With seven days until free agency begins, it’s time to officially start naming names as ideal targets for free agency. This week, The Two Man Game will go through each position and determine who appears to be ideal fits for the Mavs.
Money is always an issue, but the Mavs will have their share of cap space to work with. Chris Paul and Dwight Howard will not be mentioned on these lists because it’s blatantly obvious that they would be on the top of their respective lists, but they’re still long shots to come to Dallas.
Meshing all the pieces together is just as important of a part of deciding on the pieces. The number one option at shooting guard might not be an ideal match with the number one option at small forward. These rankings will be solely on my own projections. A quick blurb from Editor-in-Chief Rob Mahoney’s free agency primer on the SI.com’s Point Forward will be mentioned for each player.
It’s apparent that the point guard position is the most important position the Mavs will need to take care of this summer. There were countless amounts of times over the year where they looked disorganized on offense and couldn’t execute the simple task of getting Dirk Nowitzki the ball. Getting a point guard who can handle the offense is an extreme priority this summer.
Let’s look at the free agent options at the point guard option.
1. Jose Calderon
Mahoney said: His playmaking style might be too conservative to drive some offenses, but Calderon creates a stabilizing influence by doing two simple things extraordinarily well: reading basic angles and preempting both teammates and defenders.
Calderon’s game has mainly gone unnoticed because he was in Toronto. He was eventually traded at the deadline this past season to Detroit. The Mavs and Calderon have been linked in trade speculation over the last couple of years. The Mavs could have had him at this past season’s trade deadline if they wanted to but they wisely realized they didn’t have to give up assets now when they could easily sign him as a free agent this summer.
Calderon can direct traffic and make opponents pay with his precise execution. If he reads the angles properly, he can put his teammate in a position to succeed and the opponents in a bind. If his teammates trust him, they will pass the ball back to him and he can knock down shots from the perimeter. He shot 46.1 percent from 3-point range during the past season, 39.9 for his career. At 31, dribble penetration isn’t a major weapon for Calderon, but he still has a great ability to direct traffic on offense.
That lack of dribble penetration is due to a lack of lateral quickness, which would lead to problems on the defensive end of the floor. At worst, if you have a defensive presence at the shooting guard position who can knock down an open shot, you’ve got a win-win of sorts because they can mask Calderon’s weakness and Calderon will maximize that guy’s potential by putting him in a spot to succeed.
2. Jeff Teague [Restricted Free Agent]
Mahoney said: Atlanta’s offense hummed at what was essentially a top-10 level this season with Teague on the floor. He may be a relatively known, unspectacular entity at this point, but Teague’s only 25 and prime to make the most of an expanded opportunity.
This might all be a moot point due to restricted free agency but we’ll still discuss him. Teague presents another option as the point guard of the future for the Mavs. He has the abilities you like at the position now for a new-age point guard: he can break down defenses with his speed and can facilitate for others. On top of that, he’s an adequate shooter.
He was 15th amongst point guards this past season in steals. Teague has nice instincts on defense and has shown the ability to harness his mobility on offense and translate it to defense. His availability will depend greatly on the direction Atlanta decides to go with their roster and cap space. While Calderon provides a finished product, Teague represents a working product that can still be relatively fashioned into what you want and still has room to grow.
3. Jarrett Jack
Mahoney said: He scores well, but does so in a way that often prevents greater potential for offense. His deep drives and pull-up jumpers largely come without contingency, with Jack bound by his inability to read the entire floor. That he can so often beat his man off the bounce turns out to be a blessing and a curse — often on consecutive possessions — for that very reason.
I’ve often described Jack as the gift and the curse. He has the fearlessness and toughness to force the issue and that often manifests itself into a positive action. The problem with that is the forcing just as often manifests itself into a negative action. Jack can lose sight of his passing lanes and can fall asleep on defensive assignments. He can easily negate those things by stringing together a one-man run of offense or a lockdown moment on defense.
He is likely an offensive catalyst, but that’s the rub. He is an offensive catalyst that the Mavs could use, but I’m not entirely sure he is one that they actually need at this time. They need someone who can create opportunities for others, while his specialty is creating opportunities that are mainly beneficial for him.
4. Monta Ellis
Mahoney said: He’s too limited a long-range shooter (28.7 percent on threes this season), too worrisome a defender and too poor a decision-maker to be a first-option ball handler. His package of strengths and weaknesses make him almost impossible to build around effectively, barring some development that pushes Ellis into an ideal role as a high-value super-sub.
To look at Monta Ellis, you have to decide what position fits him best. Rob hit the nail on the head when he suggested that an ideal role is that of a 6th man or not the primary part of your offense as a starter. He definitely possesses the abilities to be a catalyst on offense, but he definitely struggles with efficiency. There’s no doubt he could be dynamic with Dirk Nowitzki in a pick-and-roll game, but you have to be able to knock down shots because they’ll stick to Dirk. Ellis hasn’t consistently shown that he can do that.
For point guards, he ranked fourth in the league in steals. He often gambles on defense and it tends to bear fruit for him. He gambles, but he doesn’t always win. By gambling, he’s taking away from the team defense that can be used in order to slow down the opposition. That’s another part of the problem. Is Ellis a point guard or a shooting guard? If he’s a point guard, he’s not an overly good one due to his decision making process. If he’s a shooting guard, he struggles because he can be radically inefficient as a shooter, especially from the perimeter.
Ideally, the Mavs would look at him as a shooting guard, but then they’ll need a defending point guard, who can operate the offense. It feels like there’s too much work to do if you acquire Ellis.
5. Brandon Jennings
Mahoney said: At the moment, he’s an undiscerning gunner, capable of accomplishing much with the ball in his hands but unable to read situations well enough to understand when he should shoot and when he should pass.
Like his teammate in Milwaukee, Jennings struggles with consistency as a perimeter shooter and lack of reading skills when it comes to facilitating or using his teammates to break a defense down. On the plus side, he doesn’t shy away from the moment, like Jarrett Jack. He has a flair and charisma that could easily be infectious, but there’s still too much in the way of negatives that give me cause for concern with him as a potential starting point guard for the Mavs.
When you think of him as a defender, think of Roddy Beaubois. Both have the talent and athleticism to be solid options on defense, but their disposition is terrible. They often have a stance where they literally give a path to the basket to the penetrator. That’s a troubling sign when evaluating Jennings.
Adding it all up, you’re somewhat looking at a restoration project with Jennings. That’s likely not the best fit for a 23-year-old, one that is one of your big acquisitions of the summer.
Bryan Gutierrez writes about sportsmen. He also attended Ball So Hard University, studying ideologies of Clark Kent. You can follow him on Twitter @BallinWithBryan.