Three years ago, DeAndre Jordan agreed to sign with the Dallas Mavericks – only for the Los Angeles Clippers to stage a day-long intervention inside Jordan’s Houston home, complete with an emoji war and a chair holding the door shut, before convincing him to remain in Lob City.
This time around, there were no such issues.
In one of the most expected moves of the summer, Jordan and the Mavericks agreed to a one-year deal worth $24.1 million, allowing Dallas to secure one of the best free agent centers on the market – and, in the process, eliminating one of the few landing spots for big men in the league.
As Jordan spent most of the past week debating whether to opt into the $24 million contract that he would earn for the 2018-19 season, he and his agent, Jeff Schwartz of Excel Sports Management, were allowed to pursue trade offers. Discussions with Dallas ensued for most of the week, with the two sides unable to come to an agreement before Friday night’s deadline for Jordan to opt in – thus, he chose to opt out.
Still, his time in Los Angeles ended when the Clippers sent Austin Rivers to the Washington Wizards on Tuesday in exchange for Marcin Gortat, giving the Clippers a veteran plug-and-play center to put in their starting lineup for this season while not dipping into their precious cap space in 2019.
The team even went so far as to tweet a thank you to Jordan on Friday night – a move usually reserved for when a player officially signs with another team. Then again, virtually the entire NBA knew that Jordan was going to Dallas after Jordan opted out of the deal Friday night.
While Jordan, who will turn 30 July 21, is moving past his peak, he still can be an effective piece for Dallas. In particular, he should prove to be an excellent pick-and-roll partner for both Dennis Smith Jr. and rookie Luka Doncic, the Mavericks’ ball-handlers of the present and future.
Now the question will be how the rest of Dallas’ roster comes together. The Mavericks declined a $5 million team option for franchise icon Dirk Nowitzki last week, but there is little question he will be back in Dallas next season. Instead, it’s just a matter of whether Nowitzki returns for a minimum deal, or whether Dallas gives him the team’s room mid-level exception – which should be around $4 million – instead.
With Jordan’s deal on the books, Dallas has about $5 million in cap space remaining to add another outside free agent. Dallas also still has the cap hold of point guard Yogi Ferrell, who the Mavericks will likely retain. That should allow them to add one more contributor – and if Nowitzki takes a minimum deal, that number could grow to two.
Dallas is hoping to get back into the playoff mix this season in what could be Nowitzki’s final NBA season, and after trading next season’s first round pick to Atlanta (protected for spots 1-5) in order to acquire Doncic in last month’s NBA Draft. Doing so, however, will be easier said than done in a conference that continues to load up on stars.
As mentioned earlier, Jordan going to Dallas takes away the one obvious landing spot for free agent centers hoping to get paid this summer. That is bad news for DeMarcus Cousins, who now may need the Los Angeles Lakers to express interest to invite an offer for more than the mid-level exception – a stunning drop in value for someone who six months ago was certain to command at, or close, to a max.
But the lack of landing spots, coupled with his reputation and coming off a torn Achilles’, has left him lacking in options. The same, however, can be said for restricted free agents Clint Capela and Jusuf Nurkic, among others.
Jordan’s contract also takes one of the few teams with significant salary cap space off the board. Eight teams entered free agency with more than $10 million in cap space: the Lakers, Mavericks, Philadelphia 76ers, Chicago Bulls, Atlanta Hawks, Indiana Pacers, Sacramento Kings and Phoenix Suns.
The Mavericks are now off that list. The Bulls and Hawks won’t be signing players in free agency, and instead are planning on taking on bad money from other teams for assets. The 76ers, meanwhile, are likely to spend most of their space retaining guard J.J. Redick – assuming they strike out on landing LeBron James.
That leaves just three teams – the Pacers, Kings and Suns – with significant room to sign players, and even they aren’t guaranteed to do so. The Suns are all but certain to spend their money on a point guard; the Kings might make a big run at a restricted free agent like Jabari Parker or Zach LaVine, while others think they’ll operate like the Bulls and Hawks and attempt to take on bad money.
Indiana is the lone team of those three that has a chance at being a factor next season, and thus will be looking for options to improve. The Pacers will likely only have room for one significant addition, however, with their $21 million in space.
In other words: good luck to this year’s free agents getting paid. That is particularly true for centers, which are already being marginalized in today’s league, which is all about pace and space across the board.
Jordan, though, doesn’t have to worry about that. Three years after he left Dallas at the altar to return to Los Angeles, he and the Mavericks have patched things up.