- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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The third in ESPNDallas.com’s position-by-position series previewing the free agency market that opens July 1:
This isn’t an immediate need for the Mavericks … unless they move Shawn Marion to create more space under the salary cap.
Another possible scenario: The Mavs could decide to move the 35-year-old Marion and his $9.32 million salary after acquiring a small forward they feel is an upgrade.
There are only one or two small forwards on the market – depending on a decision made in Boston – who are in that class. A look at those players and some other small forwards who low-dollar fits for the Dallas bench:
Andre Iguodala: You can make a strong case that he’s the third-best player in this free agency class behind Chris Paul and Dwight Howard. The 29-year-old Iguodala’s athleticism, defensive prowess and passing certainly make him intriguing to the Mavs’ front office.
The 6-foot-6, 207-pound Iguodala is a premier athlete, blessed with speed, quickness and leaping ability that allow him to excel in transition and as a defender.
Iguodala’s explosiveness makes him an outstanding finisher. According to hoopdata.com, he made 74.1 percent of his shots at the rim last season. Only five starting wings (including Marion, by the way) converted a higher percentage of those rim attacks.
Iguodala is one of precious few wings who are arguably better perimeter defenders than Marion, although Iguodala doesn’t have the versatility to occasionally cover power forwards. Former Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri called Iguodala’s omission from the All-Defensive team “mind-boggling,” pointing out that the U.S. Olympic team called on him when it needed a defensive stopper.
Other than LeBron James, there isn’t a better passing wing in the NBA. Iguodala averaged 5.4 assists per game last season, which is about the norm for him over the last seven years. He’s intelligent, unselfish and has the ability to create for himself and others.
Iguodala’s biggest flaw: He’s a below-average perimeter shooter (31.7 percent on 3s, 31.0 percent on long 2s last season). That limits him as a halfcourt offensive threat and would make it difficult to play him with Marion if the Mavs ended up with both players on their roster.
Iguodala isn’t going to come cheap, either. He exercised his early termination option instead of making a $16.2 million salary in Denver next season. He won’t get that much per year again, but he’ll get at least $40 million over four years.
Paul Pierce: It remains to be seen whether the longtime Celtics star will hit the open market. He’s due to make $15.3 million in the final year of his deal this season, but Boston can buy him out for $5 million as the Celtics begin the rebuilding process. Pierce has also been the subject of a lot of trade talks.
The Mavs almost traded for Pierce at the deadline last season, but the Celtics backed out of a deal that would have sent Atlanta’s Josh Smith to Boston and Pierce to Dallas. The security of Pierce’s buyout was a small factor in the Mavs’ interest at the time.
There is no question that Pierce, who turns 36 in October, can still play. He averaged 18.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.8 assists for a playoff team last season. But does he fit Mark Cuban’s two-year plan?
Even if the Mavs pursue Pierce, the interest might not be mutual. At this point of his career, would a two-year plan to contend appeal to him? Of course, the fact that the Mavs could offer more money than most, if not all, readymade contenders could affect Pierce’s thought process.
Carlos Delfino: He was relatively effective as a 3-point-firing sixth man for the Rockets, but Houston will decline his team option as they try to carve out enough cap space to get in the Dwight derby. Donnie Nelson says you can never have enough shooters, and the 6-foot-6, 230-pound Delfino hit 37.5 percent of his 421 long-range attempts last season. He’s also a savvy player, which makes him intriguing as the Mavs attempt to drastically improve their basketball IQ.
But Delfino is limited athletically, can be exposed defensively and has seen his rebounding numbers drop significantly in recent years (3.3 per game in 25.2 minutes last season). The room midlevel exception ($2.652 million) might be a decent value for Delfino.
Chase Budinger: He could be a good buy as a low-risk, high-upside guy. The 25-year-old Budinger has good size (6-foot-7, 218 pounds) and is a great leaper. He’s shown the ability to score (9.4 points in 21.6 minutes per game in his career), but his offensive game could certainly benefit from the kind of one-on-one time Corey Brewer put in with Rick Carlisle. There are knocks on Budinger about his inconsistent motor, and he went into free agency on a low note after injuries limited him to 23 games for Minnesota last season.
C.J. Miles: It’s uncertain whether the Dallas Skyline product will be a free agent. He’s Cleveland property, but his $2.25 million salary is fully unguaranteed. The Mavs had discussions with Miles last summer. He’s a high-character guy who averaged 11.2 points and shot 38.4 percent from 3-point range for the Cavaliers last season. If nothing else, he’d be a great guy to have coming off the bench for the veteran’s minimum.
Dorell Wright: The 6-foot-9 Wright is just a perimeter shooter offensively. He’s a decent rebounder and not a dreadful defender. If the money is right – meaning not much – he could make sense for the Mavs as a bench player.
Corey Maggette: He has scored more than 13,000 points while playing most of his career on bad teams. He essentially took last season off, playing only 18 games for the Pistons. Not sure if the Mavs would want a declining player with a selfish rep on the roster, even at the minimum.