NBA AM: The Mavericks’ Free Agency Gamble
The Mavericks’ Free Agency Gamble: The Dallas Mavericks won the 2011 NBA championship on the shoulders of a slightly past his prime Dirk Nowitzki, a collection of aging talents on the downside of very respectable careers (i.e. Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Shawn Marion, etc.) and guys playing in contract years (Tyson Chandler, DeShawn Stevenson and JJ Barea).
With title in hand, Dallas’ front office reversed their usual course of years past by installing financially disciplined philosophy. The new approach led to an overhaul of their championship roster as they refused to offer multi-year deals to Chandler and Stevenson, while also not negotiating an extension with longtime Maverick guard Jason Terry.
The Mavericks’ goal was simple, but extremely risky. Preserve salary cap space for the summer of 2012 and make a play for hometown product and All-Star point guard Deron Williams. The thought process made sense. Pairing Williams with Nowitzki would finally provide Dirk a prime All-Star talent beside him in the lineup and Dallas would have a franchise caliber piece already in place when the German star decided to retire.
To facilitate the Williams-to-Dallas plan the Mavericks signed guards Vince Carter and Delonte West to smaller scale deals and also traded for veteran forward Lamar Odom. But the 2011 season started off with Nowitzki notably stating his team was old, slow and out of shape and culminated with the Mavericks being swept in the first round of the playoffs at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
And the news hasn’t gotten any better for the Mavericks since the season ended.
Earlier this week Williams agreed to terms with the Brooklyn Nets, reportedly taking the $20 million plus extra the Mavericks couldn’t offer in a potential free agency deal, Terry and the Boston Celtics have a multi-year deal in place and the latest news has Kidd heading to the New York Knicks on a multi-year deal of his own.
The Mavericks, attempting to stem the tide of a plan going astray, pursued a reunion with two-time MVP guard Steve Nash, until the Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Lakers agreed to the framework for a sign-and-trade.
Now Nowitzki looms alone on a roster, hardly of championship quality and without the talent to return a difference maker in trade, with Vince Carter, Brendan Haywood, Rodrigue Beabois, Dominique Jones and Brandan Wright on the books. At the of the Mavericks’ free agency list now is point guard Ramon Sessions who is steady but unspectacular and a player the Lakers abandoned to acquire Nash.
The Mavericks dared to be great in their approach, but in the process may have mortgaged the rest of Nowitzki’s years as a top performer. Free agency is still running strong and there are many more dominos yet to fall in place, but for now it appears that Mavericks’ big gamble on acquiring Williams may have knocked the franchise back a few steps.
Portland Will Match Minnesota’s Offer for Nicolas Batum: The Minnesota Timberwolves and restricted free agent small forward Nicolas Batum reached a verbal agreement on a four-year deal worth a reported $45 million, with incentives that could push the value over $50 million on Thursday.
However, the Portland Trail Blazers were quick to issue notice that they fully intend to match the offer and have no plans to negotiate a trade with Minnesota.
“We told Nic that it is in his best interests to sign with us,” Blazers general manager Neil Olshey said according to Jason Quick of The Oregonian. “We appreciated the face-to-face meeting to get our message across. And that message was that we intend to match any offer and we will not facilitate any sign-and-trade scenarios.”
Batum’s agent Bouna Ndiaye said his client loved his time in Portland, but wanted a fresh start and change of scenery in Minnesota.
“It was a very cordial meeting,” Ndiaye said of his meeting with Blazers officials. “There were no hard feelings. Nicolas basically talked about his four years with the Blazers and he expressed that maybe it was time for him to look at a place where it could be more happy. Nicolas said ‘I really respect the Blazers’ organization, the Blazers’ fans.’ He even mentioned he really loved to be coached by (former assistant) Monty Williams, who was a mentor. But his choice, his heart went to Minneapolis.”
Batum, who averaged 13.9 points and 4.6 rebounds last season, has long been considered one of the Blazers’ building blocks during their rebuilding process. After sharing time with Gerald Wallace for parts of the past two seasons, Batum is the lead candidate to be the team’s full-time starting forward
The Blazers also have a max deal on the table for restricted free agent center Roy Hibbert, but the Indiana Pacers are expected to match the offer.
Memphis Grizzlies Still Confident In Their Pursuit Of Ray Allen: Since the end of the season it has been widely believed that future Hall of Fame guard Ray Allen would be seriously considering joining the Miami HEAT this summer via free agency.
Allen is currently in Miami meeting with HEAT officials, but reportedly also has a standing two-year $12 million deal on the table from the Boston Celtics – which is double the amount Miami can offer.
However the race to secure Allen’s long range accuracy shouldn’t be considered a two team race as the Memphis Grizzlies maintain they’re interested in the veteran.
Memphis team officials and Allen met on Monday via teleconference and the team is reportedly offering their $5 million midlevel exception according to Marion Morgan of the Commercial Appeal.
With the Grizzlies expected to lose shooting guard O.J. Mayo in free agency this summer the pursuit of Allen is understandable. But sources close to the guard maintain he’s looking to join a team much closer to championship contention which would leave the Grizzlies as a longshot in the race to sign him.