Dallas Mavericks: Rasual Bulter
The 6-foot-7 Butler, 31, is coming off the best scoring season of his eight-year career, having averaged 11.9 points and 2.9 rebounds in 33.0 minutes a game in his lone season with the Clippers. He averaged 11.2 points the prior season for the New Orleans Hornets. Butler made $3.9 million last season.
Butler played in all 82 games the past two seasons and started 138. His agent, Andy Miller, just worked out Brendan Haywood's new deal to remain with the Mavs.
But, the odds of landing one of those three, especially the first two, are longer than Roy Williams leading the Cowboys in catches next season.
So, if the Mavs don't land LeBron or D-Wade, who will be available on the free-agent market? Well, first let's narrow the focus to the Mavs' top priorities. Youth and athleticism in a small-forward package, a dynamic player who can get to the rim and create his own shot is at the top of the list (As Dirk said, like LeBron or D-Wade). So is a post player with decent agility and the ability to catch Jason Kidd's passes and finish. Brendan Haywood showed he has potential in that role, but he hits the market on July 1 and he'll have options.
The bad news for the Mavs is that after LeBron and D-Wade, and Johnson to a lesser extent, the pool of small forward-swingman-type talent isn't deep. There's plenty of two guards (and a bunch of undersized ones) coming available, but the Mavs are banking on the development of Roddy Beaubois and unless Caron Butler is swapped for a big name, he and Jason Terry will be back.
And remember this: Because the Mavs are over the salary cap, the maximum they can offer a free agent is the mid-level exception (about $5.5 million). To acquire a higher-priced player the Mavs would have to negotiate a sign-and-trade with another team.
So who's out there? Try to restrain your excitement:
Tracy McGrady (New York), Dorell Wright (Miami), Quentin Richardson (Miami), Matt Barnes (Orlando), Bobby Simmons (New Jersey) Travis Outlaw (L.A. Clippers) and Rasual Butler (L.A. Clippers).
Restricted free agent Rudy Gay (Memphis) is possible in a sign-and-trade. Richard Jefferson could bail out of San Antonio -- could he regain form being reunited with Kidd? How about oldie, but goody, Ray Allen (Boston)? Or the younger Tony Allen (Boston)?
Al Harrington (New York) will hit the market as will 7-foot small forward Jonathan Bender (New York), and Kyle Korver (Utah) and Mike Miller (Washington).
Of course, not all of those guys actually fit the bill.
And no post players in there, you say? Recall that big fish and Dallas native Chris Bosh has said he doesn't want to play in his hometown -- too many unnecessary distractions. So, if you find a big man more suitable than Haywood, add him to the list.
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Play Podcast Jeff Platt fires quick-hitters at Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon in the weekly sports standoff about Andrew Bynum, the Mavs' current backcourt, a potential Nelson Cruz suspension and more.
Play Podcast ESPN Los Angeles' Ramona Shelburne joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why she thinks Andrew Bynum got a bad rap in Los Angeles and how he would fit in with the Mavericks.
Play Podcast Buy, sell or hold? If Dwight Howard goes to another team, what are the Mavs' options? The guys take a look at a list of potential fallback options.
Play Podcast ESPN's Marc Stein joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the latest news on the Mavericks' meeting with Dwight Howard.