5 Biggest Threats to Steal Dirk Nowitzki Away from Dallas Mavericks
Nowitzki has played his entire 16-year career in Dallas, and Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has stayed loyal to him at every turn. There has been no indication of a rebuild on the horizon anytime soon, and Nowitzki hasn't let on that he'll look to leave.
Nowitzki's no-trade clause in his contract ensures he won't go anywhere this season unless he asks to be dealt, which is almost certainly out of the question. Dallas looks like it can contend for a playoff spot at the very least, so it's a safe bet that nothing will change until the offseason.
While you would assume that means he'll be staying in Dallas and bringing a free agent to him, Nowitzki will have options to explore if he so chooses.
Nowitzki is short on time, so the only sensible move other than staying in Dallas would be to join a team with a better shot at the title than the Mavericks. Nowitzki has made plenty of money in his career, and we can reasonably assume that he'll sacrifice a few extra million a year for the perfect fit.
Dallas is the heavy favorite to retain Nowitzki, but the following teams will at least be worth considering should they come after Nowitzki in free agency.
San Antonio Spurs
Don't look now, but the San Antonio Spurs are slated to have about $10 million in cap space next year. If Nowitzki wants to join a legitimate title contender, San Antonio has to head the list.
Picturing Tim Duncan and Nowitzki sharing the floor together is enough to make any basketball fan salivate. The two would complement each other incredibly well, even in the advanced stages of their illustrious careers.
Upgrading from Rick Carlisle on the sidelines would be tough to do, but Gregg Popovich has shown that he knows how to treat and take care of veteran players. From the top down, there isn't a better organization in professional sports.
With Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard providing the speed and athleticism, San Antonio would have one of the most devastating offenses in the league and would cement its status as the favorite out of the Western Conference.
Nowitzki may be loyal to Dallas, and it would be strange to see him in a rival's uniform, but if San Antonio comes calling, he should listen. Perhaps no other team in the league can offer Nowitzki this type of money and this kind of shot at another ring.
Let's keep it in Texas. The Houston Rockets have two legitimate superstars with James Harden and Dwight Howard in place, and Nowitzki could very easily slot in as that stretch 4 everyone keeps talking about for the Rockets.
If Houston trades Omer Asik or Jeremy Lin for an expiring contract this season, it'll have roughly $10 million in cap space to play with this offseason.
But would the Rockets be willing to accept Chandler Parsons' team option for this season and let him become an unrestricted free agent in 2015? That's the big question here, but Rockets general manager Daryl Morey could pull off some cap gymnastics.
If the Rockets decline Parsons' option, he'll become a restricted free agent this season. So long as the order of the events lines up, the Rockets could sign a player like Nowitzki right at the outset of free agency, and then match whatever deal Parsons gets in restricted free agency.
This would result in some hefty luxury tax payments, but it's probably worth it to chase a title.
If Nowitzki is looking for a center to protect him up front defensively, there aren't many options better than Howard. While he wouldn't receive the touches he's used to, Nowitzki wouldn't see an awful lot of double-teams, either. It's scary to think of what Nowitzki could do with a buffet of open spot-up jumpers.
This one all depends on Carlos Boozer. If Chicago's ownership is willing to use the amnesty provision on Boozer, the Bulls will have roughly $9 million in cap space this offseason.
That's a big "if," but it's not entirely out of the question. If the Bulls can't find a trade partner for Boozer and bring back less salary in the process, perhaps waiving him and using the stretch provision could be an option worth exploring as well.
Clearing all that cap would also require the Bulls to renounce their rights to Luol Deng, who will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
Would Nowitzki be interested in the Bulls? It's questionable, particularly with Derrick Rose's knee issues. If Rose were healthy, this could be the forming of a new superteam, but that isn't the case. Joakim Noah is a great match in the frontcourt for Dirk, but that might not be enough of a pitch.
Chicago would have to jump through some hoops first, but they aren't a bad fallback option for Nowitzki to consider.
Los Angeles Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers maintained room for one max deal when they extended Kobe Bryant, but what if that was split up for multiple players instead?
Depending on the size of Nowitzki's deal, the Lakers might be able to bring in additional veterans on the cheap like Emeka Okafor, Marcin Gortat, Kyle Lowry or Paul Pierce. There are plenty of options out there, and the Los Angeles discount should help tremendously.
With that in mind, it may make sense for the Lakers to target a productive player willing to come for an amount under the max to build a more well-rounded team. If that's the strategy, perhaps Steve Nash would be able to convince Nowitzki to join him for one last run together.
Nowitzki seems to fit with the two-year window created by Bryant's extension as well. Depending on the other players the Lakers could recruit in free agency or land in the draft, this could be an interesting fit.
Is it a little crazy? Of course. Philadelphia is rebuilding, and rebuilding teams don't usually go after or attract 35-year-old forwards.
But let's say the 76ers get two potential stars in the draft like Andrew Wiggins and Gary Harris (via the New Orleans pick), and Michael Carter-Williams continues to look like one of the better young point guards in the league. Let's say Nerlens Noel comes back healthy at some point and shows he's a nasty rim protector.
Philly starts to get a little more appealing, right? Add in roughly $35 million in available cap space with the opportunity to clear even more, and maybe Philadelphia can become the primary destination for superstars to meet up.
While that seems unlikely, it probably shouldn't be ruled out, either. Nowitzki may not have Philly on his radar now, but with a few big moves or a couple of phone calls from fellow free agents, that could change.