The Bucks obviously want to keep Giannis Antetokounmpo, who can become an unrestricted free agent in 2021. The Heat are in hot pursuit (and just made a strong case during these playoffs). The Raptors and Warriors covet Antetokounmpo. The Clippers and Lakers have also been linked to the MVP.
And then there are the Mavericks.
Brian Windhorst of ESPN:
The Miami Heat are a team that a lot of people look at as trying to get Giannis Antetokounmpo out of Milwaukee. The Dallas Mavericks, to me, are going to be really at the front of that line.
Of course, every team wants Antetokounmpo. But many teams believe they have no chance of getting him and therefore won’t pursue him.
The Mavericks merely chasing Antetokounmpo hard would be a significant development.
Dallas had a breakthrough season behind Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis, winning 57% of their games and challenging the Clippers in the first round of the playoffs. But it’ll be tougher to build on that next season if prioritizing 2021 cap space.
The Mavericks project to have nearly max cap space that summer if the salary cap hits its previous projection of $125 million. But economic fallout of coronavirus could obviously send the cap far lower.
Dallas will likely play it safe by not signing someone to a multi-year contract with the mid-level exception this offseason. Really, the Mavericks could go further and unload any of the several players with 2021-22 salaries that could interfere with an Antetokounmpo pursuit:
Dwight Powell ($11,080,125)
Delon Wright ($8,526,316)
Maxi Kleber ($8,750,000)
Seth Curry ($8,207,518)
Dorian Finney-Smith ($4,000,000)
No. 18 pick in 2020 draft ($2,957,520)*
Based on the salary cap remaining flat next season
It’s always possible to shed salary if Antetokounmpo pledges to sign, but the Mavericks would have more leverage by trading now. Wright, Kleber, Curry and Finney-Smith all just had solid seasons. The No. 18 pick holds more value now, when teams could pick the player they want, than once Dallas makes a selection. (Powell, who’s injured, is the exception.)
The Mavericks would just have to be careful not to undermine the roster quality that’d appeal to Antetokounmpo. It’s a risky preposition.
But the upside is sky high.
Antetokounmpo is a great player with a bright future. His biggest weakness – creation within halfcourt offense – is where Doncic thrives. Porzingis’ 3-point shooting would excellently complement Antetokounmpo’s drives. Defensively, Porzingis is an impressive rim protector who could emulate Brook Lopez in a scheme that – with Antetokounmpo – shuts down the paint.
Unlike Los Angeles and Miami, Dallas isn’t a city Antetokounmpo has spoken publicly about not wanting to play in. The Mavericks should pursue Antetokounmpo hard.
Signing him would also bring Dallas full circle. In 2013, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban overruled lead executive Donnie Nelson on drafting Antetokounmpo No. 13. Instead, Dallas traded down to preserve cap space for free agents… who never came.
Maybe Antetokounmpo will finally be the big fish the Mavericks land.
It sounds like they’ll try as hard as they can.