The Dallas Mavericks may not be inclined to draft a center with the No. 5 overall pick during Thursday’s NBA draft, as they instead may pursue a big man in free agency, according to Michael Scotto of The Athletic.
Per that report:
“At No. 5 overall, Dallas believes it has a strong chance to land DeMarcus Cousins in free agency, league sources told The Athletic. If the Mavericks pass on Mohamed Bamba, that would signal the team will go all in on trying to sign Cousins or restricted free agent Clint Capela. DeAndre Jordan could also become an unrestricted free agent if he declines his $24.1 million player option, but Dallas has been through that courtship before.”
At least one of Bamba, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Wendell Carter Jr. is sure to be available when the Mavericks are on the clock. If they pass on those bigs in favor of someone like Michael Porter Jr., Dallas figures to be a major player in the center market during free agency.
Given the Mavericks’ ability to carve out upward of $30 million in cap space, per Bleacher Report’s Dan Favale, they’ll have the flexibility to make a max offer to Cousins, Capela or Jordan. Capela may be the only one of those three to require the max.
Cousins would be a major upgrade in Dallas, where his scoring prowess and rebounding would instantly make him the team’s focal point. Add in Harrison Barnes, Dennis Smith Jr. and whomever the team drafts at No. 5, and the Mavericks could make some noise in the 2018-19 season.
Cousins is coming off a torn Achilles, and in a summer where few teams have significant cap space, he may not receive any long-term max offers. It wouldn’t be shocking to see Cousins sign a one- or two-year deal below the max.
He may choose to re-sign with the New Orleans Pelicans and make another run alongside superstar Anthony Davis. But he appears to be a real possibility for the Mavs this offseason, and perhaps at a price below what his market value would have been prior to his injury.
Jordan, meanwhile, has a player option for $24.1 million next season, and it’s fair to question if he’ll recoup those earnings if he declines it. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him pick up his option and either return to the Clippers for at least one more season or try to facilitate a trade to a different team.
Capela is likely to get max offers in restricted free agency. The 24-year-old is an athletic rim-protector, an excellent finisher as the roll man in pick-and-rolls and gave the Warriors problems in the Western Conference Finals. He’ll have multiple suitors, although the Rockets can match any offer he receives.
Add it all up, and passing on Bamba or Jackson Jr. would be a gamble for Dallas, especially if either one was the team’s top remaining player on the board. But it also wouldn’t be shocking if the Mavericks went a different route and Cousins was starting at center next season.