Dallas may be focused on the high-end targets of free agency (see: Howard, Dwight), but that didn't stop the Mavs from quietly agreeing to terms with a value addition on a minimum contract. According to Marc Stein of ESPN.com, Dallas has hashed out terms for a three-year deal with 25-year-old Gal Mekel -- the second point guard acquired by the team this summer.
This is part of a complete overhaul to the Mavs' point-guard rotation. Dallas decided not to issue a qualifying offer to Darren Collison and Rodrigue Beaubois (making both players unrestricted free agents), and has thus far added Mekel and fellow rookie-to-be Shane Larkin, who was drafted with the No. 18 pick in last week's NBA draft. Dallas is also reportedly chasing a veteran point guard to become the presumptive starter, but it already has two solid prospects signed on incredibly affordable deals.
Mekel's contract, especially. Although all three years of his deal are fully guaranteed (a rarity for a player making the jump to the NBA), they'll only be worth the league's minimum salary. That makes this an easy gamble for the Mavs, who stand to gain a rotation-caliber pick-and-roll practitioner if all goes according to plan. Mekel averaged 13.3 points and 5.4 assists for Maccabi Haifa last season, while claiming the MVP award and ushering his team to the championship of the Israeli Super League.
Given his potential as a creator off the dribble, Mekel should be better served by the style of play in the NBA. He still needs to prove that he's capable of getting to the rim consistently against NBA-level athletes and improve his long-range shooting (he made just 32.9 percent of his three-pointers last season), but he seems well worth a minimum-salary gamble for a team looking for ball-handling help.
Plus, as noted by Mark Deeks of Sham Sports, Mekel's contract -- which is worth the rookie minimum, and is thus the same size as a generic, roster-filling cap hold -- won't at all intrude on Dallas' cap space. That's crucial, as the Mavs' primary focus is the courtship of Dwight Howard. If they had been forced to wait, holding their cap space until Howard had made his decision (and, possibly, until other free-agent dominoes had fallen), it's possible that another of Mekel's suitors might have convinced him to sign elsewhere. Utah, Milwaukee, Toronto, Atlanta, Indiana and Memphis had all been linked to Mekel in a previous Stein report, but Dallas staked its claim, offering a multiyear deal and guaranteed salary.
Mekel is Israeli born, but played college basketball at Wichita State from 2006-2008. He left the school without declaring for the draft, and played internationally in Israel and Italy before improving enough to draw the interest of NBA teams. Mekel very nearly played for the Jazz in the 2012 Vegas Summer League, but was ultimately unable to participate due to a visa complication. His stock is now higher than ever due to a standout season and consistent development, to the point that the Mavs seized the opportunity to ink him to his first NBA contract. Grade: B. Mekel stands a decent chance of being (or becoming) an NBA player, and was signed at incredibly low stakes.