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Dallas Mavericks Should Be Chasing Joe Johnson, Marc Gasol

Alex McVeighSenior Analyst IDecember 22, 2009

ATLANTA - NOVEMBER 26:  Joe Johnson #2 of the Atlanta Hawks against the Orlando Magic at Philips Arena on November 26, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Whether or not the Dallas Mavericks can sign LeBron James this offseason, there are several premium free agents available in the summer of 2010.

A team like the Dallas Mavericks, as detailed in the above article, is a prime free agent destination, due to the combination of talent, available salary, and ownership.

As long as I've been following the Mavericks, they've had holes in two places: shooting guard and center. And it just so happens there are some people who are available, and could become available, in the near future that the Mavs could snag.

Joe Johnson

Joe Johnson is everything the Mavericks need from the shooting guard position. Long, explosive, can create his own shot off the dribble, can get to the free throw line, and hit three-pointers.

The Mavericks have gone unconventional in the shooting guard spot, with point guards (Jason Terry, J.J. Barea, Rodrigue Beaubois) and small forwards (Quinton Ross, Josh Howard) playing the role, but clearly they are playing out of position.

Out of that group, Jason Terry is the most natural at the position, but he lacks a certain length and explosiveness. He can't really create his own shot, although he is terrific coming off screens and as a spot up shooter.

But Joe Johnson...oh...sweet, sweet Joe Johnson.

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He wanted to be No. 1 after his breakout stint in Phoenix, but like Shawn Marion discovered afterwards, no one takes a backseat to Amare Stoudemire, for better or worse.

He has averaged more than 20 PPG for the last five seasons, and more importantly, he's proven he can do that while sharing the floor with another high-volume scorer, whether it be Stoudemire, or someone like Josh Smith in Atlanta.

He's also a very good passer for someone who is pegged as primarily a scorer, with a 4.4 career assist-per-game average, and it's been as high as 6.5, in his first year in Atlanta.

More importantly for the Dallas Mavericks, he wll help space the floor with his multi-faceted attack. In the past, the No. 1 defensive move against the Mavericks is to pressure Dirk Nowitzki and make people like Josh Howard or Jason Terry beat you.

In 2006 and 2007, that worked for the Mavericks, as both players played at an All-Star caliber. But Jason Terry has a nasty tendency to go hot and cold, and Josh Howard can do the same, even when he's healthy.

Now luckily for us Mavericks fans, Dirk Nowitzki is an efficient German scoring machine, but he can't be counted to do it all by himself. He has in the past, and he has delivered, but another weapon can't hurt.

And Johnson certainly is a weapon. And he has proven that he is at his most lethal when working with a pass-first point guard who can also shoot the three, whether it be Steve Nash or Mike Bibby.

Imagine a lineup of Kidd, Johnson, Marion, Dirk, and _____ (we'll get to that later). That's four guys who are capable of shooting more than 40 percent from three-point land. That's also three guys (no Kidd) who can bang it down low and get to the line, and shoot a high percentage from there.

Joe Johnson turned down a four-year $60 million extension from the Hawks a while ago, so its clear he has his sights on a fat contract come free agency. The Hawks are in position to offer him that, but will they? They clearly offered him what they thought he was worth, so what would they do if all of a sudden he bolted?

Well, as explained in the LeBron article, the Mavericks are in a unique position to help out a team that's faced with losing its superstar for nothing, by giving them a bunch of cap savings (more than they would get if the star were to leave) as well as cash and/or draft picks.

Marc Gasol

Marc Gasol has proven this season that he can be one of the top true centers in the league, even better than his brother at that position.

He's got a great array of low-post moves, is a good defender, especially on big-jump shooters like Dirk (he's one of the only ones I've ever seen block Dirk's one-legged fadeaway).

More importantly, he's a true center and he'll be 25 in January. So the Mavs are getting him on the uptick of his career, unlike a certain Mr. Dampier.

But here's the rub: Gasol is still on his rookie contract, which pays him $3.3 million this year, $3.5 million next year. Now, no one in their right mind would trade a productive center at such a price.

But then again, no one would trade a perennial All-Star, and the best player in the history of the franchise for a foreign prospect, biggest no. 1 bust ever, and a third-string point guard.

Especially when they said it was a cost-saving move, then took on even more salary with the Zach Randolph trade.

No, we're not ruling anything out when it comes to the Grizzlies.

The Grizzlies, who also drafted a center second overall, a defensive-minded one who could help defend, as well as rebounder for the abundance of shooters already on the Grizzlies.

So let's figure out a way that the Mavericks could pry Marc Gasol away from the Grizzlies.

Let's say that they're still interested in saving money. The Mavericks have a few appealing expiring contracts, namely, Josh Howard.

Now, let's get one thing straight. I love Josh Howard. I loved watching him go from a late first-rounder to All-Star, and I love the way he gutted out his injuries last year to help the Mavs in the playoffs.

That being said, with the signing of Shawn Marion and the potential f Rodrigue Beaubois, Josh Howard might be obsolete.

I say might because it's clear Josh can still play basketball at a high level, and it's clear he's a big part of the Mavs run come the postseason.

But if the Mavericks can turn him into a legit center, then it's a move they have to pull the trigger on.

So how do they do it?

Well, Josh Howard is a $10.8 million expiring contract. The Memphis Grizzlies have a few bad contracts they would like to dump, most notably Marko Jaric, who makes $7.1 million this year and $7.6 million next year. For a guy who has not played a single minute this year, that's a lot of money.

And hell, I'm sure the red-blooded males in the Dallas-Fort Worth area wouldn't mind seeing Jaric's wife around Big D. It sure gives hope the rest of us, I know that.

So how about Josh Howard for Marc Gasol and Marko Jaric? The Grizz save about $17 million in salary, less if they decide to re-sign Howard, which would depend on if they decide to hold on to Rudy Gay.

A lineup of Kidd, Johnson, Marion, Dirk and Gasol is a pretty formidable one on both ends of the floor. As Kidd's contract ends, and Dirk and Marion fade into the background, a core of Rodrigue Beaubois, Joe Johnson and Gasol leading the next generation of Mavericks, not to mention who else they pick up on the way.

I would put that lineup against the Lakers any time, and it would put the Mavericks right next to them at the top of the West. And that's about all you can ask for at this point.