Dallas Mavericks: Nick Calathes
The Mavs considered Calathes a first-round talent when they acquired the 45th overall pick in the 2009 draft to select him, knowing he had a commitment to play in Greece. Four years later, the Dallas front office decided they’d rather have Gal Mekel, signing the Israeli point guard to a three-year contract and dealing Calathes’ rights to the Grizzlies for a 2016 second-round pick.
“They’re similar players,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. “We went that direction, and at that point it made no sense to hold Calathes’ rights.
“They’re both good. They both have had similar success internationally, and they both have gotten much better since they’ve got in the NBA. I’m happy for Nick because I know him a little bit personally, and we like Gal. It wouldn’t make any sense to have both of them here.”
Calathes, a backup filling in while Memphis’ Mike Conley recovers from a sprained ankle, has averaged 15 points, three assists and 2.5 steals in two starts for the Grizzlies, shooting 52.2 percent from the floor. He has averaged 3.7 points and 2.3 assists in 13.9 minutes per game this season.
Mekel, who is recovering from surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee, has averaged 2.4 points and 2.1 assists in 9.6 minutes during his 30 appearances for the Mavs.
Once Mekel gets healthy, he might spend a lot of time with the D-League’s Texas Legends instead of being buried beneath Jose Calderon, Devin Harris and Shane Larkin on the Mavs’ depth chart.
The reality of the situation is that Calathes wouldn’t have had any more opportunity than Mekel to make an impact with the Mavs as a rookie.
“We like Gal, we like Shane, we like Jose and we’ve got Monta [Ellis] to play point and Devin,” owner Mark Cuban said. “That’s a lot of point guards, so there wouldn’t be a lot of room. But [Calathes] can play. I still think he can play.”
The 6-foot-6 Calathes gets a chance to prove it Wednesday night against the team that traded him.
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With the signing and emergence of Israeli point guard Gal Mekel in the Las Vegas Summer League, the Mavericks acknowledged they were likely to deal Calathes.
The 6-foot-6 point guard, now 24, was the 45th overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft and was acquired from the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for the future second-round pick of the Portland Trail Blazers that the Mavericks obtained in a trade on June 24, 2009.
He posted averages of 12.6 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.2 assists on .547 shooting in 14 games for Lokomotiv Kuban of the Russian Professional Basketball League (PBL) and averaged 13.9 points, 4.3 rebounds and 6.1 assists on .555 shooting in 30 games in the VTB United League.
Calathes was named the 2012-13 EuroCup MVP after recording 12.9 points, 5.9 rebounds and 6.7 assists on .521 shooting in 17 games during the EuroCup competition.
With a positive season behind him, Calathes felt the time was right to make the jump to the NBA.
Calathes visited Dallas in June to meet with team officials and audition for Mavs coach Rick Carlisle. It certainly appeared that his status was still in limbo.
Back in June after the NBA draft, Carlisle said that Calathes was “an asset for the franchise and a very good player.”
Later that night, president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson added: “We’re in communication with his people. We’re talking to him about his potential here or if it’s not a fit, to work closely with his agent to where we can get him to a situation elsewhere where he can step in and play because he does belong in the league.”
Calathes is under contract to Lokomotiv Kazan in 2013-14 but has an NBA out in the deal that allows him to finally pursue his NBA career.
The Mavericks acknowledged in recent weeks that they were likely to deal Calathes -- their 2009 second-round pick who spent the past four seasons playing overseas -- if a deal was struck to sign Israeli point guard Gal Mekel.
Sources told ESPN.com that Dallas has since been in discussions with multiple teams on a Calathes trade, but is now on the verge of sending the pass-first point guard to the Grizzlies after Calathes established himself as one of the best floor generals in Europe last season.
The 6-foot-6 point guard, now 24, visited Dallas in June to meet with team officials and audition for Mavs coach Rick Carlisle. But Dallas opted to offer a three-year guaranteed deal at the league minimum to Mekel, who then turned in a strong summer league performance running the team under Mavs assistant Monte Mathis.
Calathes was determined to jump to the NBA this season after averaging 12.9 points, 6.7 assists and 5.9 rebounds and earning MVP honors in the EuroCup for leading Russia's Lokomotiv Kuban to the second-most prestigious team title in European club ball. Houston Rockets guard Patrick Beverley, who rose to prominence during last season's playoffs, was EuroCup MVP in 2012.
Calathes is under contract to Lokomotiv Kazan in 2013-14 but has an NBA out in the deal that allows him to finally jump to the best league in the world after playing collegiately at Florida.
First off, the games really don't mean anything and inconsistency is almost a given. These are glorified rec-league games, after all.
Still, there are reasons to pay attention.
Here are 10 things to watch for:
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2. Summer of Shane. Shane Larkin will be looking to prove that he belongs in the NBA by making a good impression in Las Vegas. With the acquisitions of Jose Calderon and Devin Harris, the Mavs have ensured that Larkin will have time to adapt to the pro game.
3. Jae Crowder's shooting and attacking. Crowder impressed many in his rookie year by being a part of the team's rotation. There were times where he fell in love with the 3-point shot, making him very predictable. As the season ended, he adapted and started to drive to the basket. If he can mix it up, that will do wonders for his overall game. He will now be a leader with this roster in Vegas.
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Calathes, 24, a 6-foot-6 point guard, visited the Mavs this week. He worked out with coach Rick Carlisle and met with team officials. According to a source, mutual interest was expressed in Calathes potentially playing for the Mavs’ summer league team and coming to training camp, but the franchise needs to see how the draft and free agency plays out before deciding whether Calathes is a fit for their roster.
If the Mavs don’t have room for Calathes, they’d be willing to trade him, likely getting a second-round pick in return.
There has been some interest in Calathes from other NBA teams since he averaged 12.9 points, 6.7 assists and 5.9 rebounds and earning MVP honors while leading Russian team Lokomotiv Kuban to its first EuroCup championship in April. (Guard Patrick Beverley, a quality role player for the Houston Rockets last season, was the 2012 EuroCup MVP.)
The former Florida guard is under contract with his Russian team for next season, but it can be bought out. If Calathes is on the Mavs’ roster next season, it would be in a reserve role.
As ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reported, the Mavs also worked out point guard Gal Mekel, the Israel league MVP, this week.
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However, a team source indicated that it's far from a sure thing that Calathes will join the Mavs this summer. The source said Calathes is being heavily recruited by several European teams, and the Mavs will be cautious of making even a minimal financial commitment before they've finished their free agency shopping.
Calathes, a 23-year-old combo guard out of Florida, played the last three seasons for Panathinaikos. He'd be a young, inexpensive option who would likely compete with recent first-round picks Rodrigue Beaubois and Dominique Jones for rank on Dallas' developmental pecking order.
The Europehoops.net report also mentions that the Mavs might have interest in Acie Law IV, the former Dallas Kimball and Texas A&M star who became an NBA journeyman after the Hawks took him in the 2007 lottery. Law, who has played for six NBA teams and spent last season in Greece, would likely be fighting for one of the final roster spots if he signs with Mavs.
Jason Terry has acknowledged that the Dallas Mavericks team that will defend the championship could look quite a bit different from the one that won the title because of a more punitive luxury tax if a labor deal ever comes to pass.
But how different would the Mavs look if the 2011-12 season fades to black with no deal?
Could Dallas be looking at Nick Calathes running the point? Rodrigue Beaubois as his backcourt mate? Corey Brewer as the starting small forward and Dominique Jones as the sixth man?
Realistically, probably not. But it could.
Six Mavs are under contract for approximately $45 million for the 2012-13 season. That does not include Calathes, a second-round pick in the 2009 draft who has been stashed in Greece since.
Mavs under contract include: Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, Brendan Haywood, Brewer, Beaubois and Jones.
A cancelled 2011-12 season would see the contracts of Jason Terry and Jason Kidd expire. Rudy Fernandez might never make an appearance in a Dallas uniform after the Mavs traded their first-round pick in June to Portland for the Spanish shooting guard. Ian Mahinmi's contract is also up after this season.
Those players would join Tyson Chandler, Caron Butler, Jose Juan Barea, DeShawn Stevenson, Brian Cardinal and Peja Stojakovic as free agents, meaning more than half of the championship roster would be free agents next summer.
Of course, whenever the lockout is lifted, there will be a free agency period in which the Mavs can try to re-sign their own players and go after others, plus trades can happen, so rosters are impossible to determine. That's especially true at this moment with the details of a new collective bargaining agreement murkier than ever, although we do know a new salary cap structure will be more restrictive because of a more punitive luxury tax.
What is known is that the defending champs are already bracing for a roster shakeup for this season. If the season is lost, the chaos will only build next summer -- assuming the lockout is lifted.
The question is when Calathes would join the Mavericks.
Dallas drafted Calathes in the second round of the 2009 draft, well aware that he had already signed a lottery-like contract with Greek power Panathinaikos. At the time, they thought they were getting first-round value with the 45th overall pick. They still believe that to be true – especially after seeing Calathes score 17 points on 6-of-7 shooting in a Euroleague title game win -- but the Mavs aren’t sure whether it’d be wise for Calathes to begin his NBA career next season.
“He’s made real progress,” Mavs president of basketball Donnie Nelson said. “I think he’s put himself in position, whether it’s this year or down the line. I think he’s a real good developing player.”
There are two things complicating the situation with Calathes, who spent some time around the Mavericks during their championship run. They would have to pay a $500,000 buyout for Calathes to come to the NBA next season. Plus, it’d be preferable for Calathes play in the NBA summer league before his Dallas debut.
“We don’t have that luxury this summer,” Nelson said, referring to the summer league being cancelled due to NBA labor issues.
There would likely be more of a sense of urgency to bring Calathes to Dallas if J.J. Barea departed in free agency. Calathes is at least a consideration in the Mavs’ long-term plan to eventually replace Jason Kidd.
“He’s certainly a candidate,” Nelson said.
It's been over a decade since they hit on one.
That's not necessarily a criticism of Donnie Nelson and Co. The hits are few and far between in the second round. For every Manu Ginobili, there are dozens of dudes like Milovan Rakovic, the man the Mavs made Mr. Irrelevant in the 2007 draft.
(Of course, I lobbied hard for Glen "Big Baby" Davis a few years ago. He's a key bench player for a title contender. Nick Fazekas, the Mavs' pick, has found a home in France.)
None of the Mavs' recent picks who played in Europe provided a ton of reason for optimism this season. None even averaged double figures. Maybe Nick Calathes grows up next year in Greece to display the first-round potential a lot of people thought he had, but you've got to go back to Wang Zhizhi in 1999 to find a Mavs' second-rounder who made even a minimal contribution in Dallas.
Hope this doesn't put a damper on the fun of scanning mock drafts to see who the Mavs might pick 50th overall.
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