Grading The Dallas Mavericks’ 2022 Free Agency Moves So Far
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The Dallas Mavericks weren’t poised to make a big splash in free agency this summer. With the team over the cap limit, they were constrained by what they could and could not do. Still, there were moves that they could make that would help ensure continued upward success.

Whether the Dallas front office made those necessary signings will pan out next season. For now, the most glaring issue is that the organization lost its second-best ball handler and arguably its second-best player during the playoffs. Starting there, free agency has not been bright for the Mavericks.

Losing Jalen Brunson: D

Whether or not the front office had any inclination that Jalen Brunson would pack off his bags this summer and head for the New York Knicks, they won’t say publicly. That said, Mavericks GM Nico Harrison made it clear that re-signing him was its top priority this summer. Mavericks governor Mark Cuban seemed optimistic that Brunson would stick around because Dallas could offer him more money than anyone else. And while that was true, the problem is they didn’t.

The Mavericks reportedly offered Brunson a five-year, $106 million deal. The maximum they could have offered him was a five-year contract worth upwards of $150 million. That would have had huge luxury tax implications for the Mavericks, so they capped their offer range. They brought it down, placing it in the ballpark of five years and $110 million.

New York, on the other hand, rolled out the red carpet for Brunson–possibly tampering in the process–and offered him a four-year, $104 million deal with a player option in the final year. It beat what Dallas was offering annually, which made it too good for Brunson to pass up.

It’s certainly debatable whether a player of Brunson’s caliber was the piece that will help elevate the Mavericks into championship contention. His long-term pairing with superstar Luka Doncic also raised questions, but it worked during Dallas’ unlikely run to the Western Conference finals. Still, for Dallas to lose Brunson to the Knicks and get nothing in return is one of the most blundersome moments the front office has orchestrated in recent memory.

At the very least, reading the tea leaves, the Mavericks may have had some inclinations about Brunson’s intentions, which is why they traded into the 2022 NBA Draft to select Jaden Hardy.

Signing JaVale McGee: C

After trading for big man Christian Wood earlier this summer, the Mavericks naturally signed aging journeyman center JaVale McGee. The Mavericks and McGee, who reportedly expects to start, agreed to terms on a three-year, $20.1 million contract with a player option in the final year. This will be his second stint in Dallas. He played for the Mavericks during the 2015-16 season.

While McGee should prove to be an upgrade when it comes to rebounding, something Dallas desperately needs, he is also 34 years old. His age begs the questions: How much more is left in his tank, and is it worth it to potentially pay a 37-year-old center nearly $7 million in three years?

Mavericks starting center Dwight Powell was played off the floor during the playoffs last season, facing the likes of Rudy Gobert, Deandre Ayton and whoever the Golden State Warriors plopped in the middle. McGee gives Dallas more height and a shot blocking presence, but the same fate could await him during the playoffs.

At the very least, what McGee provides–9.2 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 15.8 minutes–should help during the regular season. His championship experience should factor into the locker room culture of the team as well.

Retaining Theo Pinson: B

Theo Pinson, the leader of the Mavericks’ raucous bench, is staying in Dallas on a one-year deal. Pinson joined Dallas last season on a two-way contract and appeared in 19 games during the regular season, playing spot minutes. He was not eligible to play in the postseason because he was a two-way player, but that did not stop him from having an impact.

Pinson was Dallas’ unquestioned No. 1 when it came to cheerleading. He rarely sat–if he ever sat–during games and would cheer on his teammates from the sidelines. His behavior was contagious. The whole bench took on his approach to sideline behavior. The NBA took notice and fined the Mavericks multiple times during the playoffs for bench decorum violations. The team wore them like a badge of honor.

Pinson likely will not see much of an expanded role on the court next season, although that could change with Brunson gone, but what he provides is invaluable. Teams need players like Pinson to provide camaraderie and improve morale. He does both ten times over.

Outlook

The Mavericks still have one roster spot open. They have been linked to free agent guard, and friend of Luka Doncic, Goran Dragic repeatedly, but they may be hesitant to bring him on. Instead, the team is reportedly mulling the idea of keeping the spot open.

Dallas has done next to nothing during free agency to address its most serious needs: additional ball handling and wing depth. They still have time to do so, especially with an open spot, but the clock is ticking, and the market is drying up. Their ability to add another quality player to the roster that addresses one or both of those needs will go a long way in easing the sting of letting Brunson walk.



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