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NBA PM: Nowitzki Should Weigh Free Agency Options

Will Dirk Nowitzki consider leaving the Dallas Mavericks this summer? If he weighs his free agency options, he’ll be highly coveted.

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Will Nowitzki Weigh Free Agency Options?

As the 2013-14 NBA season comes to a close, some players and teams are starting to look ahead to July, when free agency begins. While there has been plenty of discussion about players like LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony and what they might do this summer, there is one impending free agent who hasn’t been talked about very much.

Dirk Nowitzki.

The 35-year-old will be an unrestricted free agent this summer and while it has been assumed that he will finish his career with the Dallas Mavericks, there’s no guarantee that will happen. After all, the Mavericks may miss the postseason for the second consecutive year and, as currently constructed, are far from a contender in the Western Conference. As of right now, Dallas is 44-30, which puts them in eighth place by a half game in the competitive conference.

Will Nowitzki re-sign with the Mavericks or will he sign with a contender?

In the past, Nowitzki has said that he wants to finish his career with the Mavericks, but only if the team is still playing at a championship-level. Consider this Nowitzki quote from last year.

“Now that I already reached my goal (of winning it all), I really want to finish my career in Dallas,” Nowitzki told USA TODAY Sports last April. “But saying all that, I don’t want another year next year with the same as this year, (with) the frustration and playing for the eight or nine seed. I think we all know that this is a very big summer for us. (Mavericks general manager) Donnie (Nelson) knows. (Mavericks owner Mark) Cuban knows. We want to get back to the championship level.”

The Mavericks struck out over the “very big summer” when they failed to sign Dwight Howard or Chris Paul, just as they did the previous offseason when they missed on Deron Williams. Instead, Dallas settled for free agents such as Monta Ellis, Jose Calderon and Samuel Dalembert. And once again, the Mavericks are “playing for the eight or nine seed,” which Nowitzki clearly doesn’t want to do in the final years of his career.

In a recent interview, Nowitzki said that he doesn’t like free agency and the uncertainty that comes with it, and suggested that he’ll be re-signing with Dallas this summer.

“Well, I think the first time I was a free agent was in 2010,” Nowitzki told NBA.com. “Other than that, I always extended early. I didn’t even like it. I hated the unknown. Even listening to other teams, I just wasn’t interested. I wanted to be here. My heart’s here. I’ve been here for 16 years now. My family’s here, friends. I’d love to retire here. I think everybody knows that. So hopefully we compete my last couple of years, make the playoffs every year. I think that’s important. And just compete at the highest level. And then, slowly, riding into the sunset. It’s been a great ride here. I can’t even imagine wearing a different uniform. I don’t want to live in a different city. I can’t even imagine it.”

If Nowitzki does decide to weigh his options this summer, he’ll be highly coveted. One executive, speaking on the condition of anonymity, recently told Basketball Insiders that he still views Nowitzki as a top 10 player in the league. If he becomes available, he’ll have a long list of potential suitors. Nowitzki clearly wants to contend in the final years of his career and joining a new team would likely get him closer to hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy than remaining in Dallas.

Nowitzki would be a perfect fit for the Houston Rockets, as he would give them another weapon on the offensive end and his game complements Dwight Howard and James Harden. He could be the stretch four that Houston has been searching for, not Ryan Anderson or Ersan Ilyasova. Rockets general manager Daryl Morey recently admitted that he tried to trade for Nowitzki last summer. The Rockets are a very good team now, but they’d be even scarier if they could add Nowitzki to the mix.

He’d also look good on the Chicago Bulls, playing alongside Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah and pushing the team back into the Eastern Conference’s top tier. Chicago will have significant cap space this summer, which is why the Bulls have been linked to Anthony and other free agents. Nowitzki could be another option for Chicago, if he decides to test the market.

Imagine Nowitzki on the San Antonio Spurs. If Tim Duncan retires, Nowitzki would be an excellent replacement at the power forward position. How much fun would it be watching Gregg Popovich coach Nowitzki for the final years of his career? If Nowitzki wants to contend, it’s possible that he seriously considers San Antonio.

These are just several examples of destinations that are seemingly more attractive than Dallas if Nowitzki is open to weighing his options. If he’s willing to take a pay cut in order to contend, as he has suggested in the past, even more teams could come to the table and make a pitch to the future Hall of Famer.

The 16-year veteran continues to produce at a high level. This season, Nowitzki has averaged 21.4 points and 6.1 rebounds while shooting 48.8 percent from the field, 38.5 percent from three-point range and 90.9 percent from the free throw line. His 23.2 efficiency rating ranks 10th in the NBA, and his 9.2 win shares ranks 15th among all players.

Nowitzki’s game hasn’t dropped off as he has aged and he has shown that he’s still capable of dominant performances, such as his recent 32-point, 10-rebound, six-assist, four-steal outing in a win over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Nowitzki has said that he wants to play for another “two or three years” and then he’ll likely retire.

In addition to the familiarity of Dallas, another thing that has to be taken into consideration is Nowitzki’s relationship with Cuban. The two are very close, and that could lead to Nowitzki staying in Dallas.

“It is clear that our relationship is amicable,” Nowitzki told Sport1 in January. “We had so many ups and downs together. The championship was the best part. Mark has always supported me. Even when things were not going well, he has always told me, ‘You are and will remain my franchise player.’”

Staying with one team for his entire career could also be appealing to Nowitzki. This season he became just the sixth player in NBA history to score 26,000 points with one franchise, joining Karl Malone (Utah Jazz), Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers), Michael Jordan (Chicago Bulls), Hakeem Olajuwon (Houston Rockets) and John Havlicek (Boston Celtics) in that club.

However, it can’t hurt for Nowitzki to test the market and explore what other situations are out there. This will likely be the last NBA contract that Nowitzki signs, so he should think long and hard about all of his options before putting his name on the dotted line.

Vucevic, Duncan Named Players of the Week

The Orlando Magic’s Nikola Vucevic and the San Antonio Spurs’ Tim Duncan today were named NBA Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week, respectively, for games played Monday, March 24, through Sunday, March 30.

Vucevic led the Magic to a 2-1 week, which included wins over the Portland Trail Blazers and Charlotte Bobcats, behind averages of 22.7 points (sixth in the conference) and a league leading 14.3 rebounds. He posted a point-rebound double-double in all three contests, including a 24-point, 23-rebound effort on March 28, during Orlando’s 110-105 win over Charlotte.

Duncan led the Spurs to the NBA’s lone unbeaten record on the week at 4-0. He averaged 20.0 points (tied-eighth in the conference) on .625 shooting from the field (eighth in the conference), 8.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.0 steals. On March 26, Duncan’s versatility was on display as he posted 29 points, 13 rebounds, five assists, two blocks and two steals during a 108-103 win over the Denver Nuggets.

Other nominees for the Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week were Brooklyn’s Paul Pierce, Charlotte’s Al Jefferson, Cleveland’s Dion Waiters, Miami’s LeBron James, Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, Phoenix’s Goran Dragic, Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan and Washington’s John Wall.

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Alex Kennedy is the Managing Editor of Basketball Insiders and this is his 10th season covering the NBA. He is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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