The Mavericks’ primary focus in free agency has been finding a younger, higher-scoring small forward. Should that change in the likely event that Carmelo Anthony doesn’t choose the Mavs?
Here’s a suggestion: Bump point guard Isaiah Thomas to the top of the priority list.
[+] EnlargeThomas is a restricted free agent, but the Sacramento Kings appear to be ready to move on after reportedly agreeing to a three-year, $16 million with Darren Collison. The Mavs put out feelers to Thomas on the opening night of free agency, but their plan all along has been to address point guard by re-signing Devin Harris.
But Thomas, who averaged 20.3 points and 6.3 assists last season, might be the most impactful player within the Mavs’ reach in free agency.
The odds of getting Chandler Parsons or Gordon Hayward are extremely slim due to their status as restricted free agents and their teams’ intention to match any offers. Maybe that changes with Parsons if Anthony heads to Houston, but it’s still a slim possibility.
If Washington succeeds in its goal to keep Trevor Ariza, that’d likely leave Luol Deng as the Mavs’ lone available Plan B small forward target. Deng is a high-character guy, great defender and career 16-point-per-game scorer, but he’s far from a perfect fit for the Mavs due to his durability issues and lack of perimeter touch.
The tiny Thomas, listed at 5-foot-9, isn’t a perfect fit, either. (Coach Rick Carlisle raved about Thomas’ big, uh, courage when the Kings were in town this season.) That’d be an awfully small backcourt, pairing him with Monta Ellis. But, man, it’d be explosive with two dynamic off-the-dribble creators.
Thomas will also likely be paid less than Deng, who wants his salary to stay in the eight digits and is likely to get his wish, as his suitors with cap space include the Houston Rockets, Atlanta Hawks and Los Angeles Lakers.
Pure speculation here, but let’s say Thomas can be signed for a deal that has a starting salary in the $8-9 million range. In that scenario, the Mavs could probably re-sign Shawn Marion to start at small forward and Vince Carter as the sixth man.
Pay premium for Deng and the Mavs probably have to pick between Harris and Carter with their cap leftovers.
The Mavs might not agree, but I’d rather bet on the little guy, especially if his salary is smaller.