SANTA MONICA, Calif. — Brought together in celebration, there they sat Monday night, at the same table in the Barker Hangar at the NBA Awards show, waiting, especially for the Rookie of the Year announcement.
There was Luka Doncic. There was his mother, grandmother and girlfriend. There was Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle. There was Doncic’s agent, Bill Duffy, co-founder and president of BDA Sports. And there was Quique Villalobos, BDA Sports’ director of Spanish basketball.
When the Mavericks traded for Doncic last June, they also gained a powerful ally in Duffy, whose vast stable of NBA players includes Doncic’s fellow ROY finalist Deandre Ayton, as well as 2019 lottery picks RJ Barrett and Jaxson Hayes.
As Dallas-Fort Worth reporters often have reminded readers, Duffy’s client list also includes free agents — and thus potential Mavericks — Nikola Vucevic, Patrick Beverley and Nikola Mirotic.
With the June 30 start of free agency nearing, Clippers guard Beverley, 30, is very much in play for the Mavericks. Sources told The Dallas Morning News on Monday night that Dallas and Beverley regard one another as a “perfect fit,” although that’s a long way from saying he’s on the verge of joining Doncic in the Mavericks’ backcourt. There’s the not-so-small matter of money, specifically how the Mavericks will choose to allocate their estimated $30 million of salary cap space. And Beverley has other suitors, including the Lakers and Sixers.
A source said that while the Mavericks and Beverley plan to meet at the start of free agency, the time and site of that meeting had not been set as of Monday night.
A source said the Mavericks also have shown interest in 6-foot-10 small forward/power forward Mirotic, but that he is further down their wish list than Beverley.
Last, but not least, is the question of All-Star center Vucevic, who has long been reported, including by The News, as a likely Mavericks free-agent target. Sources, however, now tell The News that while the Mavericks see Vucevic as a viable fit alongside Kristaps Porzingis, Vucevic is seeking a starting salary of $25 million and thus is out of Dallas’ price range. And there is little-to-no chance of Vucevic falling into the Mavericks’ comfort-level price because his current team, Orlando, wants to keep him and because he has other suitors, particularly Sacramento and Boston.
It appears that if Dallas does decide to spend big on a center, it will be Al Horford. News reports persist that there is mutual interest between Dallas and Horford, who declined a one-year, $30.1 million option to remain a Celtic.
Of the top 10 free agents and restricted free agents on most lists, the only ones who have strongly been connected to Dallas are Hornets guard Kemba Walker, Vucevic and restricted free agent Porzingis, the latter of whom is expected to sign a five-year, $158 million extension to remain a Maverick.
With Vucevic apparently out of the picture, that leaves Walker as the only upper-tier unrestricted free agent widely connected to Dallas — but it’s still early, and the Mavericks have a league-wide reputation for keeping their thinking and maneuvering close to the vest.
“This is when I get to do my job, right?” Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said Monday night. “So I’m excited to do it. Now is when I go to work.”
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