As the Mavericks look down the road at a Dirk-less future – at least in terms of what happens on the court – the question now becomes how they put together a working game plan for recruiting free agents this summer and beyond.
What has been largely unappreciated the last couple seasons is how the their acquisitions have been on an uptick. Last summer, they reeled in DeAndre Jordan and in seasons before that they picked up Harrison Barnes and Wesley Matthews. Maybe not home runs, but solid doubles in the free-agent game.
Through all of those (and while none of them remain on the roster, they were critical in adding a major foundation piece in Kristaps Porzingis), Dirk Nowitzki had a hand in the recruitment and added his voice in an advisory capacity to decisions about what players would make sense for the Mavericks.
He made it clear as he declared his retirement from 21 seasons as a player that those days will stop, or at least be put on hold for a while.
“Probably not at all this summer,” Nowitzki said about how much he’ll be involved. “I’m not sure how much I’ll be around.
“I will be around at the beginning at least. And my baseball game is June 7. And my birthday is after that, which is 41 turns 41 So I’ll go out on a bang there. And I’m probably out after that. By late June, early July, I’ll be gone for most of the summer.
“But we have enough young guys that can do the recruiting with Mike, Mark and Donnie, who do great at their jobs. So I’m not too worried about it. The franchise is in great hands.”
That’s a nod to Michael Finley, Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson, who along with Rick Carlisle do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to building the roster.
So, without Nowitzki, it’s going to fall on others. J.J. Barea, perhaps. Or Luka Doncic, if he’s comfortable doing the job.
But consider this a vote for Porzingis, who is a little older than Doncic and has been in the league four seasons, even if he only played three of them.
People know his abilities when healthy.
In that respect, he may be the logical choice to help recruit free agents this summer. Plus, he can give face-to-face assurances that his knee is fully healthy and that he will return to the form that helped him average 22.7 points and shoot 39.5 percent from 3-point range in 2017-18 before the injury.
And he’s seen Doncic up close and personal for three months. That gives him a unique perspective about just how good the probable rookie of the year is.
Doncic is the triple double threat every time he steps on the court.
But Porzingis can be the pure scorer – the sidekick who simply destroys defenses the way another tall European has done for the franchise for so many years.
Of course, there is an obvious hurdle to overcome. Porzingis must be signed, which will be the Mavericks’ first order of business on July 1, Nelson said.
If the Mavericks can get that detail buttoned up, Porzingis could be the perfect salesman for the job when it comes time for the Mavericks to fill out their roster around himself, Doncic, Dwight Powell, Barea, Tim Hardaway and a few others.