Free agency gives teams a chance to improve their roster by bringing in big names who choose to play in their city.
After a front-office shakeup, the Dallas Mavericks aim to be buyers in the 2021 NBA free agency period. With the cap estimated to fall around $112 million for the 2021-22 season, and Dallas holding roughly $34 million in potential cap space, a major move could be expected.
This year lacks the superstar-heavy free agents of prior offseasons. However, there are still quality ‘star’ players who – when put in the right system – contribute to a winning style of basketball.
So it is time to take a look at the best available free agents at each position and how their playstyle fits with Luka Doncic and company in Dallas.
PG: Kyle Lowry
In a fairly deep point guard class this offseason, Lowry gives Dallas a real opportunity at a second playmaker alongside Doncic. Other point guards such as Chris Paul and Mike Conley are expected to stay put on their respective teams. This opens up the likelihood that Lowry may be on the move this summer.
The 15-year veteran wrapped up a 2020-21 season that saw him average 17.2 points and 7.3 assists per game. The six-time All-Star also helped the Toronto Raptors win their only NBA Championship during the 2019 NBA season. In those NBA finals, he averaged 16 points per game and 7.2 assists. He also had a huge Game 6 of those finals, scoring 26 points to close out the Golden State Warriors on their homecourt.
What Lowry brings to Dallas is playmaking and shot creation. He also adds a needed veteran presence in a locker room that lacked it last season. A team poised to compete for an NBA title needs someone that has been there before. Lowry brings that and a hoard of offensive skills that match seamlessly with Doncic.
SG: DeMar DeRozan
DeRozan is one of the most efficient one-on-one scorers in the league. Last season he averaged 21 points and 6.9 assists per game. He shot 49 percent from the field and got to the line seven times a game.
DeRozan’s fit in Dallas is an interesting one. His lack of production from the 3-point line calls into question his offensive compatibility with Doncic. However, he still is a 20-point scorer who is a master of the midrange. He could function as a secondary ball-handler in the offense. And if Doncic keeps improving his outside jump shot, DeRozan’s reluctance to shoot threes will be a lesser concern.
The veteran is a star in a rather weak free agency class at the shooting guard position. The other options here include Norman Powell, Victor Oladipo and Dallas’ own Tim Hardaway Jr. It’s likely that Dallas brings Hardaway back, but in the case that they don’t, DeRozan provides necessary versatility within the Mavericks’ offense.
SF: Kawhi Leonard
Leonard headlines the entire free agency class. He’s a franchise-changing player who immediately lifts the team’s expectations to championship heights. And paired with Doncic, the two would have one of the scariest one-two punches in the league.
Reports recently surfaced indicating that Dallas has a serious interest in bringing in Leonard, who holds a player option this offseason. Dallas needs a max salary slot to bring him in, which can be obtained through careful cap maneuvering.
His presence accelerates Dallas’ hopes at a championship. Leonard was undoubtedly the best player on the NBA Championship Raptors in 2019. He also recently ended the Mavericks’ season with an all-time great performance in Game 6, leading to the eventual Game 7 win in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.
Leonard also brings a defensive attitude to Dallas that hasn’t been there since the championship 2011 season. When he’s engaged, Leonard arguably becomes one of the best perimeter defenders in the league. His presence – and fit – with Doncic makes sense.
PF: Montrezl Harrell
Harrell in Dallas is an interesting match. The former Sixth Man of the Year winner is an energy guy with a knack for scoring inside and in the pick-and-roll.
With the Los Angeles Lakers, he suffered a down year due to the crowded frontcourt rotation. However, in Dallas, he would most likely play a similar role to the one he played in his final year with the Clippers. As their sixth man, he averaged 18 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. Pairing him with Jalen Brunson off the bench gives Dallas a second unit on par with some starting lineup.
Where Harrell falls short is on the defensive end. He lacks the true size to stop a team that chooses to go big. He also lacks some of the lateral speed to hang with smaller players on the perimeter. Still, he gives Dallas a scorer inside who is efficient in the pick-and-roll, something the Mavericks could have used during the 2021 NBA postseason.
C: Richaun Holmes
At 27 years old, Holmes became one of the better offensive centers in the league. He averaged 14.2 points and 8.3 rebounds per game in just 29 minutes.
Holmes has a smooth touch around the basket, and he is an effective scorer from 18-feet and in. However, in a very weak center class, signing him may cost top dollar. The aspect of Holmes’ game that intrigues the Mavericks is his offensive efficiency. Last season he finished seventh in the NBA for effective field goal percentage.
Holmes’ presence in Dallas answers the question of ‘who’ to play alongside Kristaps Porzingis in the frontcourt. He rebounds at a great rate, and he provides electric finishes around the basket, which Dallas desperately needs.
What to expect:
Landing any of these five players would be a win for Dallas. With Nico Harrison now calling the shots, expect the Mavs to be active in free agency, even if it is not with any of the players listed above.
Feature image via Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports.