Carmelo Anthony is going to be a busy man this offseason. He'll most likely be the top free agent in a class where most of the main stars are going to stay home, so he'll be hotly recruited by multiple teams. For some, it might be a waste of time to try and convince Anthony to leave money on the table and the bright lights of New York. But that doesn't hold true for the Dallas Mavericks.
Yes, the offseason failures of the Mavericks trying to pull down a big star to play with Dirk Nowitzki have been well documented. The Mavs missed on Dwight Howard last offseason, instead having to pull the trigger on Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis.
Much to the surprise of many around the league, the signings worked out pretty well. Dallas made the playoffs in a heated race for the No. 8 seed and did pretty much all you could ask for by pushing the San Antonio Spurs to seven games.
Basically, the Mavericks are much closer to competing for a title than most gave them credit for. Perhaps that will hold some weight with free agents this year, and particularly with Carmelo Anthony.
The Mavericks may be an outside contender for Anthony's services, but there are a few advantages working in Mark Cuban's corner. Perhaps the biggest one is that Dallas won't have to shuffle the deck in order to offer Anthony a max deal. If Anthony is searching for teams right now that can pay him a max deal, Dallas is one of the few with that capability, as they have only $28.2 million in guaranteed salary on the books next year.
That big chunk of cap space is largely because Dirk Nowitzki's contract will expire, but it sounds as though he's willing to come back on a much smaller deal. That might be particularly true if the Mavs are able to line up a big star like Anthony to come to Dallas.
Here's Marc Stein on ESPN.com about Nowitzki's next contract:
The working assumption is that Nowitzki will re-sign for at least $10-12 million annually, similar to Tim Duncan's current contract with San Antonio and Kevin Garnett's last deal with Boston before being dealt to Brooklyn.
“We’ll find a good way where I feel respected for what I did and where we still have enough money left for us to get great players in here," Dirk says.
Financially this can work, even if re-signing a free agent like Shawn Marion would have to get sacrificed in the process. The Mavs would still have exceptions to use after signing Anthony and Nowitzki, and a core group of Calderon, Ellis, Anthony and Dirk would be absolute dynamite offensively.
But how willing would Anthony be to come to Dallas and share some of the spotlight (and post touches) with Nowitzki, a player that doesn't really complement his skills all that well? Should Dallas look for a better fit in Nowitzki's last few seasons?
Here's Marc Stein on ESPN.com with how realistic it all might be:
When it comes to Melo, meanwhile, what you hear is that the Mavs are quietly optimistic they will be on that short list of teams granted a face-to-face visit with the New York Knicks' scoring machine, just as they were with Dwight Howard last summer. The sense in Big D is that Melo will give them a legit look.
It's another ground ball that the Mavs are obligated to run out because Nowitzki is still their best player, which is something team officials acknowledge is too much to ask of the future Hall of Famer after 16 seasons. So the Mavs are bound to pursue Melo until they're told they have no shot, because players of that caliber are rarely available and are hard to get when they are.
While there certainly seems like there will be better fits for both parties this offseason, you never know what can happen when you keep the door open. If Anthony doesn't want to punt a season of his prime away next year in New York while waiting for cap space, Dallas would offer a contending roster and the financial benefit of a full max deal along with no state tax. Next to New York, Anthony can make the most money in Big D, especially since it's such a major market.
Unlike the Houston Rockets, another team that could make a play for Anthony, Dallas can offer Anthony his own team in a few years once Nowitzki retires. If Anthony wants to attract free agents to come play with him after making a run with Nowitzki for a few seasons, he'll be able to do that. Cuban won't hesitate to open up the checkbooks, and with Rick Carlisle, a great staff and great facilities, Dallas should be an attractive free-agent option.
Of course, how Anthony and Nowitzki will coexist in the meantime might be the biggest hangup to Anthony leaving New York for Dallas. Here's Dan Feldman at ProBasketballTalk:
In possibly too many ways – especially defensively, but on both ends – Nowitzki and Melo overlap in skills, and that could limit Dallas’ upside. The Mavericks aren’t going to win a title next season without Melo, though, and he’d definitely increase their potential to win big. Rick Carlisle, based on his work with Monta Ellis this season, definitely deserves a chance to integrate the potentially mismatched talents into a coherent system before anyone writes off a Melo-Dirk pairing.
From the standpoint of the Mavericks, passing up on a talent like Anthony is probably out of the question. When you have a chance at an elite player, you take it and worry about the particulars later.
Anthony, of course, has to consider all the particulars right now, though. Nowitzki is an aging star, and sharing touches with guys like Ellis while not having much help defensively isn't an ideal situation. From a pure supporting-cast standpoint, the Chicago Bulls are a far superior option to Dallas.
But again, it's not a guarantee that Chicago or Houston or multiple other teams will be willing to clear the required cap space for a chance at Anthony with no real guarantees. That puts Dallas firmly in the discussion for his services, even if it isn't a perfect match. Getting the league's top free agent to consider you is never a waste of time.