After a slew of strong moves during the 2020 NBA Draft, the Dallas Mavericks started free agency with high expectations. Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis are one of the more promising duos in the league, so the Mavericks were expected to garner a lot of attention. With that being said, they stayed relatively quiet and made only a couple of moves to upgrade the roster. Not making league-changing moves doesn’t mean there was a lack of success, however.
Dallas Mavericks Free Agency Grades
Re-signing Key Pieces
The first move Dallas made in free agency was re-signing Trey Burke. The electric guard proved to be a major success in Rick Carlisle‘s offense during the bubble, so naturally, the interest to bring him back was going to be there. Burke is a terrific shooter and a sneaky-good dribbler and finisher. He fits the role of a spark-plug off the bench.
Trading Seth Curry for Josh Richardson also made Burke nearly indispensable, as the Mavericks needed another ball-handler off the bench. Burke’s team-friendly deal (three years for $10 million) will continue to pay off especially with Jalen Brunson being healthy again as well.
Dallas also re-signed Willie Cauley-Stein for a two-year, $8.2 million contract. Cauley-Stein was not an early focus as the Mavericks likely explored the market for other big men. With that being said, Cauley-Stein is an extremely athletic big who can greatly affect the play on both sides of the floor. He had a very limited sample size in Dallas last season but will be relied upon a significant amount with Porzingis missing the beginning of the season and Dwight Powell coming off an Achilles injury.
Re-signing Grade: B+
An Overlooked Strong Defensive Piece
His bread and butter, however, is his strong defense. Dallas will once again be one of the most lethal offensive teams in the league but desperately need more defense. Last season their only reliable wing defender was Dorian Finney-Smith. Although talented, Finney-Smith needed an insurance piece off the bench so he wouldn’t exhaust all his energy on one side of the floor.
Iwundu fits that necessity. Expect to see him play in the range of 15-20 minutes per game and leaving it all on the floor day-in and day-out. Besides defense, however, Iwundu is growing as a shooter and scored roughly six points per game last season.
There isn’t a high-ceiling to this move, but there’s very minimal risk.
The Dallas Mavericks Get Their Enforcer
The most apparent thing in the Mavericks’ postseason play, besides Doncic’s superstardom, was their lack of true toughness. To put it simply, the Mavericks needed a player who would serve as a deterrent to stop opposing players from messing with Doncic too much. James Johnson is exactly that.
Johnson isn’t just an enforcer either, however. Last season he averaged 8.4 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game on 36 percent shooting from three. He’s still an effective player and will see plenty of time in the rotation. He’s also on a hefty expiring contract if the Mavericks decide to pursue a trade at some time during the season.
There is, however, another major factor as to why this is a win for Dallas. First of all, Wright and Jackson were not very effective on the team. More than that, though, their contracts are off the books for the future. The Mavericks already have room for a max-contract next offseason, but now can also sign another player in the $10-12 million range. That’s a major win for a stacked 2021 free-agent class.
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