LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard are the focuses of the NBA off-season. It is unclear if James will be the first domino to fall, but there are a number of other all-stars that could change franchises in the coming months. That list features some big potential free agent centers like DeMarcus Cousins, DeAndre Jordan, and Clint Capela. The Dallas Mavericks made the biggest move of last night's NBA Draft, trading up for Euro superstar guard Luka Doncic and could eye these elite bigs.
Building around a center seems like a questionable decision for an NBA franchise, given where the league is right now (sorry Suns and Kings). However, a good center, with a diverse offensive game and rim protection, can be a huge asset for a team.
Last season, James Harden and Chris Paul were the main engines that led the Houston Rockets to a No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. However, Capela was the other main star with which the Rockets racked up its impressive record. Whether he heads elsewhere, or the Rockets match an offer sheet for him, he is set to get a big deal.
We know the Mavericks have coveted players like this in the past, with the near-signing of Jordan a few years ago. Now, with an established young backcourt in Doncic and last year's first rounder Dennis Smith Jr., Dallas could move on a top center.
Ahead of the draft, The Athletic's Michael Scotto reported that if the Mavericks didn't go with a big like Mohamed Bamba at No. 5, that would signal that it feels confident about its chances in free agency.
At No. 5 overall, Dallas believes it has a strong chance to land DeMarcus Cousins in free agency, league sources told The Athletic. If the Mavericks pass on Mohamed Bamba, that would signal the team will go all in on trying to sign Cousins or restricted free agent Clint Capela. DeAndre Jordan could also become an unrestricted free agent if he declines his $24.1 million player option, but Dallas has been through that courtship before.
That is exactly what went down, with the Mavericks jumping up to No. 3 to land Luka Doncic.
The Mavericks have been out of contention for a few years now. Doncic is viewed as a plug-and-play guard, Smith is growing into his role, and the team acquired Harrison Barnes a few years ago.
Owner Mark Cuban likely wants to give Dirk Nowitzki one last playoff run late in his career. Dirk turned 40 a few days ago.
Adding a player like Cousins to the existing team probably doesn't make the Mavs a title contender. However, the team would be in serious playoff contention, assuming he is healthy, and he could be a perfect fit alongside Doncic and Smith.
And given the age of that backcourt—Doncic turned 19 in February and Smith is 20 as of November—the team can remained geared toward the future as well.