The fourth in a five-part series previewing free agency for the Dallas Mavericks:
The Mavs plan to have a different look at shooting guard next season. Not just a different name, but a player with a completely different style than Monta Ellis.
Dallas doesn’t want another ball-dominant, undersized 2-guard. They intend to fill that vacancy in the starting lineup with a bigger player who is a better defender and perimeter shooter, preferably a 3-and-D guy who would mesh well with Chandler Parsons.
But replacing Ellis isn’t Dallas’ top priority this summer. The Mavs will take their swings at All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge and third-team All-NBA center DeAndre Jordan at the start of free agency. Their success, or lack thereof, on those big-fishing expeditions will determine how much cap space they’ll have to spend on a shooting guard.
If the Mavs hook Aldridge, they’ll need to spend most, if not all, of their remaining cap space on a starting center, preferably re-signing Tyson Chandler. They’d need to fill out the starting backcourt in thrifty fashion in that case.
If the Mavs get Jordan, they’d have in the range of $12 million in remaining cap space, a number they could increase by dumping Raymond Felton’s $3.95 million salary via a trade or by waiving him with the stretch provision.
If the Mavs miss on both of their top targets, they’d have more than enough cap space to sign any shooting guard on the market.
A look at some of the possible free-agent fits for the Mavs at shooting guard, including several players with lower price tags:
Danny Green: It will be hard for the Spurs to keep Green, especially if they succeed in their attempts to recruit Aldridge. Green is due a massive raise after making $4 million last season, likely to sign a long-term deal with annual salaries in the $10-12 million range. The 6-foot-6 Green is a deadly 3-point shooter (career 42 percent), an excellent defender and a terrific teammate.
Wesley Matthews: Tearing his left Achilles tendon against the Mavs in March likely cost Matthews a lot of money. He reportedly is still seeking a long-term deal in the $15 million-per-year range, but it’d be surprising to see a team pay that much to a player coming off such a major injury. However, if Matthews regains his previous form, he’d be worth every penny. He’s a prolific, efficient 3-point shooter (career 39.3 percent) with the ability to create some on offense, averaging 15.9 points and 2.3 assists per game last season. And the 6-foot-5, 220-pound Matthews is a better defender than he is an offensive player.
Khris Middleton: The Texas A&M product turns only 24 in August, is 6-foot-7 and is a versatile player who shoots better than 40 percent from 3-point range. He’s also a restricted free agent who the Milwaukee Bucks have every intention to keep. Maybe the Mavs could call their bluff like they did with Parsons and the Rockets last season, but that’s risky business.
Jimmy Butler: He’s the best player on this list by far, an All-Star just entering his prime. But he’s also a restricted free agent; the Chicago Bulls would be foolish not to match any offers up to the max to keep him.
Iman Shumpert: He’s also restricted, but the Cavs are facing harsh luxury-tax penalties, so he might be more available than Middleton or Butler. He’s also not nearly as good, shooting less than 40 percent from the floor over his four-year career and never averaging double figures in points. He’s been slightly below average as a 3-point shooter (34.2 percent). The 6-foot-5 Shumpert is a good defender and will be only 25 next season.
Arron Afflalo: He turned down a player option for $8 million next season, so it stands to reason that Afflalo’s asking price is at least that much per year. He’s a decent scorer who has shot 38.5 percent from 3-point range for his career, but he’s not nearly as good a defender as Green or Matthews.
Lou Williams: The reigning Sixth Man of the Year is kind of a Monta Lite without the attitude. The Mavs could use a shot creator off the bench, but Williams is likely a luxury they won’t be able to afford.
Marco Belinelli: A pure shooter (39.2 career 3-point percentage) who doesn’t exactly have a reputation as a lockdown defender. He’s a fallback candidate who won’t be nearly as costly as the top shooting guard targets.
Rodney Stuckey: His stock fell to the point that he played for the veteran’s minimum in Indiana last season. He responded with a solid season, averaging 12.6 points and 3.1 assists and shooting a career-best 39 percent from 3-point range. Would the 29-year-old Stuckey be willing to sign for the biannual exception?
Gerald Green: An athletic gunner who had a brief stint in Dallas in 2008-09 before heading overseas for a couple of years. Green proved in Phoenix the last two seasons that he can get buckets in bunches, averaging 20.8 points per 36 minutes, but he has a reputation for being a headache.
Jason Terry: If Jet would play for the minimum, the Mavs would likely welcome him back to Dallas to finish his career. He proved in Houston last season that he can still help a playoff team.
Alexey Shved: Poor defender who averaged 10.3 points while playing for three teams last season. Only 26, so could have some untapped potential.
Gary Neal: He’s pretty much a one-trick pony, but perimeter shooting is a good trick to have. At 30, he’s another minimum candidate.
K.J. McDaniels: He has good size (6-foot-6, 200 pounds) and upside due to his athleticism. He’s a restricted free agent, so a team would probably have to pay more than the minimum to get him out of Houston.
Marcus Thornton: A scorer who seems a lot older than 28. Might have to settle for the minimum after making $8.6 million last season.
Wayne Ellington: The Mavs hoped he could be a 3-and-D guy when they signed him for the cap-room exception a couple summers ago. He hardly cracked the rotation and got traded the next offseason, but he was a consummate pro during his time here. Could be a fit for the minimum.
John Jenkins: Potential sleeper. He didn’t play much the last two seasons due to injury issues and Atlanta’s depth, but the 23rd overall pick of the 2012 draft shot 38.4 percent from 3-point range for a playoff team as a rookie. Could be another minimum-salary reclamation project for the Mavs.