The NBA is a star-driven league. The best four to five players are always in the playoffs, regardless of coaching or management. So logically, every time a star free agent hits the market, teams are dying to acquire them. Max contracts are practically a bargain for a elite talent.
Unfortunately, a lot of "almost-elite" talent ends up getting the same money because of potential. Which is exactly what is going to happen in 2016. The "summer of Durant", as many NBA pundits are calling it, lacks much depth in terms of talent.
What does that mean? That means the top few unrestricted-free agents will have to fight their way through wads of cash to choose a team, but are the teams paying them making a mistake? I will present arguments for and against each marquee player the Mavs may look to sign this summer. You be the judge.
We will start with the youngest of the group, Hassan Whiteside. Whiteside is an athletic freak. At 7'0", 265 lbs, and only 27-years-old he has far and away the most potential of any potential max-contract player. So he should be a slam dunk selection right?
Not so much. His offensive game is raw, at best, and extremely limited, at its worst. He has no real outshide shooting and at 27, how much can you expect that to improve? He also has benefitted from being in the stable system that is the Miami Heat the past couple of seasons. How much of his offensive and defensive success are a product of playing with Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic? Or having a supportive coach and front-office in Erik Spoelstra and Pat Riley? The Heat have centered their team around him since LeBron's departure and even in the incredibly weak Eastern Conference, it's netted them 48 and 37 wins.
The upside? If Whiteside develops an offensive game outside of five feet then he will easily become the best Center in, not only the Eastern Conference, but possibly the league. In his second season with the Heat he led the league in blocks and defensive rating, and it was not that close. He also posted a Player Efficiency Rating (PER), a stat measuring per-minute production, above 25. What does that mean? It means statistically, he was the seventh most productive player in the NBA last year.
So is Whiteside worth the gamble? Most teams would say yes.
Next up, Mike Conley. He is the only point guard in 2016 worth any money, so the market for him will be ridiculous, but should it be?
While Conley is a talented player, the point guard position in the NBA is incredibly deep. He's never made an All-Star team in the loaded Western Conference and while he probably would in the East, there are arguments to be made he would not be a top three point guard in that conference either.
A bigger question that few have raised is, have we already seen the best of Mike Conley? He is only 28, but his per game averages in points, minutes and steals have all decreased over the past three seasons. Injuries have also caused his field goal percentage and total games played to decrease over the same time span.
Even with all that, you will have to pay Conley top dollar to acquire him, because he is the only high-end point guard available. He's a quality two-way player and has led the league in steals before. It is hard to get a point guard with those accomplishments, but what is that worth in the future?
Al Horford is another promising candidate for a max-deal this off-season. He is one of the most versatile centers in the league and, unlike Hassan Whiteside and another center I will talk about, he posted a positive offensive and defensive real-plus/minus last year, per ESPN.
The issue with Horford is, unlike the other centers in this article, he lacks elite athleticism and reports are he wants to transition to the Power Forward position. He has also never posted a top-10 defensive rating, something that makes you question if he can anchor a defense.
Lastly, is the player who is the most accomplished, on this list: Dwight Howard. The former MVP candidate is a three time Defensive Player of the Year, has led the league in rebounding five times (been top 10 in 11 of his 12 seasons), is an eight time all-NBA team selection, has posted a top five field goal percentage in nine of his last 10 seasons, and even in his declined state he was fourth in the league in rebounds per game last season. In his prime, Howard was an all time defensive great, but those years may be behind him.
While he is only 30, he has not played a full season since 2010 due to a multitude of injuries. There are also questions about his fit in today's NBA. He has peaked offensively and though he would like to be the centerpiece of an offense, he's inefficient and limited.
Howard has carried a team to the finals before, though. So of all the gamlbes you could take in free agency, could you not argue he is one of the safest? When healthy, Howard is still one of the best rim protectors and interior presences the league has to offer, even if it does often look awkward when he catches the ball away from the rim.
In closing, while your team will likely have to hand out 100+ million dollars over four or five years, to sign any of these players. Which player will you feel the most confident in. Free agency is about as promising as the NBA draft and there's a reason they call that a lottery. It is not made for you to win often.