Seemingly every summer with the Dallas Mavericks revolves around the pursuit of a marquee free agent. Through the years names like Dwight Howard, Deron Williams and Chris Paul have been targets of the franchise looking to secure another star.
And this year is much the same, as Carmelo Anthony is the newest big-ticket item on the Mavs’ free-agent to-do list.
But of course Carmelo, a team does not make. Role players, though not as vital, are very important. Carmelo and Dirk Nowitzki might be the bricks of a dream scenario next year, but guys like Devin Harris and Jae Crowder hold the bricks together.
And given Dallas’ aforementioned free-agency to-do list, they’ve got some magic to work with role players.
Nowitzki signed a team-friendly three-year deal for around $30 million, according to Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today, and Harris also signed a discounted three-year $9 million contract as reported by Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News. Though these are both helpful signings, especially in financial terms, the Mavs have a lot more to do.
Vince Carter is still out there in free agency, and there’s mutual interest, according to Sefko. Then Shawn Marion is also still unsigned, and with the dearth of wing defenders on the roster, he seems to be someone the organization should want back.
Of course, this is all without even talking about a big free agent like Anthony.
As it sits currently, Dallas has roughly $15 million in cap space. And that’s before re-signing the vets like Carter and Marion.
This means Dallas has to look long and hard in that free-agent bargain bin. It's going to need to find a few rotation players from the lot, and that can be a tall order.
The Mavs will probably need an adequate Tyson Chandler backup, another point guard and, of course, shooters never hurt. It might seem simple, but it’s far from it when it comes to finding players who fit the bill and can be had for close to the minimum.
They might want to look the way of the following three guys for some cheap help.
He’s not the sexiest of names, but he’ll do for what Dallas needs.
Greg Stiemsma stands 6’11” and can move pretty well. He’s athletic, has a 7’3” wingspan and uses his physical tools well on defense.
Over his three years in the NBA, he has averaged 2.8 blocks per 36 minutes, and that’s where he’s made his mark. He’s far from a gifted offensive player, and his eight rebounds per 36 minutes are just OK.
But he won’t be signed for his offensive production. He’ll be brought in because in his 15 to 20 minutes per game, he can play rim protector and do his best to limit the defensive drop-off when the newly acquired Chandler goes to the bench.
And the way he plays creates value too. He might not always be in the right place at the right time, but he plays with energy, which is something this team could use a bit of.
The best part with Stiemsma, though, is that he can be had for cheap.
Last year he played for $2.76 million with New Orleans, and though he played well, he probably won’t be getting anything more than that this season.
In other words, the Mavs could snag an athletic, decent rim protector for a very reasonable price.
That kind of a signing should be very high on the list.
If Stiemsma isn’t sexy, then what does that make Steve Blake?
Blake isn’t overly athletic and doesn’t have a big wingspan. He doesn’t play above the rim, and he’s 34 years old.
But as far as backup point guards go, he’s great. For his career, Blake shoots 38.8 percent from deep and averages 5.8 assists per 36 minutes. He plays hard, and though he’s not great on defense, he also isn’t a revolving door like Dallas is used to having on the perimeter.
Blake is also a guy who fits well in the Mavs’ culture. They want smart players, unselfish players and veterans are preferred. Blake can satisfy all three of those requirements without flinching.
He can even do some of what Jose Calderon did for Dallas last season. Calderon knew how to get others involved, keep a level head and run the offense smoothly. He was a guy who had been there before and was content playing a background role in the offense.
Blake might not be the same shooter or distributor Calderon was, but he’s faster and has a similar mental approach to the game. He can step into some of the Calderon role from day one and do so rather smoothly.
And the best part about him as a Calderon replacement is that he might even be able to play a smidge of defense. What a lovely thought.
For the first three years of his NBA career, it looked pretty clear that Xavier Henry was a bust. After having been drafted 12th overall by Memphis in 2010, he never averaged more than 5.3 points per game before joining the Lakers this past season.
In Los Angeles, he had something of a rejuvenation. He showed flashes of the skills that made him a lottery pick after one year at Kansas and went on to average 10 points per game.
But his season was cut short thanks to wrist and knee injuries, as he was only able to play 43 games.
Though his injuries are sad, in the Mavericks’ case they might be a blessing.
Henry showed last season that even though he’s probably not the NBA stud people thought he might be, he can still play a role for an NBA team. He can shoot reasonably well at 34.6 percent from beyond the arc last year, and his athleticism makes him a decent wing defender.
His scoring chops are also relatively impressive, as his 10 points per game translates to 17.1 per 36 minutes.
Oh, and Henry is still only 23.
Normally someone like Henry would fetch a good amount on the open market. But with his injuries, the Lakers’ woes last season and his poor track record before he broke out, the market on him shouldn’t be too great. In fact just a couple of weeks ago, Nick Borges of ESPN.com (subscription required) reported that it’s likely Henry would re-sign with the Lakers for the minimum because free-agency interest in him is low.
For a minimal investment, the Mavs might be able to snag a decent young wing defender with some scoring ability and upside. It’s tough to do much better than that in the bargain bin.