Dallas Mavericks: Vince Carter

Cuban talks LeBron, free-agent options

July, 12, 2014
Jul 12
7:48
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LAS VEGAS -- LeBron James' decision to go back home to the Cleveland Cavaliers sent shock waves around the league. The city of Cleveland is certainly happy. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said he thought James' decision was a positive one.

"I think it's great for the league," Cuban said as he was watching the Mavs' summer league team play. "As someone who grew up in Pittsburgh, it's great to see the old-school cities like Pittsburgh and Cleveland, we're usually the brunt of the jokes and people talk about leaving.

[+] EnlargeLeBron James
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsLeBron James' decision to return home to Cleveland resonated with Mavs owner Mark Cuban, who is from Pittsburgh.
"It's always good when I go back to Pittsburgh and it's just that type city. It's a Pittsburgh city and Cleveland is very similar. It's great for the area and the city."

James took a massive public-relations hit in 2010 for his one-hour televised special announcing he would join the Miami Heat. Cuban says he believes that time has done wonders for James and his approach to his latest decision.

"It's obvious that LeBron has grown up quite a bit since 'The Decision,'" Cuban said. "How he handled it, his words, his approach were night and day. I think he deserves a lot of respect."

Here are other highlights from Cuban's chat:

Still in doubt
The clock continues to tick as the Houston Rockets have to decide if they're going to match the Mavs' offer for restricted free agent Chandler Parsons. The Rockets have until 10:59 p.m. CT Sunday to decide whether to exercise their right to match the three-year, $46 million offer sheet Parsons signed with the Mavs.

"No," Cuban replied when asked if he had any inkling what Houston would do. "It's just a waiting game. I know what I would do. I don't expect them to do anything different."

Cuban wouldn't divulge what he would do in the situation.

(Read full post)

Carter signing with Memphis stings Mavs

July, 11, 2014
Jul 11
11:28
PM CT
The Dallas Mavericks will miss Vince Carter.

They’ll miss his scoring and playmaking off the bench. They’ll miss the spacing he provided with his perimeter shooting, something the roster sorely lacks at the moment. They’ll miss his veteran presence in the locker room.

The Mavs valued all these things from the 37-year-old sixth man who proved a lot of critics wrong during his three seasons in Dallas. They just didn't value them enough to keep him from leaving for more money.

Carter, a Mavs bargain for a little more than $3 million per year over the past three seasons, will sign a three-year, $12.2 million deal with the Memphis Grizzlies, ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reports. The Mavs had been optimistic that Carter would re-sign for the cap-room exception of $2.73 million, the most they could give him with all of their salary cap space used on the Chandler Parsons offer sheet.

A source told ESPNDallas.com that Carter informed the Mavs he would return to Dallas for a two-year deal worth $8 million, but the Mavs could only offer that much if the Rockets exercised their right to match the offer to Parsons.

However, instead of waiting, Carter seized the opportunity to get that raise from a Western Conference playoff team that's also in need of scoring and playmaking off the bench.

The Mavs still hope to add a significant piece to their bench with the cap-room exception. Other targets include guard Mo Williams and center Chris Andersen, sources said.

But losing Carter is a big hit to the Mavs, both on the floor and in the locker room.

There was a lot of mutual love and respect between Carter and the Mavs. That's why the Mavs were so optimistic about the odds of keeping him. But that respect wasn't reflected with a promised pay raise, so Carter moved on to greener pastures, leaving big shoes to fill on the Mavs' bench.
DALLAS – There is strong mutual interest between veteran guard Mo Williams and the Dallas Mavericks.

Will Williams sign with the Mavs? As is often the case in free agency, it might come down to the money.

[+] EnlargeMo Williams
Troy Taormina/USA TODAY SportsThe Mavs have had their eye on Mo Williams for years and are hopeful they might finally land him.
“Mo is just one of our favorites and certainly the kind of guy that we’d love to have in our locker room,” Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said. “[Williams has a] family of five that lives here and would be the perfect fit in a lot of respects.

“It’s just that he’s got some decisions to make in terms of really what he’s willing to take and what we can offer him and that kind of thing, but the discussions have really been ongoing. And we’ve been recruiting Mo for a few years now. Hopefully, this time we can make it happen.”

The Mavs committed all of their remaining space under the salary cap to the offer sheet signed by Chandler Parsons. The Mavs would have only the $2.73 million cap-room exception and minimum-salary slots available if the Houston Rockets do not exercise their right to match the offer to Parsons, a restricted free agent.

In that scenario, the Mavs hope to convince sixth man Vince Carter to re-sign for the cap-room exception, which would be a slight pay cut for the 16-year veteran.

“Vince has got all kinds of options and we’re happy to know we’re still on the list,” Nelson said. “We’ll just have to see how things pan out. He’s obviously not just a terrific basketball player, but a great person, and we’re going to do everything in our power to get him back to the Mavericks.”

If Carter isn’t willing to accept the cap-room exception, the Mavs would seriously consider offering it to Williams, who declined a $2.77 million player option to return to Portland next season.

If the Mavs' plans unfold as they hope, they’ll attempt to convince Williams to take the veteran’s minimum of approximately $1.3 million.

The Mavs consider Raymond Felton and Devin Harris to be a decent one-two punch at point guard. The 31-year-old Williams, who has career averages of 13.3 points and 4.9 assists per game and has shot 38.5 percent from 3-point range, could get playing time at both guard positions and fill Dallas’ need for backcourt shooting.
The Dallas Mavericks don't believe that signing Chandler Parsons to a huge offer sheet will cost them a chance to keep Vince Carter.

A source said the Mavs are still optimistic about re-signing their sixth man. However, the three-year deal worth more than $45 million for Parsons would use the Mavs' remaining cap space if the Houston Rockets don't exercise their right to match the offer to the restricted free agent small forward.

The Mavs are hopeful Carter will agree to take the cap room exception of $2.73 million, the source said.

That's not the kind of offer the 37-year-old sixth man hoped to get after being a Mavs bargain the last three seasons, when he averaged a little more than $3 million per year. But Carter has made it clear that he'd prefer to continue playing in Dallas, and the Mavs have successfully convinced Dirk Nowitzki and Devin Harris to agree to re-sign on team-friendly terms.

The Mavs didn't enter free agency planning to pay $15 million per year to a small forward who wasn't a perennial All-Star. They had anticipated that their Plan B targets would top out in the $12 million range, but they went big in calling the Rockets' bluff on restricted free agent Parsons.

It's not clear what kind of market there is for Carter. The Miami Heat and Portland Trail Blazers are among the teams to express interest in him, but they've committed their $5.3 midlevel exceptions to other players. The Toronto Raptors and Oklahoma City Thunder have also been connected to Carter.

For the Mavs to give Carter a raise, they'd have to create cap space with a salary-dumping trade. For instance, if the Mavs could convince a team to take Raymond Felton off their hands, that would create a $3.79 million slot for Carter. In that case, it would make sense for the Mavs to attempt to sign point guard Mo Williams with the cap room exception.

At this point, however, Felton remains in the Mavs' plans. As does Carter, if the price is right for him.
The Mavericks are increasingly optimistic that they’ll reach a deal with Vince Carter for him to return to Dallas.

“Things are trending well,” a source said of the Mavs’ negotiations with the 37-year-old sixth man.

Carter has been one of the NBA’s best veteran bargains while making an average of a little more than $3 million during his three seasons in Dallas. He received interest from teams such as the Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder and Toronto Raptors in free agency, but Carter’s hope has always been to re-sign with the Mavs for a raise.

The contract for Carter is likely to be for one or two years in the range between his $3.3 million salary last season and the $5.3 midlevel exception.

Carter, who is considered a leader in the Mavs’ locker room, averaged 11.9 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.6 assists while shooting 39.4 percent from 3-point range. His perimeter shooting is especially valuable to the Mavs after they gave up 3-point marksman Jose Calderon in the Tyson Chandler trade.

Should Mavs make Thomas a priority?

July, 3, 2014
Jul 3
11:34
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The Mavericks’ primary focus in free agency has been finding a younger, higher-scoring small forward. Should that change in the likely event that Carmelo Anthony doesn’t choose the Mavs?

Here’s a suggestion: Bump point guard Isaiah Thomas to the top of the priority list.

[+] EnlargeIsaiah Thomas
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty ImagesIsaiah Thomas could be an affordable option for the Mavericks.
Thomas is a restricted free agent, but the Sacramento Kings appear to be ready to move on after reportedly agreeing to a three-year, $16 million with Darren Collison. The Mavs put out feelers to Thomas on the opening night of free agency, but their plan all along has been to address point guard by re-signing Devin Harris.

But Thomas, who averaged 20.3 points and 6.3 assists last season, might be the most impactful player within the Mavs’ reach in free agency.

The odds of getting Chandler Parsons or Gordon Hayward are extremely slim due to their status as restricted free agents and their teams’ intention to match any offers. Maybe that changes with Parsons if Anthony heads to Houston, but it’s still a slim possibility.

If Washington succeeds in its goal to keep Trevor Ariza, that’d likely leave Luol Deng as the Mavs’ lone available Plan B small forward target. Deng is a high-character guy, great defender and career 16-point-per-game scorer, but he’s far from a perfect fit for the Mavs due to his durability issues and lack of perimeter touch.

The tiny Thomas, listed at 5-foot-9, isn’t a perfect fit, either. (Coach Rick Carlisle raved about Thomas’ big, uh, courage when the Kings were in town this season.) That’d be an awfully small backcourt, pairing him with Monta Ellis. But, man, it’d be explosive with two dynamic off-the-dribble creators.

Thomas will also likely be paid less than Deng, who wants his salary to stay in the eight digits and is likely to get his wish, as his suitors with cap space include the Houston Rockets, Atlanta Hawks and Los Angeles Lakers.

Pure speculation here, but let’s say Thomas can be signed for a deal that has a starting salary in the $8-9 million range. In that scenario, the Mavs could probably re-sign Shawn Marion to start at small forward and Vince Carter as the sixth man.

Pay premium for Deng and the Mavs probably have to pick between Harris and Carter with their cap leftovers.

The Mavs might not agree, but I’d rather bet on the little guy, especially if his salary is smaller.
DALLAS -- Maybe this math won't matter, but it's hard to consider it an encouraging sign that the Dallas Mavericks got less than half as much face time with Carmelo Anthony as the Houston Rockets and about a quarter as much as the Chicago Bulls.

But the Mavs knew all along that it was a long shot for them to talk Anthony into taking a less-than-max deal to come to Dallas.

Realizing their dark horse status in the Melo derby, the Dallas decision-makers have put a lot of thought into their Plan B options. They'll be prepared to pounce if they don't pull off the upset of signing Anthony.

The problem is it could be pretty slim pickings on that tier of small forwards in free agency.

Houston's Chandler Parsons and Utah's Gordon Hayward are fine young small forwards who would fit especially well offensively with their perimeter strokes and ability to create for themselves and teammates. Too bad they are restricted free agents whose teams have made it clear they intend to exercise their right to match any offers.

Maybe the Mavs call the bluff of the Rockets or Jazz, but that would mean they either pay more than the value point they placed on one of the players, or are left still looking after the three-day waiting period.

The Mavs would certainly have to pay a premium price to pry Trevor Ariza, a 3-point and defensive specialist coming off a career year, away from the Washington Wizards.

That leaves Luol Deng, a defensive stopper and 16-point-per-game career scorer who would arrive in Dallas without a reliable 3-point shot and with significant durability issues. He also doesn't want to take much of a pay cut from the $14.7 million salary he made last season, while the Mavs view his value in the high seven figures annually.

In this market, it's a good bet Deng would get his eight-digit salary. There are simply too many teams with salary-cap space that are searching for a starting small forward, with the Bulls (if they don't get Anthony), Atlanta Hawks and Los Angeles Lakers among his other suitors.

The question the Dallas front office might have to ask itself: Would the Mavs be better off giving Deng a $12 million-per-year deal or attempting to build a roster with great depth?

Say they do the Deng deal. At that point, they probably have to choose between Devin Harris or Vince Carter with the $5 million or so of cap space they'd have left at that point, and attempt to fill a glaring need for bench scoring or point guard with their cap-room exception ($2.7 million per year for no more than two seasons).

If they go for depth, they could probably re-sign Shawn Marion as the starter, bring back Harris and Carter, have room for a high-upside project like Al-Farouq Aminu and still have the cap-room exception (D.J. Augustin?). With a roster like that, they could rely on coach Rick Carlisle to work his sideline wizardry, mixing and matching to get the most out of a rotation that would be 10 or 11 players deep.

In the depth scenario, the Mavs would also have several lower-priced pieces that could be assets in the trade market, while Deng would likely be difficult to move with a large, long-term deal.

The Mavs have put a lot of effort into Plan B options, but Plan C might be a better path.
Don't expect any of the Dallas Mavericks' other free agents to join Dirk Nowitzki in giving the team a steep hometown discount.

The Mavs want to re-sign Devin Harris, Vince Carter and Shawn Marion, and that appears to be the order of the team's priority among the key members of Nowitzki's supporting cast who are testing the open market. However, the odds of keeping all three free-agent core players seem increasingly slim.

It will be practically impossible if the Mavs accomplish their goal of replacing Marion in the starting lineup, especially if Carmelo Anthony gets all the available cap space that doesn't go to Nowitzki. In that case, the Mavs might not be able to keep any of their other core free agents.

A look at how the market might develop for each of the three:

Harris: Mark Cuban's late Monday dinner date had a natural "starting point" to his negotiations, the term he used in reference to the three-year, $9-plus million deal he originally agreed to with the Mavs last summer, only to accept the veteran's minimum after a pre-signing physical evaluation revealed he needed complicated toe surgery.

As much as he wants to be back in Dallas, Harris has made it clear he doesn't intend to go south of that starting point.

Shaun Livingston got $16 million over three seasons from the Golden State Warriors. That doesn't necessarily set the market for Harris, but you can be certain agent Jeff Schwartz noticed it. Same with the two-year, $9 million deal that over-the-hill Ben Gordon got from the Orlando Magic. And the three-year, $12 million deal injured sharpshooter Patty Mills received to stay with the San Antonio Spurs.

A $3 million salary might have been the starting point for Harris, but it'd be surprising to see him settle for less than a three-year deal averaging at least $4 million at this point.

Carter: There's no question Carter outperformed his three-year, $9.3 million deal with the Mavs. He's not looking to break the bank after making more than $160 million in his career, but he doesn't want to be one of the league's best bargains again, either.

Gordon's deal probably prompted the raising of Carter's eyebrows. Same with C.J. Miles' four-year deal with the Indiana Pacers that averages $4.5 million.

Carter truly does want to return to the Mavs -- and would probably pick Dallas even over Miami if the money was equal -- but not if it means taking a pay cut after already being a bargain.

Marion: The warm, fuzzy feelings from the past five years and the 2011 title run probably have been bumped aside by the harsh business of the NBA.

The Mavs are aggressively trying to replace the 36-year-old Marion with a younger, higher-scoring small forward in the starting lineup. Coming off the bench in Dallas might be a tough pill for Marion to swallow, and he certainly isn't going to take less money to do it.

Just a hunch, but the Mavs might have to be the high bidder or at least even to bring Marion back even if they miss out on their other small-forward targets and need him as a starter. He has made it clear he wants to add to his legacy with another ring, and the rumored interest Miami has in him as a replacement for the retired Shane Battier will surely be reciprocated. Sources expect Marion to earn as much as $5 million next season.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban’s first order of business in free agency was to meet point guard Devin Harris for dinner.

Well, unless he called Dirk Nowitzki and Vince Carter en route to the restaurant. There were also plans to contact Shawn Marion soon after free agency officially opened at 11:01 p.m. CT Monday night.

Devin Harris
Mark D. Smith/USA TODAY SportsThe Mavericks hope to re-sign point guard Devin Harris, according to a team source.
Cuban and other members of the Dallas front office will reach out to the agents of dozens of other free agents late Monday and in the wee hours of Tuesday morning. These phone calls will be feelers, considering the Mavs hope to use their approximately $26 million in salary-cap space to sign Carmelo Anthony in addition to the certainty of re-signing Nowitzi to a to-be-negotiated hometown-discount deal.

The Mavs are scheduled to visit with Anthony on Wednesday afternoon in Dallas. They are third in the perennial All-Star forward’s lineup after the Chicago Bulls and Houston Rockets and before the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks.

Rockets small forward Chandler Parsons is among the players in whom the Mavs registered interest, ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reported. Parsons is a restricted free agent, but Houston could decline to match an offer if it is successfully recruiting Anthony.

While the Mavs hope to keep all of their key free agents, it’s unlikely, particularly if they replace Marion as the starting small forward.

(Read full post)

DALLAS -- Why did it make sense to trade for Tyson Chandler now if it didn’t make sense to re-sign the big man who played such a huge role in the Mavericks’ championship run?

“Is Mark coming up here next?” coach Rick Carlisle cracked when asked that question on draft night, about 24 hours after the six-player deal with the New York Knicks was done.

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No, Mark Cuban didn’t meet the media Thursday night. However, during his Saturday appearance on 103.3 FM’s “ESPN Dallas Game Day,” Cuban did offer a lengthy explanation for why he believes the Mavs are better off having let Chandler leave in free agency in December 2011 and trading to bring him back for the final season of his four-year, $60 million contract.

“First of all, you know I don’t make mistakes,” Cuban said, chuckling. “When you think I’ve made one, see Rule 1 because you know I won’t admit it.

“Again, people don’t want to hear me talking about the rules and the new CBA, but there were only so many courses of action that we could take. If we re-signed anybody to a $10 million-plus amount, then we basically had to re-sign everybody, and we just didn’t feel re-signing everybody would put us in a position to succeed. We realized we were taking on a risk-reward where we were going after free agents. ... Particularly last year, we didn’t get what we were trying to get with Dwight [Howard], but we thought that the risk-reward really made sense.

“We also felt, as nice as it sounds and exciting as it might have seemed if we kept the team together after we won the championship, I mean, if you just look where everybody is at right now, I think you kind of look back and say maybe it was the right move. So taking that approach now, let us get to the point now where we can bring back Tyson and we’re in a good position to re-sign him next year as well and we have cap room in addition to Tyson and we’ve been able to add Monta [Ellis] and we’ve been able to add Vince [Carter]. ...

“We think we’re in a better position now than if we’d have just kept everybody together, and so I think that flexibility, the ability to add someone this summer if we can make that happen, along with bringing Ty back when we hope he’s in good shape -- and everything looks like he’s in good shape -- that also gives us a little bit of risk reduction and more upside than if we’d have just kept everything together.”

Free-agency preview: Small forwards

June, 25, 2014
Jun 25
8:30
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Luol DengAP Photo/Mark DuncanLuol Deng is one of the few players in the league as defensively versatile as Shawn Marion.
The Dallas Mavericks hope to finally land a big fish in free agency.

They also firmly understand that they’re in a long line of teams trying to sign LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony. Put it this way: The Mavs had better odds of getting Deron Williams or Dwight Howard the last couple of offseasons than signing one of the superstars available this summer.

The Mavs are on a short list of teams that have the cap space to offer a full max contract to either of the available in-their-prime, future Hall of Fame small forwards, but several teams can maneuver to create room. And the superstars’ current teams can trump offers from anyone with contracts featuring an extra year and more than $30 million. Plus, don’t assume that the Mavs would be willing to give Anthony a full max offer with a starting salary of more than $22 million.

The Dallas front office isn’t approaching this summer with a big fish-or-bust mentality. They’ll have strong Plans B, C, D, etc. in place, particularly at small forward.

One of those is re-signing Shawn Marion, the Mavs’ best defender and rebounder over the last five seasons and a critical piece of the 2011 championship puzzle. There is strong mutual interest in Marion’s return, although it is uncertain whether the 36-year-old “Matrix” would be enthusiastic about staying in Dallas if the Mavs envision him as a reserve.

The Mavs are optimistic that they’ll re-sign sixth man Vince Carter, who plays the majority of his minutes at small forward.

A look at some of the Mavs’ other small forward options in free agency:

Luol Deng: There’s a lot to like about the 6-foot-8, 29-year-old Deng. He’s one of the few players in this league as defensively versatile as Marion, but he’s seven years younger and a much more productive offensive player at this point of their careers.

As Rick Carlisle said when Deng came to Dallas with the Cavs last season, any coach would love to have Deng on their roster due to his toughness, intelligence and talent.

(Read full post)

Free-agency preview: Shooting guards

June, 24, 2014
Jun 24
8:00
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Avery BradleyBrian Babineau/NBAE/Getty ImagesAvery Bradley could fill a hole for the Mavericks. But would the rebuilding Celtics let him go?
Shooting guard is not a priority position for the Dallas Mavericks.

It’s a safe bet that Monta Ellis will lead the Mavs in minutes for the second consecutive season. Wayne Ellington, a solid perimeter shooter and defender who played sparingly this past season, also remains on the roster.

There’s a good chance the Mavs re-sign both Devin Harris and Vince Carter. They get most of their minutes at other positions -- Harris at point guard, Carter at small forward -- but they’ll probably split most of the shooting guard minutes not logged by Ellis.

The Mavs have zero interest in Indiana’s Lance Stephenson, arguably the most talented unrestricted free agent in this summer’s crop. He could easily slide to small forward, but the Mavs simply aren’t interested in making a significant investment in a known knucklehead, particularly one who tends to dominate the ball by over-dribbling.

Dallas president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson often says you can never have enough shooting, but the Mavs don’t intend to get in on the bidding for gunners Nick Young and Jordan Crawford, either.

There are, however, a handful of shooting guards who might fit the Mavs, if they fall through the cracks in free agency:

Avery Bradley: As one of the best on-ball defenders in the NBA, Bradley would directly address one of the Mavs’ most glaring weaknesses. But he’s a restricted free agent, and it’s hard to imagine Boston letting a 23-year-old contributor go if all the Celtics have to do to keep him is match a bargain offer.

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Rodney Stuckey: Remember when he was one of the NBA’s best young guards? His production for the Pistons plummeted the past couple of seasons (13.9 ppg, 2.1 apg, .436 FG in 2013-14), and he lost his starting job, but the 6-foot-5, 205-pound Stuckey is still only 28 years old and versatile enough to play multiple positions. He might benefit from a change of scenery.

Jodie Meeks: He’s a shooter who averaged a career-best 15.7 points per game for a terrible Lakers team this past season and made 46.3 percent of his field goal attempts and 40.1 percent from 3-point range. He’s never been confused for a lockdown defender, but he’s not awful on that end of the floor either.

C.J. Miles: The Mavs had talks with Miles, a 6-foot-6 lefty who grew up in Dallas, when he was a free agent two summers ago. He's a nine-year veteran but only 27 years old, he can play both wing positions, and he is a good perimeter shooter. He hit 39.3 percent of his 3-pointers this past season, when he averaged 9.9 points for the Cavaliers.

Thabo Sefolosha: The 6-foot-5 Sefolosha could be considered a bigger, more physical and more experienced version of Ellington. He lost his 3-point touch in 2013-14 (31.6 percent) after shooting better than 40 percent from long distance the previous two years. He’s a 3-and-D player who is strictly a spot-up shooter on offense, but he’s among the NBA’s better wing stoppers.

Big Picture: Working all the angles

June, 6, 2014
Jun 6
10:00
AM CT
Dirk NowitzkiFort Worth Star-Telegram/Zumapress/Icon SMIDirk Nowitzki, 35, is a free agent, but the smart money is on him returning to Dallas.
Now that the dust has settled on the Dallas Mavericks' season, ESPNDallas.com will explain the big-picture outlook the Mavs need to analyze as they look ahead to the offseason and beyond.

Ever since the 2011 championship, the Mavs have been involved in various installments of the franchise’s "biggest summer ever." They’ve made their attempts to lure free agents such as LeBron James, Deron Williams, Chris Paul and Dwight Howard. They came up short in those attempts but have done a valiant job in putting together rosters that remained competitive. Be that as it may, the organization doesn’t see just being competitive as the goal.

Sports mortality might make this summer one in which Dallas needs more hits than misses. Dirk Nowitzki is a free agent, but the safe money is on him re-signing with the Mavs. That said, this is likely the last contract Nowitzki will sign with the idea of him playing at a very high level. There’s also a possibility that this is the last contract the 35-year-old signs altogether. With that in mind, the Mavericks have to look at players who can fit during this window as capable supporting mates for Nowitzki, or those who could take on larger roles on the back end of their deals.

Reports are circulating that the Houston Rockets will make another attempt at acquiring Nowitzki. The odds of them getting Nowitzki to turn on the Mavs are about as good as those of sinking a full-court, buzzer-beating shot. The Mavs will re-sign Nowitzki for a number that is respectful for him and the team in regard to preserving cap space. The additional focus will be on retaining Shawn Marion, Vince Carter and Devin Harris on team-friendly deals. The cap space will be an intriguing thing to keep track of.

Dallas could theoretically use all the usual avenues of improving a team -- free agency, trade and the draft -- and each path could yield players of impact.

[+] EnlargeZach Randolph
Justin Ford/USA TODAY SportsGetting Shawn Marion, left, and Vince Carter, right, back at team-friendly prices is key for Dallas.
Teams around the league could inquire about some of the Mavs' cap-friendly trade assets such as Brandan Wright, Wayne Ellington and point guards Shane Larkin and Gal Mekel. None of them will fetch an elite player in return, but a specific combination of them, money and other assets to the right team could net a valuable rotational player and free up a roster space. In terms of other assets, one ace in the hole for Dallas is that it can finally get back into the trade market with a first-round pick at its disposal.

The first-round pick Dallas gave up in the trade to acquire Lamar Odom ended up in the possession of the Oklahoma City Thunder after it was shipped to the Los Angeles Lakers and the Rockets, and is now finally paid in full. That means the Mavs won’t have a first-round pick this season and will have one next season. Due to rules in the collective bargaining agreement, a team can’t trade its first-round pick in consecutive drafts. That means Dallas can officially offer its 2016 first-round pick in deals. First-round picks are now the most coveted form of currency among general managers, and Dallas has shown it's not afraid to wheel and deal.

Speaking of the draft, Dallas has the 34th and 51st picks -- both in the second round -- this year. While second-round picks don’t necessarily guarantee success, they give teams suitable amounts of wiggle room. Second-round picks aren’t guaranteed roster spaces or contracts, thus giving a team like Dallas the potential to go either way with both assets. That might not mean much on the surface, but roster spaces become more and more valuable as the summer moves along.

While ammunition isn’t at maximum value, Dallas has enough wiggle room and flexibility to be a player this summer. That’s a good position to be in, but this is a summer in which there isn’t a definitive route to take through free agency. While there have been big-name free agents available in past offseasons, there’s a strong possibility there won’t be one out there this summer. In addition, there’s always the uncertainty of the trade market. You just never know what will happen in that realm or who will actually be available or is on the trade block.

With roughly $30.5 million in cap space, other assets and no definitive direction in free agency, this summer appears to be filled with unknowns. If that’s the case, it’s good to be in a position like the one Dallas finds itself in, in which it can strike via free agency, draft or trade. The mantra has always been that the Mavs will be opportunistic. Time dictates that opportunity has to strike now.
They’d love to come back to Dallas, but the veteran free agents on the Mavericks’ roster will all be willing to listen to any contenders interested in their services this summer.

The mutual interest is strong enough that it’s a decent bet that Shawn Marion, Vince Carter and Devin Harris will re-sign with the Mavs in July. However, it doesn’t take much imagination to envision each of them getting intriguing offers from teams that can claim they’re better positioned than the Mavs to make a title run.

A look at a couple of contenders that could be fits for each of the trio:

MARION

Shane Battier, the Heat’s savvy, versatile veteran defender, intends to retire at the end of the season. The “Matrix,” whose defense was such a critical ingredient to the Heat’s lone playoff series loss in the LeBron James era, would make a lot of sense as Battier’s replacement.

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Marion just happens to still have a home in Miami from his brief stint with the Heat in 2008 and ’09. His hometown of Chicago could also be a fit for Marion.

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau was rather perturbed when the Chicago front office traded Luol Deng in a salary-dump deal before the deadline. Marion has some of the same traits as Deng – toughness, defensive versatility – at a presumably much lower price. If the Bulls add Marion, they’d likely be able to lighten the load on Jimmy Butler, who averaged 38.7 minutes per game last season.

Miami, assuming its stars stay, would be able to offer Marion no more than the taxpayer midlevel exception ($3.28 salary for next season). The Bulls’ bid would likely be in that same range. But Marion, who has made about $133 million in his career, made it clear that the chance to win another championship is much more important than the size of his checks next season.

“When July 1 comes, I'll look at my options and see which options are best suited to me to add to my legacy,” Marion said. “It's not about money right now. I've made a lot of money in my career. I've been truly been blessed. I'm not taking any of this for granted. I've just got to weigh my options.”

CARTER

Told that ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reported that the Toronto Raptors are kicking around the idea of trying to bring Carter back north of the border, the man formerly known as “Air Canada” couldn’t help but crack a big smile.

“Really? I didn’t know that,” Carter said, raising his eyebrows. “You never know. I think more than anything I’m hoping that a lot of teams that appreciate, at my age, what I bring to the table.”

Carter’s divorce with the Raptors in 2004 didn’t go well, but the idea of his return should be appealing to Toronto for many reasons other than a potential marketing boon. The Raptors could really use a boost to their bench scoring, and Carter could serve as a mentor for promising young wing players DeMar DeRozan and Terrence Ross.

For Carter, a return to Toronto could complete the circle of his career and give him a chance to help the Raptors advance in the playoffs for the first time since 2001, when he was a rising superstar in his third season. The Raptors fell one game short in the first round this season, losing to the Brooklyn Nets in seven games.

Carter’s best chance to compete for a championship might come just north of the Red River. Oklahoma City considered the midseason signing of Caron Butler to be a key acquisition. Carter, a better shooter and athlete, would be an upgrade for the Thunder.

HARRIS

Of these three, money is most important to Harris, who had made much less than Marion and Carter over the course of his career. He’s hoping to get something in the range of the three-year deal for a little more than $9 million that he originally agreed to with the Mavs last summer before the discovery that he needed complicated toe surgery.

A couple of West playoff teams that might be willing to give Harris that kind of deal are the Portland Trail Blazers and Golden State Warriors. Both could be in the market for a quality veteran point guard this summer.

Portland’s Mo Williams doesn’t plan to exercise his option to make a salary of $2.77 million, preferring to test the market in hopes of getting a significant raise. Williams has been a good fit with the Blazers, but if his price tag is too high, Harris could be a good alternative for a combo guard off the bench.

The Warriors traded for Steve Blake this season, when he made $4 million in a deal that expires this summer. Harris could provide a similar veteran presence in a more athletic package for Golden State.

How much will Mavs have to spend?

May, 5, 2014
May 5
8:00
AM CT
SAN ANTONIO -- For the third straight summer, the Dallas Mavericks are positioned to be major shoppers in free agency.

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How much do they have to spend? The simple answer is approximately $30.5 million, with the salary cap projected to rise to $63.2 million.

A more complicated answer would require a commitment from Dirk Nowitzki on the terms of his next contract. There’s no question that he’ll re-sign with Dallas. It’s a matter of how long and how much money for the 12-time All-Star who has vowed to take a significant pay cut when his four-year, $80 million expires July 1.

Here are the salaries the Mavs have on the books for next season:

Monta Ellis – $8,360,000
Jose Calderon – $7,097,191
Brandan Wright – $5,000,000
Samuel Dalembert – $3,867,282
Wayne Ellington – $2,771,340
Shane Larkin – $1,606,080
Jae Crowder – $915,243
Ricky Ledo – $816,482
Gal Mekel – $816,482

Dalembert’s deal includes only $1.8 million in guaranteed salary, but the decision has already been made to keep the center who is a bargain for under $4 million. With cap holds for three open roster spots, the Mavs will enter the offseason with $32.7 million on the books.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Dirk Nowitzki
PTS AST STL MIN
21.7 2.7 0.9 32.9
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsS. Marion 6.5
AssistsM. Ellis 5.7
StealsM. Ellis 1.7
BlocksB. Wright 0.9