Report: Dallas Mavericks Interested in Luol Deng During 2014 Free Agency

Grant HughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistJune 23, 2014

Getty Images

Of course the Dallas Mavericks are reportedly pursuing free agent Luol Deng.

It's what they do.

Per Tim McMahon and Marc Stein of

Sources say the Mavs also have interest in free-agent small forward Luol Deng, although there are concerns about his durability after the two-time All-Star missed 75 games over the previous four seasons and led the league in minutes per game twice in the last four seasons.

With little luck chasing marquee free agents over the past couple of summers (most notably Deron Williams and Dwight Howard), the Mavs have turned to exploiting a market inefficiency by targeting veterans who aren't quite stars but come pretty close.

That's why they ended up with Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon on reasonable deals this past summer, and the success of those contracts really can't be disputed. Remember, Dallas won 49 games in the regular season and was the only club to push the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs to seven games in a playoff series.

The Mavs did it on the strength of a fantastic offense that ranked third in the league in efficiency, per, a number that could actually improve if they successfully reel in Pau Gasol—another veteran they're trying to sign, per McMahon and Stein.

DALLAS, TX - JANUARY 7: Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers controls the ball against Dirk Nowitzki #41 of the Dallas Mavericks on January 7, 2014 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees t
Glenn James/Getty Images

With Dirk Nowitzki telling KESN-FM 103.3 (via The Dallas Morning News) that his next contract won't be about "squeezing out the last dollar" from the Mavs, it's possible Dallas will have plenty of money to play with in its free-agent pursuits.

At present, the Mavericks have just $31 million earmarked for next season's salaries, per A modest contract for Nowitzki could leave the team with upwards of $20-25 million to spend.

Whether they'll spend it on Deng remains to be seen, and the Mavericks should be a bit concerned about the mileage on the small forward's 29-year-old legs. Deng finished in the top five in minutes per game in three of the last four seasons and will be 30 before the end of the 2014-15 campaign.

There's also the matter of Deng's salary demands.

Remember, he turned down a three-year, $30 million extension from the Chicago Bulls last season before being traded to the Cavaliers, per Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, which means he expects to get either a bigger annual salary or a longer deal in free agency.

Dallas' penchant for second-tier free agents has a lot to do with the bargains available in that market. If Deng wants top-level cash, he may not fit into the Mavericks' plans.

Then again, if the Mavs are successful in hauling in Gasol, their starting lineup would feature Ellis, Calderon, Nowitzki and the big Spaniard—hardly a defensively inclined bunch. With the No. 22 ranked defense last season, it's possible the Mavericks would consider paying Deng (and his defensive chops) a bit of a premium.

Ultimately, Dallas is rounding up vets to go on one more title run while Nowitzki is still playing at a superstar level, so winning in the short term is obviously the organization's key concern.

Fortunately, that lines up with Deng's primary goal as well.

Mar 8, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; New York Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony (7) drives against Cleveland Cavaliers small forward Luol Deng (9) in the first quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Deng told Aggrey Sam of CSN Chicago last year:

I want to win. A winning situation, that’s it. I want to be in a place where guys are committed, the team is committed, the organization is committed, the coaching staff knows what direction they’re going. To me, I play better and I shine better and I’m a better player on a team that’s committed to winning. 

Deng is precisely the type of player Dallas wants, and the Mavs are exactly the kind of environment he craves. Getting the money right will be tricky, but there's a whole lot to like about this potential partnership.