Big Hole at Small Forward for Mavericks
By Asher Feltman
So far this wait-and-see NBA offseason the Mavericks have made two impact moves sandwiching the re-signing of “Dat Dood” Dirk. One came the day before the NBA Draft and one coming two days before your eyes laid on this piece of athletic literature.
Almost two weeks ago the Dallas Mavericks made the
blockbuster Netflix trade to reacquire Tyson Chandler, stabilizing the starting center position with one of the league’s elite performers.
Over the weekend the team filled another slot at point guard, pairing up newcomer Raymond Felton –the expected backup– with Devin Harris, who returns back home to the Mavs on a contract he got a year ago before a toe injury was revealed in his physical and he ended up playing for the veteran’s minimum on a one year deal.
All Mavs Now…For Now
Photo Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
Harris will make a little over $3 million dollars a season for three years, which comes at a bargain in plain terms and relative terms. He took a little less than he likely could have gotten to suit up for a different squad but wanted to win and win in Dallas where his career began a decade ago. Around the league we’ve seen other guards capable of starting but likely reserves get deals worth far more than the one the Mavericks and Devin agreed to on Saturday.
Jodie Meeks broke the seal on 2014 NBA Free Agency when he signed a 3-year $19 million dollar contract with the Detroit Pistons.
Shaun Livingston (drafted one pick before Harris in the 2004 NBA Draft) inked a 3-year $16 million dollar deal with the Golden State Warriors to back up budding superstar Stephen Curry or potentially start alongside the sharpshooting all-star if Klay Thompson moves in trade for Kevin Love or Pau Gasol or your best guess.
Former Maverick Darren Collison received $15 million dollars over three seasons to fill either a starting or backup role for the Sacramento Kings.
Grade as you will, but Devin Harris isn’t the 4th best player of the group in my opinion. He’ll make the least by far, choosing to stay in the Big D and try and get a championship in the only place he really wants to accomplish the evasive feat.
Whether it’s Harris or Felton is moot pertaining to the depth chart and how it is starting to shape up. Monta Ellis, Dirk Nowitzki and Tyson Chandler are the rest of your starters, that we know.
But small forward is the big hole yet to be filled. And not one domino has yet to fall, headed by the two big mama jama domino’s named LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony.
Once both make their decision on whether to re-up or break the internets, the following tier of small forwards will be able to make their decisions with a clear light ahead.
Until then, the speculation and the rumors concerning the small forward position is…well, just that.
Out there to be had are Luol Deng, Gordon Hayward, Chandler Parsons and Trevor Ariza. Then you have Paul Pierce. Then you also have players like Shawn Marion, Caron Butler, Mike Miller, Danny Granger (just signed with Heat), P.J. Tucker and Evan Turner.
Then you think to yourself, “oh **** let’s not get there.”
If you follow me cyber critically you know I have a healthy but irrational love and fandom for Utah Jazz RFA Gordon Hayward. But that “R” is restricted, and I don’t expect Utah to let him get away. Unless it’s to Dallas, they better not.
Chandler Parsons is a good player, he’s not a great player. He can get better — can’t we all?– but he has a ceiling lower than any others of the first tier in my opinion. His jump shot is still way too line drive-y and because he shot so many in a confusing, crazy Houston Rockets offensive system there’s a false perception that he’s a knockdown shooter from beyond the arc. He, like Hayward, has great playmaking skills and intangibles i.e. passing, getting to the basket, rebounding, defensive capabilities but unlike Hayward isn’t as physical or consistent and frankly doesn’t have the room to grow like Hayward does –which is a lot.
Melo…to Denver?! Nah. Nah to both.
Luol Deng is a safe bet, but perhaps not the safest investment that Trevor Ariza could be. Ariza is the best 3-point shooter of the whole list sans maybe Mike Miller who’s a specialist and the bearer of great hair. Luol Deng can shoot it, but his strength comes on the defensive end. With Chandler, Harris and Ellis’ improving defensive game under Head Coach Rick Carlisle and staff, the Mavericks need an offensive threat much more than a defensive one at small forward.
With all due respect to Shawn Marion and trust me I absolutely and will always love the NBA Champion (Don’t test me by considering a Thunder offer though, Trix) but his lack of an offensive arsenal outside the paint really hurt the Mavericks floor spacing and overall offensive productivity last season. On the other end, few players guard superstars like LeBron James and Kevin Durant like the Matrix does.
But if this was an easy decision it wouldn’t be any fun, would it?
My hopeful prediction is Gordon Hayward. However I think it ends up being Trevor Ariza or Chandler Parsons. The appeal of the younger and slightly more versatile Parsons could net him an overpay in a league of overpays (just waiting on someone to give Al Harrington the full Mid-Level Exception!) Ariza seems more attainable at a reasonable cost.
And speaking of costs, with both Nowitzki and Harris taking less than they could have gotten, the Mavericks are in position to give a max contract but there’s still a bench to fill and depth on the bench and a fortified second unit is invaluable.
See: 2014 San Antonio Spurs, 2011 Dallas Mavericks
Don’t See: 2014 Oklahoma City Thunder, 2013 Indiana Pacers
In three days (July 10) players can officially put literal pen to literal paper and join their new teams. But first the LBJ domino and the almost-but-not-quite-at-all-as-large domino labeled MELO need to fall.