The Mavericks Are Facing a Crucial Moment in Team History

“Keep the powder dry.”

Those words are burned into the minds of every Mavericks fan. It’s become a mantra recited both with fiery belief and crass sarcasm. It’s the “Think Different” slogan of the basketball world. It can be used to justify every head-tilting decision or to dismiss even the most polished sales pitch.

Whatever side of the debate you’re on, one thing is buried in that powder that we all recognize: a purpose. Maintain cap space to sign hallmark free agents.

It’s why the Mavericks have passed on promising talent in the draft. It’s why they’ve opted for homegrown talent rather than pricier retail-priced players. It’s why they’ve traded players merely to dump salary.

Cap space.

Their modus operandi has been to clear cap space.

Well, all of that changes this summer.

Luka Doncic – NBA All-Star, fringe MVP candidate, franchise leader, and All-NBA talent – will sign his Designated Rookie Scale Player Extension, guaranteeing him five years of salary equal to 25-30% of the team’s cap plus 8% increases every year of the contract.

(It’s a max contract.)

The Mavericks will then have two players with max contracts. From that point on, it will be virtually impossible to fill out a roster while maintaining significant cap space each summer.

For the sake of my sanity, let’s just say it will be entirely impossible.

Yossi Gozlan, HoopsHype

“The Mavericks will be very expensive soon. They’re going to use cap space this offseason or re-sign all their players since this will be their last opportunity to spend before Luka inevitably signs a max extension. Once he’s making $30M+, combined with Porzingis making as much and whoever they spend on this offseason, they’ll likely be in the luxury tax. Hopefully the team is a championship contender during those years.”

In short, this is the last summer the Mavericks will be able to ignore free agents or refuse assets.

Operation Dry Powder, at least the cap space articles, is over.

But don’t take that as a reason to let out a deep breath of relief. No, this summer is momentous not solely because it brings an end to chasing cap space, but because the Mavericks’ entire purpose over the past decade now has to change – the chance to sign star free agents will be gone.

The Mavericks have been trying to put a Championship team around Luka Doncic. They will continue to do that, but after this summer, they’ll have to do it without cash in their hand they can wave at every player destined for a spot in the Hall of Fame.

They’ll have to do it through trades, the draft, or creative use of the salary cap rules. But therein lies the rub – in order to make trades, you need to have assets. In order to have assets, you have to, well, get them. Sign them. Acquire them. Whatever you want to call it, the Mavericks will need to aggressively pursue free agents this summer.

But not the kind they like pursuing.

They probably won’t get the star they’ve been going after for the past 10 years. Dwight Howard, LeBron James, Deron Williams, Kawhi Leonard, Giannis Antetokounmpo – those guys are all dust in the wind. No, they’ll have to sign role-players and veterans – quality players. The guys they historically pass on because they aren’t worth their precious cap space. The guys they don’t even call on the phone because ‘we’ve got Giannis in the bag’. The guys they offer a 1-year deal to because ‘we want you, but we don’t, like, WANT you want you’.

They’ll have to target a Dennis Schroder, a Norman Powell, a DeMar DeRozan, a Derrick Rose, a Jarrett Allen. They can’t hoard their cap space and sign cheap guys like a Wayne Ellington, a Cameron Payne, or a Jeff Teague. Why? Because those cheap guys have no value in the trade market and they don’t win games.

The players the Mavericks sign this summer will be either their poker chips in February or their chess pieces in June.

But don’t get excited yet because it’s still not that easy. The Mavericks have four players entering free agency (five if Josh Richardson opts out) this summer plus a team option on Willie Cauley-Stein. They’ll have either Bird or Early Bird rights on these players. You might be thinking, ‘That’s great! Josh Richardson might be off the books and the Mavericks can sign free agents and then go over the cap to keep the guys they have rights on! Right?’


Bird rights act as a cap hold. As long as the Mavericks keep their rights on those players, their cap space is all but depleted. (Just take a look at the massive cap holds Tim Hardaway Jr. and JJ Redick come with.) In order to have all of their available cap space, they would need to renounce their rights on those players. The same goes for Josh Richardson’s Player Option. It acts as a cap hold until he makes his decision.

PlayerCap Hold
Tim Hardaway Jr.$28,462,500
JJ Redick$16,917,810
Josh Richardson (Player Option)$16,298,928
Willie Cauley-Stein (Team Option)$5,330,00
Nicolo Melli$5,066,667
Boban Marjanovic$4,550,000

If the Mavericks renounce all their cap holds, they’ll have some money to work with, but it still might not be enough for a max contract. Even worse, they probably won’t have enough money to sign new players and re-sign the guys they renounced their rights on.

If the Mavericks don’t renounce their cap holds – which probably means they’re keeping those players – they’ll have no cap space to work with.

As cap expert David Brandon put it, “The rule of thumb is – either keep your free agents or you go get new ones. Tim Hardaway Jr. has a $28 million cap hold. Do you want to keep him? There’s $28 million of cap space you can’t use.”

David Brandon, @BirdRightsNBA

“The guys that they sign this summer are going to be key. Basically they’ve got to set themselves up to compete in Doncic’s prime. And this is the last year that you can really bring in guys in free agency that cost more than the mid-level.”

Next year’s Mavericks could look drastically different or stubbornly the same.

But this is it. This is the choice. These are your players. These are your assets. After this summer, the game of chasing max-contract free agents is over. This is all you have to work with. Choose your game character wisely because you can’t go back and change it.

scar Robertson started a revolution in 1970 when he sued the NBA because of clauses that allowed teams to forcibly keep players for as long as the team wanted, even the player’s entire career. The lawsuit opened the doors for free agency.

LeBron James picked up the revolutionary flag in the summer of 2010, when he left his hometown team in Cleveland and formed a superteam in Miami.

Now? Players play to win and they don’t care where.

Luka Doncic wants to win. He grew up in an era where player movement is common, if not expected. He was 11 years old when LeBron James made his ‘Decision’. It wasn’t major history for Luka. As far as he’s concerned, this is the way it’s always been.

The Mavericks can either hope Luka Doncic is like Dirk Nowitzki, who decided he was going to stay in Dallas no matter what, or they can recognize the new world order and do everything they can to build a contending team around Luka now.

Does it suck? Yeah!

Do I wish players were loyal to teams and were more patient? Absolutely.

But I’m operating off of what the NBA is, not what I wish it was.

The Mavericks have one final summer to either sign free agents that will take them over the top or acquire assets that will give them chips to play with when the trade deadline comes.

But the days of hoarding cap space are over.

It’s time to win.

Sydney Myers
Sydney is commonly the only girl in pick-up games, which is fine because the guys never guard her so she schools them. She can dunk on a 7-foot hoop and won league MVP in NBA 2K. She has been a digital content creator for over 10 years, earned a Silver Creator Award, and is YouTube Certified. Then again, she also tried to fly as a child and broke her arm, so what does she know?

Does Kristaps Porzingis Only Play Well Against Bad Teams? Here’s The Answer and Why It Matters

Kristaps Porzingis has made it clear that he wants a larger role on the Dallas Mavericks. In the past four months, he’s made public statements saying as much. He asked to play longer stretches during games, forcing Rick Carlisle to adjust his rotations. There were grumblings about where his shots come from, the solution to which required a shift in the Mavs’ offensive philosophy. Most recently, he showed clear frustration with how few shots he was getting in the fourth quarter of close games.

Kristaps was given the nickname The Unicorn for a reason – his skillset is rare for a player his size. A 7’3 guy who can shoot from the perimeter, pull up on a dime, and soar for alley-oops is worthy of a dozen surpassing nicknames.

But has Kristaps Porzingis performed at a level that justifies demands and ideological shifts in an offense?

The idea has floated around that Porzingis only plays well in minor games – games against bad teams. Is that true?

Yes, it is.

Kristaps’ scoring average against teams whose record is currently above .500 is 5.5 points lower than his scoring average against sub-.500 teams. His shooting percentage also drops 6.7 percentage points against those winning teams.

Kristaps is a star when playing sub-.500 teams – averaging 23.2 points and 10 rebounds while making over 50 percent of his shots. Against winning teams, however, Kristaps reverts to a good role-player who averages less than 18 points and less than 8 rebounds and makes less than 44 percent of his shots.

His highest-scoring games this season have come against losing teams. Every game where he scored 27 points or more came against sub-.500 teams – the Pelicans, the Pacers (twice), the Timberwolves (twice), and the Spurs.

If you want some context for these numbers, take a look at how they compare to Luka Doncic’s performance in these scenarios:

Kristaps Porzingis vs. Above-.500 Teams and Below-.500 Teams – 2021

Opponent RecordPTSTRBBLKFG%3PT%
At or above .50017.
Below .50023.2101.450.2%37.3%

AS OF 4/10/21

Luka Doncic vs. Above-.500 Teams and Below-.500 Teams – 2021

Opponent RecordPTSTRBASTFG%3PT%
At or above .50027.97.7849.5%37.6%
Below .50027.

AS OF 4/10/21

Luka Doncic plays better against better competition. His shooting percentage increases over 4 percentage points and his 3-point shooting increases from 30 percent to nearly 38 percent. That’s what stars do.

Kristaps is not a perennial MVP candidate like Luka Doncic, but if he wants to be considered a star at Luka’s side, he needs to show up when his team needs him the most.

Speaking of showing up, you could take that demand literally with Kristaps.

He’s played only 33 out of 51 possible games so far this season. That’s not because of anything he’s doing wrong, but it is a factor. How can the Mavericks build their offense around a player that isn’t consistently available?

In some respects, Kristaps has a point. He shouldn’t go the entire fourth quarter without a shot. His teammates should look for him more often. But if he wants to be trusted, he has to earn it, not just force Rick Carlisle’s hand by making a public statement.

Kristaps’ lowest scoring games this season have come in his team’s biggest matchups. In games versus the Jazz, Knicks, Bucks, and Blazers, he scored 15 or fewer points.

Is it possible for a player to transform into someone who flourishes under pressure? We have an example of that happening in Luka Doncic.

In the 2020 season, Luka’s scoring average versus above-.500 teams was over three points lower than versus sub-.500 opponents. His shooting percentage dropped 5.6 percentage points and his 3-point shooting percentage dropped a whopping thirteen percentage points against winning teams.

Remember when those elite teams would bully Luka physically and mentally? They would do everything they could to get under his skin.

And it worked.

Luka Doncic vs. Above-.500 Teams and Below-.500 Teams – 2020

Opponent RecordPTSTRBASTFG%3PT%
At or above .50027.78.7942.6%24.9%
Below .50030.810.28.848.1%37.9%

Luka’s worst performances came against the Lakers, Clippers, Nuggets, and Sixers. This season, some of Luka’s best games have come against those very same teams.

But we also saw moments of Luka making big-time plays. Eleven straight points against the Houston Rockets. A game-tying buzzer-beater against the Portland Trail Blazers. Averaging a 30-point triple-double for an entire month. Game-tying and game-winning shots versus the Lakers, Timberwolves, and Clippers. 

Kristaps took a step in this direction with his performance in Thursday night’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks. He scored 11 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter. But do it again. And again. And again. Night in and night out. Every game. Make the bad ones a rarity, not an inevitability based on the opponent’s record.

When Kristaps does that – when he earns that reputation – then he won’t have to beg for shots. His teammates will want to find him. He’ll be a unicorn because of his rare ability, not rare appearance.