Much of the focus around the NBA is being placed on the Kevin Durant trade saga. Teams like the Dallas Mavericks that are not in the mix to acquire the future Hall of Famer will be focused on other matters.
There are a few areas the Mavericks could address if viable, attainable options were available. For starters, they lost Jalen Brunson in free agency and losing his contributions leaves a significant hole. Currently, they have Spencer Dinwiddie and Jaden Hardy as their main guard options.
If an impactful secondary ball handler option was to become available, it could be an intriguing option for the Mavericks. The options are thinning the longer the offseason plays out though. Many considered Goran Dragic as a guard talent that could be Dallas-bound, but he instead signed with the Chicago Bulls.
There was already a need for the Mavericks to add more depth on the wing regardless of what Brunson decided to do in free agency. With Dallas using the draft to select a guard and are signing a center with the taxpayer mid-level exception, the need is still on the list to address.
The direction the Mavericks intend to go with lineup style has some impact on what the priorities could be for any additional moves. It's been increasingly speculated that going big is what they could choose to do with McGee starting at the five and Wood playing at the four.
Since Maxi Kleber is effective at the four, the Mavericks could theoretically relay on McGee and Dwight Powell as their main center options with Wood and Kleber at the four. To be clear, that's a possible option, not my personal preference.
Here are some intriguing offseason targets for the Mavericks to consider along with potential complications to acquire them:
T.J. Warren — Free Agent
The basketball reasons for pursuing T.J. Warren are glaring. He's a stout, 6-foot-8 versatile scorer who could do just about everything attacking the rim throughout his NBA career, but has since become an efficient 3-point shooter recently.
The main weakness the Mavericks had against the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals was the lack of a complementary scorer with size to get a bucket. If there's anything Warren knows how to do, it's put the ball in the hoop.
Warren, the All-Bubble First-Team star, averaged a highly efficient 26.6 points per game in the 10 games he played at the Mickey Mouse Funhouse. The only problem? He's participated in just four games over the last two seasons due to stress fractures in his foot.
Why It's Complicated: There is a clear injury risk when it comes to signing Warren. He's missed a concerning amount of time over the last two years for someone who was dealing with stress fractures in his foot. He has never been a consistently available player throughout his NBA career either.
The injury concern isn't the most challenging part of acquiring Warren. His market is challenging to gauge since, but the Mavericks using the taxpayer mid-level exception to sign JaVale McGee and Jaden Hardy leaves them with only a veteran's minimum contract offer to make to Warren.
There isn't much reason for a rebuilding team to sign Warren considering he doesn't fit such a timeline. However, an aspiring title contender that still has the mid-level exception could end up deciding to take that chance on him. The options in free agency already are bleak, so it's worth consideration.
As a team that is operating above the luxury tax line, every dollar spent on a contract is amplified in penalty. The Mavericks would need to be confident in the medical information Warren's representation can offer to fill the roster spot when considering the financial ramifications of even handing out a minimum salary.
UPDATE: Warren on Tuesday agreed to a one-year deal with the Brooklyn Nets. So ... next?
Bojan Bogdanovic — Trade Target
There were some stretches in the Mavericks' first-round playoff series against the Utah Jazz that Bojan Bogdanovic was popping off for runs by himself. He's averaged 18.3 points combined over his last four seasons while shooting 40.3 percent from 3-point range.
Bogdanovic isn't the most impactful on-ball defender in the National Basketball Association by any stretch, but he at least brings effort and size on the wing. The value that would be provided offensively with his sharpshooting would strongly outweigh.
Why It's Complicated: Are the Jazz actually going to rebuild? Some reporting suggests they could look to re-tool around Donovan Mitchell after landing a haul from the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for Rudy Gobert. If not, then don't expect Bogdanovic to be available on the trade block.
For the sake of this hypothetical, let's say the Jazz decide to undergo a rebuild. Taking on bad salary likely wouldn't be the preferred outcome. Since they already were thin on center options and just traded Gobert, taking on Dwight Powell's expiring $11.0 million salary could be a start.
Since Bogdanovic is set to earn $19.5 million in 2022-23, the Mavericks would need to include more salary. The 21-year-old Josh Green ($3.0 million) could be a potential option to include but would still only put the outgoing salaries at $14.0 million. Another contract would need to be included if the Mavericks seek to keep their luxury tax bill as small as possible.
One option could be to trade an unfavorable contract to a team with cap space, but that would require compensation. However, everything comes at a price when it comes to trade negotiations. Teams do not necessarily want to take on a contract like Bertans' deal without it being worth their while.
There are basketball factors to consider here, too. If the Mavericks' plan truly is to deploy a big lineup, no team is going to achieve positive results on defense with a Christian Wood and McGee frontcourt with Bogdanovic and Doncic on the perimeter. Wood is also not a particularly trustworthy rim protector to man the five with an underwhelming defender at the four alongside him.
Jae Crowder — Trade Target
The Mavericks relied heavily on Dorian Finney-Smith and Reggie Bullock as their hard-hat 3-and-D wings throughout their lengthy playoff run. There wasn't a third viable wing who can guard multiple positions and knock down catch-and-shoot 3s at a strong clip.
Crowder would add depth in the Mavericks' wing rotation. He did shoot just 34.8 percent from deep last season, but regardless, he's a more viable option all-around than Josh Green until proven otherwise. There also aren't many attainable impact 3-and-D options out there.
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Why It's Complicated: For the Suns to make a major trade, they are surely going to need Crowder to be included for salary matching purposes. They are spending big on Devin Booker, Chris Paul, and Mikal Bridges without having yet come to a conclusion in the Deandre Ayton saga.
Kevin Durant is the name most commonly linked in trade speculation for the Suns. That's natural when considering he was listed as his top preferred trade destination. Unless those trade conversations go poorly, expect them to remain engaged on bigger ambitions than trading Crowder to the Mavericks.
If the Suns were to trade Crowder to the Mavericks, they would be unable to aggregate whichever contract they acquired until the recent traded player restriction were to pass. Again, doing so would only complicate their Durant pursuit.
The Suns would need to receive a genuinely helpful contributor in exchange for Crowder in a trade. Depending on the outcome of Deandre Ayton's free agency, it could be beneficial for them to acquire Dwight Powell's expiring salary for more center depth. He would be a natural pick-and-roll partner with Chris Paul as a lob threat.
Collin Sexton — Sign & Trade Target
Rationale to Pursue: In the role that Brunson filled as the secondary ball-handler next to Doncic, Collin Sexton's scoring ability could be put to good use. While his 2021-22 season was tarnished by injury, he was a brilliant scorer the season prior as he registered 24.3 points per game with strong efficiency.
Sexton has already proven to be an efficient scorer in the National Basketball Association. The knock on him has been that he's too focused on getting his own looks and not making plays for his teammates to the detriment of his team's offense.
Make no mistake, the one setting the table for the Mavericks' offense is going to be Doncic. Just like Brunson, Sexton would be fully emboldened to focus on scoring. He is an impactful off-the-catch attacker and can make plays as an imitator. The potential for cohesive high-level offense is there.
Why It's Complicated: There are a variety of complications in play when it comes to landing Sexton. The Cavaliers can simply match the offer sheet he signs since he's a restricted free agent. They would need to be enticed to part with him in a sign-and-trade, so it starts there.
The Mavericks would need to solve for the potential hard cap implications that come with a sign-and-trade. With Doncic beginning his supermax contract extension, the Mavericks already are looking at roughly $166.75 million in salaries when accounting for the addition of JaVale McGee, re-signing Theo Pinson, Jaden Hardy's rookie contract, Tyrell Terry's dead cap hit, and paying a standard veteran's minimum salary to fill out a roster spot.
For reference, the luxury tax line for next season will be close to $150.3 million with a hard cap at nearly $156.6 million. The Mavericks would need to aggressively dump salary in ways that just aren't likely feasible at this stage with how cap space has dried up and the guarantee dates for large non-guaranteed salaries around the league have already passed.
Hypothetically speaking, let's say the rebuilding San Antonio Spurs were willing to oblige the Mavericks in taking on some of their unfavorable contracts into their cap space. Dallas would need to compensate them with draft capital to make it happen. Keep in mind, they'd also need to incentive the Cavaliers to part with Sexton in a sign-and-trade in addition.
The Mavericks would need to be supremely confident in Sexton to execute the necessary steps to acquire him. Given he is coming off a season-ending torn meniscus in his knee, it's even more complicated of a possibility.
Kyrie Irving — Trade Target
Rationale to Pursue: Managing to replace Brunson with a superstar backcourt talent would be a remarkable outcome for the Mavericks. The one-two punch Kyrie Irving could form with Doncic would be among the NBA's best.
Why It's Complicated: When it comes to Irving, there isn't debate about his actual basketball talent. There are risks that associated with him as a trade target. Let's put the non-basketball talk aside in this one. He's an expiring contract and in such situations, he can better dictate where he wants to go using leverage. If he doesn't want to re-sign, the risk is trading value for a rental.
The Nets are unlikely to want to take on multi-year salaries as they enter the early stages of the fallout with the breakup of their superstar duo. As a result, rule out asking them to take on players with negative value contracts like Tim Hardaway Jr or Davis Bertans would be tough sell. Perhaps they would if future draft capital was involved.
To cover all of our bases, let's navigate a scenario were the Nets do not want to take on a contract like Bertans or Hardaway Jr. If the goal for the Nets is to remain competitive, Spencer Dinwiddie could be a solid stopgap option for them to consider. He could rekindle the nostalgia of the pre-superstar version of their roster. Getting back to the blue-collar attitude they once had is a goal of held by team-owner Joe Tsai.
Dinwiddie is set to earn $20.1 million during the 2022-23 season, which is well below the $36.9 million that Irving will command after exercising his final-year player-option. Adding in Dwight Powell's $11.0 million expiring salary could be a helpful option, which gets the trade package to $31.1 million.
Since it likely would be the preferred outcome for the Mavericks to reduce their luxury tax bill (as it would for any NBA franchise), sending a smaller contract to a third-team with cap space could be a manageable approach.
Given how much of the Nets' future draft picks are owned by the Houston Rockets, there isn't value in bottoming out after trading Irving and Durant. A player like Maxi Kleber could be a solid option to reinforce frontcourt depth. He is set to earn just $9.0 million on an expiring salary in 2022-23.
It's admittedly challenging to gauge the trade value that Irving has given the circumstances. Remember, the Nets need to do as well as they possibly can in trade talks involving Irving and Durant since they mortgaged their future to contend for championships with them.
If Dinwiddie was to be included in a trade for Irving, the clear risk is that Irving departs as a free agent — leaving the team without Dinwiddie or Irving. Now, if the Mavericks can send out unfavorable salary by attaching draft capital to it, they would at least lower their 2023-24 spending obligations, but again, that could be an expense path to take without the means to find replacement guard talent later.
Let's not forget, Irving's recent stops around the NBA have not ended favorably. He wanted to leave LeBron James and was traded from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Boston Celtics. He didn't end up working out with the Cs on a group that had a core who just reached the NBA Finals. His most dramatic change of scenery is the one that has yet to play out. The potential locker room implications are worth considering.
You can follow Grant Afseth on Twitter at @GrantAfseth.
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