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NBA AM: What’s Next For The Dallas Mavericks?

Dallas entered the playoffs as a trendy sleeper, but were eliminated easily. What’s in store for the franchise?

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Big Summer Ahead for the Dallas Mavericks

The Dallas Mavericks entered the playoffs as a seventh seed and a trendy pick to pull off an upset over the favored second seeded Houston Rockets. On paper, it made sense. The Rockets hobbled into the playoffs without starting point guard Patrick Beverley and without key rotation piece Donatas Motiejunas. Former All-Star center Dwight Howard also entered the playoffs with a banged up knee, which forced him to miss 41 regular season games.

But things would ultimately fall apart for the Mavericks while the Rockets gained cohesion.

Dallas quickly lost starting small forward Chandler Parsons for the series due to a knee injury and former All-Star guard Rajon Rondo was forced out of the lineup due to a back ailment. Houston marched out to a 3-0 series lead, dropping Game 4, before closing out Dallas in Game 5.

The win marked the first series victory for Houston since 2009. The loss marked the Mavericks’ third first-round playoff exit in the last four years. The team didn’t reach the playoffs in 2013.

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has repeatedly said he’d like to get the franchise back into title contention before future Hall of Fame forward Dirk Nowitzki hangs up his high tops for good. In order for that to transpire, this summer will be pivotal for the organization to reload on the fly.

There are three methods for a NBA team to improve their roster. The draft, free agency and working the trading block represent the opportunities for Dallas.

The Mavericks hold the No. 21 and No. 52 overall picks in the upcoming June draft. Basketball Insiders’ Yannis Koutroupis currently has Dallas selecting guard Cameron Payne from Murray State with the first-round pick in his latest Mock Draft and forward Jordan Mickey out of LSU with their second-round selection. Neither figures to be an immediate difference maker for a squad with immediate championship ambitions.

Last season Mitch McGary, Jordan Adams, Rodney Hood, Shabazz Napier and Clint Capela were selected between No. 21 and No. 25 in the first rebound. While they project to eventually become rotation players at some point in their careers, none logged heavy minutes as a rookie.

From a free agency standpoint, the team has just $28 million in guaranteed salaries on the books next season. However, Monta Ellis ($8.7 million), Raymond Felton ($4 million) and Al-Farouq Aminu ($1.1 million) have player options and can elect to “opt-in,” which would further inflate the Mavs’ payroll and reduce cap room.

But all indications point to Ellis looking to test the free agency waters in the hopes of securing a long-term deal. Ellis has value to the Mavericks and has thrived in their system becoming the first player in over a decade not named Nowitzki to lead the team in scoring.

Former Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler, who earned $14.9 million this past season, is headed to unrestricted free agency.

However, the elephant in the room will be the status of Rondo with the franchise moving forward.

Rondo, a four-time All-Star, was thought to be the missing piece to get the Mavericks back into title contention. But the guard clashed with coaches and was largely inconsistent for the team. Head coach Rick Carlisle recently said that Rondo has likely played his last game for Dallas, effectively ending the relationship while the playoffs were still in full swing. Changes of heart do happen and at the end of the day money talks, but it would be surprising to see Rondo back in Dallas.

Veterans Amar’e Stoudemire, Charlie Villanueva, J.J. Barea and Richard Jefferson are also headed to free agency this summer.

In regards to trade chips, there isn’t much to play with for the Mavericks’ front office. Nowitzki ($8.3 million) is basically untouchable and will likely retire in Dallas. Veteran guard Devin Harris is owed $12.6 million through 2018, however, his injury history makes him a bit risky.

The Mavericks’ best chance to reload on the fly looks to be the free agency route. But with Nowitzki turning 37 in June, time may be running out for Cuban to construct a championship team before the aging forward rides off into the sunset.

Andrea Bargnani Prefers to Remain in NBA

Former No. 1 overall pick Andrea Bargnani has only appeared in 106 out of a possible 246 contests over the past three seasons due to a plethora of injuries. The veteran played in 29 games at the tail end of the New York Knicks’ disastrous season and averaged a respectable 14.8 points and 4.4 rebounds on 45 percent shooting from the field.

Bargnani earned $11.5 million this past season with the Knicks and will become an unrestricted free agent this summer.  The veteran forward says he’d like to return to New York but if that’s not an option he doesn’t plan to head overseas.

“I am happy with the Knicks. I love the city and the organization. There is an important project here,” Bargnani told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “I will consider all the offers I receive from July. I want to remain in the NBA. And I will. I am at the peak of my basketball career and I want to win in the NBA.”

In two seasons with the Knicks, Bargnani has appeared in only 71 games with averages of 13.9 points and 4.9 rebounds. New York is in the process of a large scale rebuild so Bargnani’s future with the organization is unclear, especially if he’s seeking a big payday in free agency.

Lang Greene is a senior NBA writer for Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA for the last 10 seasons

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