the court as well. Harris played 25 minutes per game in the postseason, five minutes higher than his season average.
Harris averaged 11.4 points and 3.9 assists per game in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs. He may not have technically been a starter, but Harris’ level of play made it difficult for Rick Carlisle to keep him off the court.
Despite the fact Jose Calderon is a liability on defense; he is still an important part of the Mavericks team. His sound decision making, passing ability and 3-point shooting are all key factors to the Mavericks offensive attack.
In looking ahead to the 2014-15 season, the Mavericks must address the point guard position. The other point guard on the Dallas roster, Shane Larkin, is still inexperienced and unproven. Larkin was the Mavericks first-round pick in 2013 but he missed all of summer league play and training camp with an ankle injury. The Mavericks will be hopeful he shows growth and development in year two, but banking on that would be a risky proposition.
Harris was originally signed to a three-year deal prior to the 2013-14 season, but his deal was shortened to one year once it was revealed that he had a toe injury that would require surgery. When Harris signed with Dallas he was coming off a quiet season in Atlanta that saw him average 9.9 points and 3.4 assists per game. After his strong play down the stretch and during the postseason, he will likely find more suitors this year in free agency.
The Mavericks will use the contract that Harris signed last season as starting point towards a new deal in 2014 but it will just take one team to drive the price up. Harris has been open about his desire to remain in Dallas and that should work in the Mavericks favor.
Unless the Mavericks have a viable plan to acquire a premier free agent point guard like Eric Bledsoe or Kyle Lowry, they would be wise to quickly secure Harris’ services. Rick Carlisle used his creative wisdom to efficiently utilize both Calderon and Harris in the postseason and this will continue in 2014-15 if Harris remains on the Mavericks roster.
There is a case to be made for each of the remaining free agents that contributed to the Mavericks return to postseason play in 2013-14. Vince Carter brings an experienced scoring punch off the bench and he has been a consummate teammate since joining Dallas in 2011. DeJuan Blair brings a much-needed physical presence to the Mavericks frontcourt and Shawn Marion remains one of the most versatile defenders in the league.
Despite the attributes of each of these players, Harris is the first player the Mavericks should work to retain. Harris is a solid veteran who complements the Mavericks roster and he happily accepts his role on the team. Since Harris was willing to sign a three-year deal with Dallas prior to the 2013-14 season, it is likely he will be willing to re-sign with the Mavericks as long he finds the contract offer acceptable.
Harris demonstrated his value to the Mavericks franchise in the postseason, and keeping him will ensure that the Mavericks 2014-15 roster has enough depth and versatility to contend in the Western Conference.