The Mavericks have re-signed unrestricted free agent forward Dirk Nowitzki to a three-year, $25 million contract. Previous reports indicated that Nowitzki would sign for a total of $30 million, but ESPN.com reported Tuesday that he agreed to take an even steeper pay cut from his $22.7 million salary last season.
Nowitzki, 36, has spent the entirety of his 16-year NBA career in Dallas, and this deal puts him in position to potentially end his career with the Mavericks. Both Nowitzki and the Mavericks had hinted that his contract negotiations would be a formality, as Nowitzki had no desire to leave Dallas, and this speedy agreement proves that those indications weren't empty words.
One of the NBA's top 10 all-time leading scorers, the German forward averaged 21.7 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game in 2013-14, earning All-Star honors as he bounced back nicely from a knee injury that limited his effectiveness the previous season. Despite his advancing age, Nowitzki ranked fourth among power forwards with a 23.7 PER -- trailing only Kevin Love, Anthony Davis and Blake Griffin -- and he served as the No. 1 scoring option on a Dallas offense that tied for second in efficiency last season.
SI.com ranked Nowitzki at No. 4 on our "Top 25 Free Agents of 2014" list due to his scoring proficiency and his ability to serve as the centerpiece of such a potent attack.
Dallas sported a roster that was a bit cobbled together last season, and the Mavericks were eliminated by the Spurs in the first round of the playoffs. Owner Mark Cuban has executed a series of moves since Dallas won the 2011 title in an attempt to build a contender around Nowitzki. That process has continued this summer, as the Mavericks traded for Tyson Chandler back in June and met with free agent forward Carmelo Anthony this week.
Grade: A++. This is easily the early pick for best contract of the offseason. Even though Nowitzki remains one of the very best players at his position in the league, this new deal is so heavily discounted that it's almost comical. Let's take a look at some comps to place Nowitzki's deal into context.
Here's a list of players that log minutes at power forward that are set to earn substantially more than Nowitzki's new deal: Chris Bosh (just opted out after four years of a six year, $109.8 million deal), Blake Griffin (five years, $94.5 million), Kevin Love (four years, $60.1 million), LaMarcus Aldridge (five years, $65 million), Nene (five years, $65 million), Josh Smith (four years, $54 million), David Lee (six years, $79.5 million), and Carlos Boozer (five years, $75 million).
Now, here's a list of players that log minutes at power forward earning more than Nowitzki's deal: David West (three years, $36.6 million), Zach Randolph (a new two year, $20 million extension on top of four years, $66 million), Kevin Garnett (three years, $36 million), Andrea Bargnani (five years, $50 million), and Derrick Favors (four years, $48 million).
Nowitzki's contract is similar to those signed by Boris Diaw ($23 million over three years) and Marvin Williams ($14 million over two years). No, that sentence is not a giant typo.
Even though Nowitzki has banked more than $200 million in salary during his career, his personal sacrifice can't be overstated here. Last year, Nowitzki earned $22.7 million, second in the league to Kobe Bryant. On pure talent, Nowitzki still belongs among the names in the first group listed above, even though he's in his mid-30s. A three-year, $40 million would still have qualified as a bargain, and yet Nowitzki reportedly went way under that in a move that will free Cuban to aggressively pursue talent, including restricted free agent Chandler Parsons.
The most obvious comparison here is the three-year, $30 million contract that Tim Duncan signed with the Spurs in 2012, a deal that helped the Spurs to construct one of the deepest benches in the league. That depth served as a key driver during their 2014 title run, and this looks like a case of the Mavericks watching and learning from the best. If Dallas is able to claw its way back into the top half of the Western Conference between now and 2017, we'll likely look back at Nowitzki's decision to leave perhaps $20 to $25 million on the table as the turning point. It's now up to Dallas management to re-pay Nowitzki for his selflessness by putting that money to good use. Owners and general managers dream about this type of opportunity; now that it's here, the pressure is on.