Kevin Durant surely didn’t intend to do Mark Cuban any favors this offseason. After all, the last time Durant publicly discussed Cuban, he called the outspoken owner “a idiot” after helping to quickly dismiss the Dallas Mavericks in the first round.
Nevertheless, Cuban’s Mavs stand to benefit as much as any team other than the Golden State Warriors from Durant’s decision to take his talents to the Bay Area.
The Mavs had committed to signing Barnes, the 24-year-old forward who was a key role player for the Warriors, to a max offer sheet worth $94 million over four years on Thursday. They can now just sign Barnes to a contract and not have to worry about the three-day waiting period for the Warriors to match, as ESPN’s Marc Stein reports that Golden State will renounce its rights to the restricted free agent.
The Warriors still must clear cap space to sign Durant, which is why they had to ship out Bogut. The Mavs and Warriors, sources say, have agreed on a deal that will send the veteran big man to Dallas.
Dallas has the cap space to absorb Bogut’s $11 million expiring contract in a salary-dump deal, much like the one the Mavs made with Milwaukee for Zaza Pachulia last season. The Mavs also have a glaring need for a starting center. This was a perfect solution for both teams.
Bogut will be a phenomenal short-term fit as the front man of a center committee that also features shot-blocker Salah Mejri, energy guy Dwight Powell and second-round pick A.J. Hammons. The 7-foot Australian isn’t much of a scoring threat at age 31, but he remains a good rebounder, rim protector and offensive facilitator. He should also be a terrific mentor to the Mavs’ young bigs and won’t impact the team's cap situation next summer.
You can debate the wisdom of giving Barnes, who averaged 11.7 points and 4.9 rebounds for the 73-win Warriors, a contract that has the highest average annual salary in franchise history. However, that’s the going rate for young talent in this wildly inflated market, which will spike again next summer. Barnes was going to get a max deal this summer, whether it was from the Mavs, the Philadelphia 76ers or perhaps the Oklahoma City Thunder as they figure out their post-KD plans.
At the minimum, the Mavs know they are getting a pro in Barnes who can be part of the post-Dirk Nowitzki core. He addresses their desire to add youth and athleticism this offseason and replaces Chandler Parsons in the rotation as the starting small forward and backup power forward.
The question with Barnes: Is he a really good role player or a young player with a lot of room to grow after leaving Golden State? He has proved to be a solid, versatile defender and good perimeter shooter (career 3-point percentage: 37.6), despite his Finals slump. Can Barnes blossom as a creator with more opportunity? That will largely determine his value in Dallas.
But the Mavs are undoubtedly much better off with Barnes -- now and in the future -- than without him after they decided Parsons wasn’t worth a long-term commitment due to his knee problems. Bogut is also a great fit after the Mavs seized that opportunity.
With Deron Williams back as a stopgap starting point guard, Cuban and right-hand man Donnie Nelson are in the process of recovering from the disappointing first day of free agency to build a roster that is capable of contending for a playoff spot in the West without mortgaging the Mavs’ future.
The Mavs are once again proving that they’re good at opportunistically building a roster when their ambitious Plan A’s fall apart. They just wish they didn’t have so much practice at it.