Dallas Mavericks 2014 NBA Free Agency Big Board: Ranking Top Targets Post-Draft

Fred Katz@@FredKatzFeatured ColumnistJuly 3, 2014

Dallas Mavericks 2014 NBA Free Agency Big Board: Ranking Top Targets Post-Draft

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    The Dallas Mavericks have high hopes for their offseason.

    The Mavs, who won 49 games and earned the No. 8 seed in the tough-as-ever Western Conference, entered the free agency period with only $34.5 million in guaranteed money on the books for 2014-15. With the bi-annual and mid-level exceptions (worth $2.08 million and 5.31 million, respectively) on top of loads of cap room, Dallas has money to spend.

    After trading Shane Larkin, Wayne Ellington, Jose Calderon, Samuel Dalembert and picks for Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton, the Mavericks have just seven guys on the roster for next year. Of those seven, just Monta Ellis, Chandler, Felton, Brandon Wright and Jae Crowder stand to be mainstays in coach Rick Carlisle's rotation.

    Of course, there is one big name missing from there: Dirk Nowitzki. The best player in franchise history enters free agency at age 36 all but guaranteed to put back on the only jersey he's ever worn.

    Because of that inevitability, you won't find Dirk on this list. He's too much of a guarantee to come back to the Mavs. The only question with him, after earning more than $200 million over the course of his 16-year career, is about how much of a discount he would be willing to take so that his Mavericks can sign another superstar.

    If it misses out on Carmelo Anthony or another big name, Dallas can still contend. This is, after all, the team that gave the San Antonio Spurs its biggest postseason challenge when it pushed the eventual champions to seven games in Round 1 of the Western Conference playoffs.

    Now, with plenty of room to find new pieces, the Mavs can start capitalizing on their free-agent wish list.

8. Nick Young, SG

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    Danny Moloshok/Associated Press

    Make your jokes about Swaggy P, but if you need a shooting guard to score off the bench, he can provide you with exactly what you need (but also some of what you don't).

    He brings a bit of it on himself with the goofiness, the lackadaisical defense and the hardly perfect shot selection, but Young actually had himself a nice year this past season, and if the Mavs lose out on their first few choices to bring in offense at the guard positions, he could be their guy.

    For an inefficient, high-volume offensive player, Swaggy was actually pretty...efficient this year. His 56.4 percent true shooting was a career high, and though he was playing for a bad Los Angeles Lakers team and still made his token appearances on Shaqtin' A Fool, he actually played a smarter brand of basketball.

    With Vince Carter's contract expiring and with Calderon gone, there are shooting guards who you could argue would be a better fit for Dallas off the bench. 

    The Mavs could use their cap room to make a run at Lance Stephenson. They could sign Ray Allen or a poor man's homophonic version: Alan Anderson. They could nab Anthony Morrow as a shooter or bring in Rodney Stuckey as a full-time starter. 

    If all that fails, Young may not be that expensive, given his reputation and history of taking one-year deals. (He signed a 1-year contract with the Philadelphia 76ers and followed that up with a 1-year deal in Los Angeles.)

    We used to think of Jamal Crawford's game similarly to how we evaluate Young's now. Then, Crawford finally started to come off the bench for some solid playoff teams, and our perceptions began to change.

    Young deserves a shot with a good coach on a good team. Besides, could a guy who got Doug Collins to call him Swaggy be that bad?

7. Devin Harris, PG

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    Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

    Harris' numbers from this past season may not look particularly impressive on the whole, but he improved greatly as the year continued. On top of that, he's proven to be someone who can play well with Monta Ellis on the floor at the 1 or 2.

    The Mavericks outscored their opponents by 11.7 points per 100 possessions when Harris and Ellis shared the floor this past season. To put that in perspective, the best team "net rating" from this past season was the Spurs' 8.1.

    We know Harris can play for Carlisle and we've seen him at shooting guard and point, but he's not exactly the only 1-guard on the market. Just because the Mavs like him doesn't mean he's worth overpaying. And that logic can force us to look at exactly how many quality point guards are actually out there for the taking...

6. Greivis Vasquez, PG

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    Restricted free agents always present something of an issue, because you need to wait to see if their former teams will match an offer sheet. That 72-hour period can take away flexibility and if said former team does actually match, you're back to where you started, and you may have missed out on some other free-agent targets in the meantime.

    Thus why Vasquez's value isn't as high as a restricted free agent as it would be if he were free to go wherever he chose. If the Mavs did decide to let Harris go though, Vasquez, who may be the best backup point guard in the whole league, could be a natural fit even with the newly acquired Ray Felton.

    Dallas could continue its two-point-guard attack from last season and slot the Venezuelan in to replace Calderon, and though Vasquez isn't as accurate a shooter as the Spaniard (who is?), he has vastly improved his jumper.

    He made 37.7 percent of his three-pointers last year and 50.5 percent of his mid-range attempts. Meanwhile, at 6'6", he could provide some defensive relief when sharing the floor with Ellis. The Ellis-Calderon backcourt got torched last season. That doesn't need to carry over to this year.

    If the Mavs lose out on Harris and don't want to waste time on a restricted free agent, it's not like they'll be left with nothing. Look at some of the other names on the open market who could qualify as perfectly serviceable backup point guards (even with Shaun Livingston and Darren Collison signed and off the board):

    Jameer Nelson, Luke Ridnour, Aaron Brooks, Brian Roberts, Ramon Sessions, Kirk Hinrich, D.J. Augustin, Steve Blake, Jerryd Bayless, Mario Chalmers, Mo Williams, Jordan Farmar, Shelvin Mack, Jordan Crawford and Bo McCalebb.

    Some of those names are going to accept cheaper-than-expected deals, and whoever gets them will likely be happy with it. If the Mavs want to sign one and try to flip Felton for whatever they can get, that could be an option. 

    Not everyone can get the three-year, $16 million contracts we saw go to Livingston and Collison. Eventually, the market for point guards of that caliber will come down, and when it does, we could end up seeing the Sessions and Farmars of the world going for less than they deserve.

5. Shawn Marion, SF

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    Gus Ruelas/Associated Press

    The Mavs aren't in a position where they can let their defenders just walk away.

    Dallas finished 22nd in points allowed per possession this past season, a far cry from what defines a championship-caliber defense in today's NBA. Even if the Mavs capitalize on their high goals of signing a Carmelo Anthony or Chandler Parsons, that's not going to help on the defensive side of the ball.

    The Mavericks will still need to find a way to prevent points. They already brought Tyson Chandler back from New York, and the re-signing of Marion would be another step in the right direction.

    Dallas' defense actually allowed more points per possession while Marion was on the floor this year, but he mainly played with a starting lineup that included three subpar defensive players. In reality, he was part of the only good we saw from the Mavericks' D this year.

    Even if the Mavs end up with one of their dream small forwards, they'll need 20 minutes of defense off the bench on the wings, especially considering one of those guys will be lining up next to Nowitzki, whose defense is actually overly criticized, but is still far from top-notch.

4. Vince Carter, SG

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Vince Carter is still a quality basketball player. Who could've predicted that would be true at this point in his career?

    We always try to project guys with elite athleticism late into their careers. How will their skill sets translate into old age? And isn't Carter the ultimate example of a guy who found success in his youth because of his ability to jump over everyone?

    Well, after reading about Vinsanity in our newspapers and experiencing it on our grainy TVs, we're now sitting here, watching highlights of Carter's game-winning, postseason shots on our iPads and looking up his stats on our laptops. And those stats are still pretty darn good.

    Carter has drained exactly 40 percent of his threes over the past two years in Dallas. He's been efficient, posting a 55.5 percent true shooting. 

    Maybe it's Carlisle, one of the game's best coaches, providing his insights to a veteran, or maybe it's just Carter sustaining his skills at an advanced age. Likely, it's a mix of both. Either way, Carter is still good enough to help this team contend for 20-plus bench minutes every night. 

    He was one of the best offensive-minded, bench guards in the league this past season and he has been for some time. So, let's not predict the downfall of Carter and, instead, we'll just be wrong when it finally happens, because it doesn't seem like Vinsanity is ready to end.

3. Luol Deng, SF

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    Tony Dejak/Associated Press

    Deng may not be the offensive player he was a few years ago, but he's still a wonderful defender.

    Offensive players shot just 34.1 percent against him when he was in Cleveland last season and 30.4 percent while he was in Chicago, according to Synergy Sports. He's an individual stopper who knows how to play within team concepts. Because of that, he'd be a wonderful fit on a team that needs both a small forward and defensive help on the wings.

    However, when you talk about Deng in 2014, you need to mention his falloff as an efficient scorer. Though he was never much of a shooter, Deng's percentages went down from long range as his volume started to increase. And with that, his efficiency went down and down. 

    Here's a look at Deng's true shooting percentages from the past five years:

    2009-10: 53.1 percent

    2010-11: 54.9 percent

    2011-12: 50.0 percent

    2012-13: 50.8 percent

    2013-14: 51.7 percent

    He's not scoring an a particularly effective rate, anymore. That could change inside a Carlisle offense and by playing alongside guys like Nowitzki and Ellis who garner most of the defense's attention. He's still worth eight figures or close to it because of his defense and smarts, but you're not getting a major scoring weapon with Deng in 2014, and that's exactly why he lags behind these final two targets.

2. Chandler Parsons, SF

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Going after Parsons, a restricted free agent, would present similar conceptual issues to the ones raised with making moves for Vasquez. The difference, though, is that a player of Parsons' caliber may be worth the wait.

    The third-year guard is restricted, and considering the only team he's ever played for has similar motivations as the Mavs (going after Melo and using Deng as a backup plan), that means it's possible the Rockets match any possible offer Dallas could make to their prized free agent.

    Still, Parsons would be a perfect fit in Dallas (which is probably because he would slot nicely into any team).

    The Rockets' third option averaged 15.9 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.9 assists per 36 minutes in 2013-14. He's a legitimate ball-handler who can spread the floor, knocking in 37.0 percent of his threes this past season. And at 25 years old, he may not even be at his peak.

    Houston may have struggled guarding the perimeter this year, but Parsons was its go-to perimeter defender. In Dallas, he wouldn't provide a ton of defensive help, but he's solid enough on a team without many defense-first players to make an impact. Actually, a Parsons signing could be one of those scenarios which would lead to the Mavs bringing Marion back to Dallas.

    The defense has a good chance to improve next season with the return of former Maverick Tyson Chandler, who had a down season last year with the Knicks.

    Chandler though, was plagued by off-court personal issues and on-court injuries, which could've explained part of the falloff in his production. Would it be that shocking to see him turn out one more great season, especially when you consider his two coaches while in New York were Mikes D'Antoni and Woodson? 

    Parsons could be a solid complement, and if the Mavs end up with him instead of Melo, they should still consider their offseason a success.

1. Carmelo Anthony, SF

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    Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

    This is where Dirk Nowitzki becomes the real hero.

    Dirk hasn't been mentioned much in this piece, and that's kind of consistent with the way this offseason has gone. It's been all silence on the German front.

    Dirk's not going anywhere. We all know that, but he's also not signing with the Mavs anytime soon.

    That's exactly how much of a guarantee Nowitzki is in Dallas. He'll let his team use that aforementioned cap room to sign someone, and then he will work out a deal under the new parameters. It's a calculated move, and you know the two sides have to be on a similar page, especially considering they started discussing a contract extension mid-season.

    For now, no one really knows what Melo is going to do. Will he stay in New York, head to Chicago, fly to Houston, don purple and gold in Los Angeles, take his talents to South Beach or come to Dallas? No one really knows. But everyone seems to want him.

    Anthony would be an interesting fit in Dallas. Surely, he's a superstar, but he's not someone we've seen win completely on his own, considering he's won just three playoff series in his 11-year career. But we have this awful culture that's become embedded in NBA fans which says, just because something hasn't happened means it can't happen.

    Anthony-led teams can win. Melo just needs pieces, and Dirk may be that extra guy.

    As the 30-year-old Anthony continues to age, playing the 4 could be something that would help him, and obviously, that won't be an option as long as Dirk is flirting with 50-40-90 seasons, but we don't know exactly how many years Nowitzki has left. And if the Mavs want to win now, there isn't a better guy for them to go after during the offseason than one of the two or three best natural scorers in the world.

    Fred Katz averaged almost one point per game in fifth grade, but he maintains that his per-36-minute numbers were astonishing. Find more of his work at RotoWire.com, WashingtonPost.com or on ESPN's TrueHoop Network at ClipperBlog.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredKatz.

    *Unless otherwise noted, all statistics are current as of July 3 and courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com