DALLAS - The Dallas Mavericks will have their work cut out for themselves in free agency. The organization has placed a clear emphasis on recruiting talent with the hires of GM Nico Harrison and head coach Jason Kidd.
As Marc Stein reported, the Mavericks' "Plan A" after the NBA Draft will be to sign Kyle Lowry in free agency and to re-sign Tim Hardaway Jr. Lowry has quickly become the top name to watch for Dallas after the shift in focus from Kawhi Leonard.
"Dallas is going to enter free agency focused on Lowry and re-signing Tim Hardaway Jr. If that's the way they go, they would have to get some sort of sign-and-trade to get Lowry and keep Hardaway Jr."
The New Orleans Pelicans are another organization that has been linked heavily to Lowry in recent days. The team made a salary cap clearing move by sending Eric Bledsoe and Steven Adams to the Memphis Grizzlies. Now, they can outright sign Lowry.
The Mavericks' financial situation would require them to facilitate a sign-and-trade for Lowry if they were to sign him to a competitive deal that rivals what the New Orleans Pelicans will offer. A three-year deal worth $90 million is a bar to watch.
Based on the latest reports, the Pelicans seemingly believe that Lowry could be as impactful to their team as Chris Paul was to the Phoenix Suns last season. That gives off a real indication that an aggressive offer will be made.
"[David Griffin] hopes to make a huge offer to veteran free agent point guard Kyle Lowry, sources say, in an effort to import the type of leadership that Chris Paul brought to the Suns last year in morphing them into contenders."
There will be other teams beyond just the Pelicans who will make a run at Lowry. As Marc Stein has recently reported, the Miami Heat and Philadelphia 76ers will be two of the other teams to watch, too.
Let's take a look at the various factors needed for the Mavericks to work a sign-and-trade and see what a scenario could look like:
Josh Richardson's Player Option
A factor to watch will be the decision that Josh Richardson makes on his $11.6 million player option. The consensus is that he is expected to opt-in given the poor perimeter shooting season he just had in addition to disappointing play in the playoffs.
There are teams who could take a risk on trading for Richardson in a separate deal if they feel he can bounce back in 2021-22. The Boston Celtics already have been named as a potential suitor of this kind. However, the Mavericks would take back some salary in a deal.
The opportune window to trade Richardson would be during the 2021 NBA Draft when teams are actively facilitating deals. Getting something completed prior to the start of free agency would be helpful, too.
If Richardson were to exercise his player option as expected, he could be included in a sign-and-trade for Lowry. It's no guarantee that Toronto would want to take on what Dallas has to offer. So if that's the case, a separate deal would be necessary.
Regardless of how the Mavericks do it, it's clear that Richardson has to be moved in a trade to pull off the 'ideal' offseason. It's easier to get it out of the way now unless the Raptors have interest in Richardson.
Fitting Kyle Lowry's Contract Under The Cap
In order for the Mavericks to facilitate a sign-and-trade for Kyle Lowry, the salaries outgoing to the Raptors would need to be within 25-percent of what is incoming given they are a non-taxpaying team.
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The Mavericks could give Lowry a 2021-22 salary worth roughly $28.6 million in part of a three-year, $90 million contract to make salary matching easier. The remaining two years on the deal would be ascending in value.
Richardson would need to be included in a potential deal if he were to opt-in. The Mavericks would need to also include just Dwight Powell ($11.0 million) to meet the threshold.
With a total of just under $21.4 million in combined salary with Richardson and Powell, the Mavericks would be $1.1 million over the $22.5 million threshold to be within 25-percent of Lowry's salary if he were to sign for $30 million for 2021-22.
There would be more to facilitating a sign-and-trade with the Raptors than just meeting a salary threshold. Toronto needs to be genuinely incentivized to take on unnecessary salary cap spending obligations.
One name that could be helpful to include is Jalen Brunson since he could help to fill the void left behind by Lowry's departure. Keep in mind, Toronto needs to be enticed to take on the unfavorable contracts they'd be receiving in a trade of this nature.
Overall, a trade package including Richardson, Powell, and Brunson with perhaps an extra asset if needed (2025 first-round pick, perhaps?) seems to be a an offer that could be of interest to the Raptors.
Re-Sign Tim Hardaway Jr.
After making the move to acquire Kyle Lowry, the Mavericks could exceed the salary cap to re-sign Tim Hardaway Jr. using Bird Rights. There are a few factors to take into consideration in such a situation.
For starters, is there a realistic threshold in which the Mavericks decide that paying Hardaway Jr. just isn't worth it anymore? Overpaying to keep him is a considerably better option than losing him for nothing for a few reasons.
The Mavericks will not be in a position to make much for an addition to the roster next offseason with Luka Doncic expected to sign a supermax extension. Unless a trade were to involve Kristaps Porzingis, there just isn't much room to operate.
Making it a point to re-sign Hardaway Jr. this offseason is logical given the Mavericks have his Bird Rights, as previously noted. There will be some teams who are willing to throw big money at him, but regardless, letting him walk doesn't make sense.
According to ProFitX, Hardaway Jr.'s value is projected to command him $21.8 million for the 2021-22 season on his next contract. Going with that figure, the Mavericks would have $129.7 million in team salary before making any other addition. Dallas would be well below the projected $136.6 luxury tax threshold.
The $129.7 million figure for payroll assumes the cap holds of J.J. Redick ($16.9 million) Nicolo Melli ($5.1 million), and Boban Marjanovic ($4.6 million) would be renounced by the Mavericks without factoring in Tyler Bey or Nate Hinton.
An offseason haul that ends with a starting perimeter of Kyle Lowry, Luka Doncic, and Tim Hardaway Jr. would be an intriguing one for the Mavericks. Lowry can be the secondary option to run pick-and-rolls and handoffs and attack in isolation to take pressure off Doncic in a needed way.
With Kleber no longer on the team, the Mavericks would likely turn to Dorian Finney-Smith to fill the starting four spot alongside Kristaps Porzingis in the starting frontcourt.
Overall, the Mavericks would have two initiators with shooting and the ability to attack off-the-catch with complete spacing from the frontcourt. If Porzingis' movement out in space can improve after a full offseason, that's a very intriguing situation for Dallas.
To feel out the rest of the rotation, the Mavericks would have the full mid-level exception at their disposal. Dallas would be able to bring in another helpful veteran player with this extra spending room.
If the Mavericks were to exercise Willie Cauley-Stein's team option, the team would have him, Maxi Kleber, Trey Burke Tyrell Terry, Josh Green, and whoever is signed with the MLE as bench pieces under contract.