Mavericks sign forward Jeremy Evans

DALLAS — The Dallas Mavericks announced today that they have signed free agent forward Jeremy Evans. Per team policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Evans (6-9, 200) played his first five seasons in Utah (2010-15) where he averaged 3.7 points, 2.7 rebounds and 10.8 minutes in 219 games (seven starts). He won the NBA’s Slam Dunk Contest at All-Star Weekend in 2012.

A native of Crossett, Ark., Evans played four seasons at Western Kentucky University. As a senior, he averaged 10.0 points and 6.9 rebounds in 34 games. He is the Hilltoppers’ all-time leader in blocks with 224. Evans was selected by Utah in the second round (55th overall pick) of the 2010 NBA Draft.

Mavericks re-sign guard Jose Juan Barea

DALLAS – The Dallas Mavericks announced today that they have re-signed guard Jose Juan Barea. Per team policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Barea (6-0, 185), who began his NBA career with the Mavericks, returned to Dallas in 2014-15 after spending the previous three seasons with Minnesota. He averaged 7.5 points, 3.4 assists and 17.7 minutes in 77 games (10 starts) with Dallas during the 2014-15 campaign.

In 392 games (55 starts) with Dallas, Barea has averaged 7.2 points and 3.0 assists in 17.4 minutes. He has also reached the playoffs in each of his six seasons with the Mavericks, accruing averages of 8.1 points and 3.5 assists in 45 postseason games (nine starts). Barea helped lead the Mavericks to their first title in franchise history in 2011.

The nine-year veteran holds career averages of 8.2 points, 3.4 assists and 18.8 minutes in 586 games (69 starts) with Dallas and Minnesota. He has shot 79.9 percent from the foul line for his career.

The Mayaguez, Puerto Rico native went undrafted in the 2006 NBA Draft and was signed by Dallas as a rookie free agent on August 17, 2006. Barea attended Northeastern University where, as a senior, he averaged 21.0 points, 8.4 assists and 4.4 rebounds for the Huskies.

Mavs find their quarterback in Deron Williams

One of Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle’s favorite qualities in players is resourcefulness. Jason Kidd, for example, was constantly on the receiving end of Carlisle’s praise for possessing that trait. But his players aren’t the only resourceful ones these days. The Dallas front office has been just that so far this summer.

Three-time All-Star Deron Williams became available, and the Mavs signed him. Williams, a Dallas-area native, is now home, and Dallas now has an offensive quarterback at the point guard spot that the team has missed since Kidd’s playing days.

Williams, who just turned 31, is one of just five active NBA players with at least 12,000 career points and 6,000 assists. The point guard is joined by LeBron James, Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, and Andre Miller in that group. He’s been selected to two All-NBA teams and he’s averaged a points/assists double-double four times in his career. Williams is one of the best point guards of the last decade.

It’s difficult to overstate the significance of the importance of the point guard in today’s NBA. Williams shot just 38.7 percent from the field last season, but the Brooklyn Nets offense was nearly six points worse per 100 possessions offensively when Williams was off the floor. Even fighting through a difficult season, he still propelled the offense forward. The hope for the Mavs, obviously, is that Williams’ shooting percentage was just a blip on the radar, and it’s sensible to think that: Williams shot 45.0 percent from the field in 2013-14, playing in a much more spread-out offensive system similar to the one he’ll direct in Dallas.

One element working in Williams’ advantage is the quality of teammates and system he’ll step right into in Dallas. Carlisle’s pick-and-roll offense is renowned for its pristine floor-spacing, fueled primarily by Dirk Nowitzki’s unprecedented impact on defenses. Brooklyn was 26th in the NBA in three-point shooting last season while Dallas was 11th, and with additions like Wes Matthews and Justin Anderson, the Mavs figure to improve even further in that area. Defenses will have to respect the Mavs’ shooters, which will give Williams more room to operate and an easier path to the basket. Without that freedom in Brooklyn last season, Williams’ shooting percentage from within three feet of the rim sank from 64.6 percent in 2013-14 to to 45.7 percent last season, per Basketball-Reference. But for a guard with his size — 6′ 3″ tall with a wingspan stretching wider than 6′ 6″ — finishing should be relatively easy as long as he has proper space around him.

When factoring in the shooting ability of Dirk Nowitzki and Zaza Pachulia, opposing bigs won’t be able to afford to park themselves at the rim in an effort to stop Williams. Dallas is going to spread the floor this season to extremes that not many other clubs in the league can match, which will make everyone’s job easier.

The pick-and-roll is where Williams made a name for himself in this league. He and Carlos Boozer combined to run one of the most devastating P&Rs of the mid-2000s with the Utah Jazz. Now Williams will look to resurrect that pick-and-roll magic in Dallas, paired alongside the best pick-and-pop big in the history of the sport and flanked by two dead-eye shooters in Matthews and Chandler Parsons. Williams’ career assist-to-turnover ratio sits at 2.88, an excellent mark for any point guard. Figuring his passing into the equation, Williams ranked in the 90th percentile league-wide in points per offensive possession, per Synergy Sports. There’s no question he can still run an offense at a high level.

It’s also important, in the Mavs’ case, to find a point guard who not only can run an offense himself, but also complement Parsons well. After all, the small forward is in line for an expanded offensive role this season. Williams fits the bill in that respect, too, as he shot a blistering 42.2 percent on catch-and-shoot threes last season, per NBA.com. While Parsons knifes his way through the lane in his own pick-and-roll, Williams will act as a threat on the perimeter which will command defensive attention.

Today’s NBA is all about creating space and filling a roster with players who are good at things that complement the strengths of their teammates. Parsons and Williams excel in the pick-and-roll, while Matthews and Nowitzki are terrific in the post. But Dirk and Pachulia can also hit mid-range jumpers, and the three other starters are all excellent three-point shooters. So no matter what offensive set the Mavs are running, there are threats everywhere on the floor. This unit does not have any one-dimensional players, and that versatility is perhaps its biggest strength.

Playing in a conference against — take a deep breath — Stephen Curry, Chris Paul, Mike Conley, Damian Lillard, Mike Conley, Tony Parker, Russell Westbrook, Jrue Holiday, Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, Ty Lawson, Rajon Rondo, and D’Angelo Russell, it was imperative that Dallas add a high-caliber point guard into the mix. Williams is that guy.

Wes Matthews brings new dimension to the Mavs

Wes Matthews: My heart is here

Wes Matthews dishes on coming to Dallas, the progress of his rehab, how hungry he is to prove himself and much more.

It hasn’t taken long for Wes Matthews to go from basketball afterthought to household name and statistical star.

Matthews, the Mavs’ newest wing, went undrafted in 2009 but made an immediate impact as a rookie anyway. Now, after six stellar seasons in the NBA, the 28-year-old has become one of the most sought-after perimeter players in basketball.

OFFENSE

To get an idea of just how effective the 6′ 5″ guard has been since entering the league, let’s start with this: Only Stephen Curry and Kyle Korver, perhaps the league’s two most respected shooters, have hit more threes since Matthews entered the league in 2009. Matthews has hit more than James Harden, Kevin Durant, and every other player in basketball. And he’s done it efficiently, too: He’s one of just 23 players to have shot at least 600 3s since 2010 while connecting at a 39 percent rate, per Basketball-Reference.

It doesn’t stop there. Of those 23 players, Matthews’ 48.6 field goal percentage on two-pointers ranks seventh, and the guard has increased his 2s percentage from year-to-year three seasons in a row now. He’s still improving at this stage in his career, which is what makes a signing like this so significant. He’s already one of just 11 players ever to maintain career averages of 14 points per game, 39 percent shooting on 3s, and a true shooting percentage of 57 or better, and there’s a chance we haven’t yet seen his best work.

Practice Report: Rick Carlisle

Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle dishes on what Wes Matthews brings to the team, the addition of JJ Barea, Jeremy Evans and more.

The league is very clearly going in a direction that requires teams to always load up their rosters with shooters, and there aren’t many in the league better at draining 3s than Matthews. Now when Chandler Parsons attacks the basket, he’ll have a reliable kickout option. When Dirk Nowitzki is posted up at the elbow, he won’t be double-teamed by a defender free to roam around the floor instead of guarding his man. Mavs big men will have a clear path to the basket on rolls to the rim. Matthews’ shooting ability will open things up for every other player on the floor, and in that same vein his teammates’ abilities will make his job easier, too.

Dallas’ offense was still successful last season without a big-time shooter, but Matthews brings with him an added dimension that can send this unit over the top. Not only does he add to some areas of strength, but he also vastly improves the club in what had previously been areas of weakness. Below is a chart showing the Mavs’ ranks in various offensive categories last season in terms of points per possession against what Matthews himself was able to do.

STAT WES MATTHEWS DALLAS MAVERICKS
Spot Up FG% 42.1% 39.1%
Points/Poss (Rank) 1.166 (90%) 1.024 (10th)
Post Up FG% 50.0% 49.0%
Points/Poss (Rank) 0.992 (86%) 0.973 (1st)
Off Screen FG% 44.9% 42.1%
Points/Poss (Rank) 1.189 (91%) .880 (20th)

To simplify that chart, only one out of every 10 players to appear in the NBA last season scored more efficiently on spot-up opportunities than Matthews. Dallas, meanwhile, ranked behind nine other clubs in that area. And considering Matthews is likely to play a large chunk of minutes once he fully recovers from an Achilles injury that sidelined him for the end of last season, it’s safe to expect the Mavs’ performance in that aspect to improve.

The most interesting tool in Matthews’ repertoir, however, is his ability on the block. He shot 50 percent from the post last season, ranking among the best players in basketball. As a big-bodied shooting guard, he can take advantage of size mismatches. And while we hear all the time about how the league is getting smaller at this position and bigger at that one, there are still plenty of smaller 2s in the NBA Matthews can post up against with success.

The Mavericks haven’t had a starting 2-guard with above-average height who could score in the post since Michael Finley, so it’s been nearly a decade. Other players like Jerry Stackhouse and Vince Carter have operated on the block, however, and Rick Carlisle has also used Shawn Marion and even the smaller Monta Ellis in the post during his time in Dallas.

Guards are about as uncomfortable defending in the post as big men are defending 25 feet from the rim. That’s what makes a player like Matthews so valuable: He’s really good at doing things his opponents aren’t even used to doing. How many shooting guards in the league ever post up? Only four guards in the league posted up more than Matthews last season, per Synergy Sports, and Matthews scored more efficiently than all of them. So, when he catches the ball in a favorable situation, his defender might be more prone to take risks, like leaping to intercept the pass, attempting to draw a charge, or doing something else out of sheer desperation. It looks great when it works, but when it doesn’t it leads to easy buckets.

This is an especially handy skill to have playing the shooting guard position in Dallas, which features a power forward who can play exclusively from the outside if you want him to. The Mavs can run an inverted offense, taking advantage of two mismatches at the same time: one on the block and one on the outside. A power forward won’t be used to guarding Dirk 20 feet from the bucket just like a shooting guard won’t be used to checking Matthews from five feet away. Meanwhile, 6′ 10″ Chandler Parsons is running pick-and-rolls, and he’s as good at that as just about anyone. What do you do as a defense?

Because the guard has such a size advantage over his opponents, teams might be tempted to double-team him once he catches the ball. Fortunately, Matthews took terrific care of the ball in the post last season, turning it over just 6.7 percent of the time when he passed out of the block. Spot-up shooters hit 37.5 percent of their field goal attempts off his passes, too, and considering most of those attempts were three-pointers, that’s a solid conversion rate.

DEFENSE

Matthews is also a terrific defender, which is perhaps the most valuable element of his game. He can guard 2s, of course, but due to his size and strength he can also defend some small forwards. That gives Dallas the freedom to switch on defense without working itself into a disadvantageous situation.

Portland allowed just 99.4 points per 100 possessions last season when Matthews played, best among the team’s starters by almost three points. Meanwhile, when he wasn’t on the floor the Blazers allowed 103.4 points/100, per NBA.com. His defensive capability was sorely missed when he went out with injury.

As far as two-way players go, Matthews sits near the top. He was one of just 34 players in the league last season to average at least 15 points per game while also maintaining an individual defensive rating of 105 or better, per Basketball-Reference.com, and just 14 of those players were guards. That group doesn’t include any Mavericks, which essentially makes Matthews the best two-way player on the team.

The acquisition of Matthews along with the draft choice of Justin Anderson signifies a shift in philosophy for the Mavs. They want to build a versatile defensive team with the ability to spread the floor and shoot it on offense. Matthews is the prototypical 3-and-D player in that regard, although as we’ve seen his talents are clearly not just limited to shooting threes. He can move with and without the ball, and he can also move it himself. He can do whatever you ask him to, which is what makes him such a special player.

Free agency is officially in full swing

In effect, the new NBA season starts today.

That’s because July 1 is the first day of free agency, when all 30 NBA teams have freedom to talk to every free agent from every team.

The Mavs, for the fourth summer in a row, have among the most cap space to work with in the league. Optimism is high this summer, though, that Dallas will be able to land a big-name free agent to give its core a a boost alongside Dirk Nowitzki and up-and-comer Chandler Parsons.

But before we begin worrying too much about players the Mavs could land, it’s important to refresh ourselves with who the Mavericks already have under contract. That list, though relatively short, includes Nowitzki, Parsons, Devin Harris, Raymond Felton, and Dwight Powell. Dallas also holds the rights to international point guard Petteri Koponen, in addition to its two draft choices in wing Justin Anderson and Indian center Satnam Singh.

The good news for Dallas is, even though the club has plenty of roster spots to fill, the Mavs might have more wiggle room than the team had previously thought. Ken Berger of CBS Sports reported last night that the salary cap could be $2 million higher than expected. Although that might seem like just a chunk of change, $2 million could make a huge difference when pursuing players who, on the open market, might demand a high salary.

Regardless of how negotiations go, however, no free agents — unrestricted or restricted — can sign a contract until July 9. The league has a mandatory moratorium period running from July 1 to July 8, a time meant exclusively for negotiation. During this period, teams cannot publicly comment on negotiations with any players, even if they were on the roster this past season. However, players are permitted to comment on such things.

That is to say it’s important to keep in mind that, regardless of what is said during the moratorium, nothing is official until pen is put to paper on July 9 (or anytime afterward). Until then, verbal agreements are strictly that: verbal. It’s similar to NCAA football recruiting, for those who follow the college scene.

Based on the Mavs’ current roster make up, however, it is possible to speculate on the types of players Dallas will pursue this summer. For starters, the Mavericks will need a couple wing players, as currently the only true wings on the roster are Parsons and Anderson, but Devin Harris played plenty of backup shooting guard last season, as well. In addition, Dallas will need to fill out its center rotation and perhaps find a backup at power forward for Nowitzki.

One thing is for sure, though, and that is the Mavs are among the best clubs at filling out a roster with quality depth at every position. Dallas has had one of the deepest teams in the NBA for what seems like the bulk of Nowitzki’s career, and it’s a huge point of pride for the organization. Hanging in every player’s roster is a card that lists what the Mavericks are best at, and the first item on the list is the Mavericks have the best bench in the NBA.

It would make sense that Dallas would always be able to find solid rotation players, as Rick Carlisle’s mantra is “stay ready.” Time and time again, Carlisle turns to his reserve players, and more often than not those players are able to produce. Carlisle has been lauded throughout his career as a coach who works well with players on the deep bench, and it’s led to several unexpected contributions from unexpected players at big moments in Dallas over the years.

Until July 9 rolls around, there will be plenty of reports, plenty of sources, and plenty of verbal agreements. Until then, we really won’t know what any NBA roster will truly look like next season. But in the meantime, sit back, relax, and enjoy the drama. The league’s free agency period is the most exciting in professional sports, giving truth to the idea that basketball does indeed never stop.

Mavs fill multiple voids with addition of Al-Farouq Aminu

Defense and depth were toward the top of the Mavs’ wish list heading into the summer, and the signing of Al-Farouq Aminu answers both needs.

The 23-year-old small forward is the best rebounder at his position in the NBA by percentage — over the last two seasons, Aminu has snagged more than 23 percent of the available defensive rebounds and 15.5 percent of total available rebounds while he was on the floor. Those are good-to-great numbers for big men, let alone 6′ 9″ wings. Perhaps his best game of the 2013-14 campaign came against the Mavs, as Aminu filled it up for 16 points and 20 rebounds. Chandler Parsons will start at the small forward spot, but Aminu will surely compete for backup minutes at the position with Jae Crowder and Richard Jefferson, and the lanky four-year vet might also find time at the power forward spot here and there if Dirk Nowitzki needs a breather. He has the versatility and length to defend four positions well, giving Rick Carlisle the freedom to unleash Aminu on the most dangerous perimeter player at any given time. Assuming Crowder and Devin Harris come off the bench again this season, and factoring Greg Smith into the equation, Dallas will have perhaps one of the best defensive second units in all of basketball.

His most significant contribution to the team in terms of defense could come against the pick-and-roll. Aminu has the length (a 7′ 3″ wingspan) to defend the longest and most dangerous perimeter threats in the league — guys like LeBron James and Kevin Durant, for example. James, especially, has shown over the years he has what it takes to be extremely dangerous in pick-and-roll situations. Aminu, however, provides Dallas with a good counter. He was the sixth-best pick-and-roll ball-handler defender in the NBA in 2012-13, allowing just .53 points per possession in those situations, allowing opponents to hit only 33.3 percent of their field goal attempts on such plays (per Synergy Sports). In addition, 27.8 percent of those possessions resulted in turnovers, as he has the ball skills and length to swipe at the ball and deflect passes. Those are crazy good numbers.

His points allowed per possession against the pick-and-roll did increase to .72 last season — still a top-10 percent number — as the volume of pick-and-rolls he faced increase dramatically. Still, opponents shot less than 37 percent against him in those situations and he forced turnovers one out of every seven plays. Partnering Aminu with an excellent pick-and-roll defender like Tyson Chandler should have a positive influence on his defensive numbers. It will also give Dallas an answer to James, Durant, and any team that relies heavily on the pick-and-roll, including division rivals San Antonio and Houston. Between a deep rotation of capable perimeter defenders and the presence of Chandler and Smith down low, Dallas matches up well with those two teams in particular.

As for his offensive game, Aminu’s game somewhat mirrors Shawn Marion’s during the 2012-13 season. Marion shot far more three-pointers last season than he did in any other year in Dallas, including the year before, when 62 percent of his field goal attempts came from within five feet, per NBA.com. Aminu, similarly, took 63 percent of his field goal attempts last season from the same distance. The lone difference is nearly a quarter of Aminu’s attempts last season came from the mid-range, an area into which Marion has rarely ventured. The 23-year-old shoots right around league average from that distance — a tick below 36 percent — but it wouldn’t be a surprise if Rick Carlisle engineered ways for Aminu to get closer to the rim. It wouldn’t be far-fetched to forecast Carlisle using Aminu as sort of a Marion clone, attacking the rim in search of offensive rebounds and put-backs. Aminu is the type of player who doesn’t need plays called for him in order to score points.

Where he plays and how many minutes he gets will depend on how Carlisle draws up his rotation, but the Mavs head coach knows he has a defensive ace in Aminu and a player who will scratch and claw his way for rebounds. He does the dirty work, the stuff that doesn’t always show up in the box scores, but every great team needs one of those guys.

Dallas Mavericks sign forward Ivan Johnson

DALLAS — The Dallas Mavericks announced today that they have signed free agent forward Ivan Johnson. Per team policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Johnson (6-8, 255) started all five games for the Mavericks at the Las Vegas Summer League and averaged 7.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.0 steal and 20.8 minutes per game.

Johnson spent the 2013-14 season playing for the Zhejiang Chouzhou Golden Bulls in China, where he averaged 26.0 points, 9.9 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 2.9 steals and 32.8 minutes per game in 24 games.

The 6-8 forward began his professional career in the NBA Development League in 2007-08 with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers and Anaheim Aresenal.

Johnson was signed by the Atlanta Hawks on Dec. 9, 2011 after impressing the club in a 2011 mini-camp and earning an invite to training camp. He appeared in 56 games for Atlanta in 2011-12 and averaged 6.4 points and 4.0 rebounds in 16.7 minutes per game while shooting 51.3 percent from the field and 72.0 percent from the foul line. Johnson was named NBA Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for April. He ranked third among rookies in field goal percentage.

Johnson re-signed with Atlanta on Sept. 18, 2012. He averaged 6.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and 15.0 minutes per game in 69 games (five starts) for the Hawks in 2012-13. Johnson holds career averages of 6.5 points, 3.9 rebounds and 15.8 minutes per game in 125 NBA games (five starts).

Johnson finished up his collegiate career at Cal State San Bernardino in 2006-07, where he averaged 15.5 points and 4.7 rebounds per game while shooting 57 percent from the field. He earned All-California Collegiate Athletic Association First Team honors as a senior, and was named Second Team All-West Region by the National Association of Basketball Coaches.