The long-awaited and much-anticipated NBA free agency period starts Sunday at 5 p.m., Dallas time.
But the drop the mic moment for the 30 NBA teams won’t really begin until the free agency moratorium period ends on July 6 at 11 a.m. That’s when teams finally get to officially sign those coveted free agents and claim them as their own.
For the Mavs, that means the search is on in their quest to find some high-powered free agents to pair with young superstars Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis.
“This is when I get to do my job, right,” Mavs proprietor Mark Cuban said. “So I’m excited to do it, and now is where I go to work.”
For Cuban that work involves looking under every rock to try and find a player or players that will help the Mavs rise out of their three-year absence from the playoffs. It’s a job Cuban takes very seriously.
Asked what’s his philosophy entering free agency, Cuban said: “Get the best guy that helps us wins the most games. That’s it. Or guys. Whatever it may be.”
The Mavs’ free agents include Porzingis, J.J. Barea, Dorian Finney-Smith, Trey Burke, Devin Harris, Maxi Kleber and Salah Mejri. Porzingis, Finney-Smith and Kleber are restricted free agents.
Donnie Nelson, the president of basketball operations and general manager, said the Mavs will be searching for some “firepower” during free agency to pair with Doncic and Porzingis. Particularly since the Mavs haven’t qualified for postseason play since 2016 and finished this past season with a 33-49 record.
“We’re looking to take this situation to a whole different stratosphere,” Nelson sad. “It was a very painful year for us in a lot of ways.
“We didn’t win as many games as we wanted to in some of these guys’ young careers, and so we’re absolutely looking to take that next step next year.”
Doncic said he doesn’t expect to be a part of the process of helping recruit players to sign with the Mavs.
“That’s not my job,” he said. “Obviously I can see what players I like, more or less, but that’s not my job.
“That’s other people’s job and they know what’s best for our team. There’s a lot of amazing free agents available, so we’ll see.”
Dirk Nowitzki, who retired in April after spending his entire 21-year career with the Mavs, was asked if he could be the Mavs’ general manager, who would he pursue during free agency.
“It’s a good thing I’m not the GM,” Nowitzki said. “But of course there’s some great names out there, some game-changers. But we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.”
Once the free agency doors fly open, Cuban said: “The reality is the deals typically aren’t made that first night. There are some players that want a presentation and they want the dog and pony show, and they’re some players that don’t care.
“Some players have a feel and they just want to ask some questions, and you don’t really have to have a meeting to do that. Others want to the dog and pony show.”
“Others want to sit down with the coach and just talk about the basketball side,” Cuban said. “Others want to talk about the business side, so it really depends on the players.
“I can give you a long list of players we didn’t have meetings with that with signed. . .There’s not a lot of secrets.”
In the meantime, TNT analyst Shaquille O’Neal told Mavs.com earlier this week that he’s predicting the Mavs will make the playoffs next season. And that, obviously, was before O’Neal knew who the Mavs will acquire via free agency.
“I still think they need two more pieces to be a top team in the West,” O’Neal said. “Will they win games and make the playoffs? Definitely.”
With free agency looming, Nowitzki also believes the Mavs are in good hands with Porzingis and Doncic — the NBA’s newly-minted Rookie of the Year — as the franchise cornerstones.
“We’re in good shape with Luka having the rookie season that he had, with him getting really the whole MFFL crowd excited for the future just by him being so young and having the impact that he had,” Nowitzki said. “I think everybody can’t wait to see what Porzingis will bring to the team and how they’re going to mesh together, and find some other young talented guys and mix them with some older veterans.
“I think the future is definitely brighter than it was a few years ago when we were struggling and were going through some tough times as a franchise. We had some tougher times when I first got here, then it was all sunshine for a decade-plus, and then we’ve been going through some tougher times. I think that’s normal, but I honestly think we’re on the right track to go back up.”
Especially if the Mavs find the right pieces in free agency.