As part of their competitive DNA, the Dallas Mavericks organization has always been known to make the bold, necessary move for the franchise. The Mavs have been known to draft cornerstone players throughout the course of their history to try and build a playoff-worthy squad. Though their trips to the NBA Finals have been few and far between, they’ve always also made sure to acquire premiere pieces in the waiver wire to add to their roster to help them build a case for at least a playoff spot. Let’s take a look at the 5 best free agent signings in Dallas Mavericks history.
Mavs standouts: 5. Monta Ellis (2013)
Monta Ellis was the Most Improved Player of 2007 and had a marvelous career in the Bay Area. He worked his way from being a reserve to being one of the key starters under Don Nelson’s ‘We Believe’ squad. Unfortunately, Ellis’ young career was seemingly slowed down by an ankle injury he suffered outside the playing court in 2008. After his year-long experiment with Milwaukee Bucks didn’t quite work out, Ellis was on his way to Texas where he would provide some spark to a Dirk Nowtizki-led Dallas team.
Ellis was always known as a scorer and this is what he brought to the table when he moved to Dallas. He was a good ball handler and had a knack for attacking the basket which provided some much needed support to Nowtizki. The tandem of Dirk and Monta, as well as other key pieces in the line-up helped Dallas sneak into the 2013-2014 playoffs as the eight seed and even took the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs all the way to a Game 7.
Though his stay in Dallas was short, it was indeed quite sweet. In two seasons as a Maverick, Ellis would average 19 points per game and 4.9 assists and started all of the 162 games he played for Dallas.
4. Brad Davis (1980)
Let’s take a trip down memory lane to honor one of the best free agent signings by the early Dallas franchise. In 1980, the young Mavericks team acquired up and coming guard Brad Davis. Davis, at that time, was already on his third NBA team in his four-year career so far and it seems that the Pennsylvania-native couldn’t find a the perfect fit for him. But the moment Davis arrived in Texas, he immediately fit like a glove.
He played 56 games in his debut season for the Mavs and already averaged 6.9 assists per game as the team’s main facilitator. The 6’3″ guard would go on to play his final 12 seasons in the league in Dallas and would etch his name in history as one of the best passers to ever put on a Mavericks uniform. By the end of his storied career in Dallas, Davis would end up in the top ten of multiple lists (points, FG%, FT). Currently, Davis sits at the second spot for most assists in franchise history with a whopping total of 4,524.His number 15 is also only one of three jersey numbers opted to be retired by the franchise.
3. Shawn Marion (2009)
Journeyman Shawn Marion had arguably his most important seasons in the NBA wearing a Dallas Mavs jersey. After their heartbreaking loss in the NBA Finals in 2007, Dallas owner Mark Cuban was slowly putting pieces together again for another hopeful run back to the Finals and signing Marion in a sign-and-trade deal with the Toronto Raptors proved to be a critical one.
The 10-year vet started all of his games in his debut seasons in Dallas, just like most of his career games so far for the Phoenix Suns, Miami Heat and the Raptors. But in his second season, head coach Rick Carlisle chose to start the four-time All-Star at the bench and start Caron Butler. Marion provided fresh legs to the Mavs’ second unit which was huge for the team during the regular season. When Butler suffered an injury early in 2011, Marion was called up once again to start at the 3-spot and would help Dallas climb to the 3rd spot of the Western Conference division heading to the playoffs. Marion would become one of the biggest x-factors in Carlisle’s line-up during the playoffs and gave the Mavs intensity in both ends of the floor. He would explode for 26 points in a series-clinching game against the Oklahoma City Thunder to bring the Mavs back to the Finals. Marion would have another 20-point outing in Game 2 of the NBA Finals and would stay on the court for Carlisle as one of the main defenders of LeBron James in the series where Dallas would end up winning in 6 against the Miami Heat to grab the franchise’s first-ever NBA title.
2. JJ Barea (2006)
Undrafted spitfire point guard JJ Barea from the Northeastern landed on the Mavs roster prior to the 2006-2007 NBA Season. The Puerto Rican rarely impressed when it came to the stat sheet but whenever the 5’10” Barea stepped into the floor, he always made it a point to positively impact the game in every way he can. In his first few seasons in Dallas, he barely even started – he only 45 out of the 315 games he played. But Barea would always provide the intangibles especially when it came to the playoffs.
In the Mavs’ championship run in the 2011 playoffs, Barea would undoubtedly bring his A-game. The guard would average just under 9 points in 18.6 quality minutes per game.
He brought his game to the next level when the Mavs needed him most and had huge games in the Finals against the Heat. One of his best games was in the pivotal Game 5 where he converted 4 of his 5 three-pointers and exploded for 17 points as the starting point guard alongside Jason Kidd.
He would end up making his third straight start in Game 6 where he would drop 15 points as the Mavs went on to eliminate Miami and bring home the Larry O’Brien trophy to Dallas.
After spending three years with the Minnesota Timberwolves from 2011-2014, Barea found his way back to Dallas. After six more seasons with the Mavs, Barea is looking to end his career with the organization that bet on him back in 2006.
Mavs mountaintop: 1. Kristaps Porzingis (2019)
One of the more recent headline-worthy acquisitions by the Mavs was signing 23-year old Latvian unicorn Kristaps Porzingis in January 2019. After three incredible seasons with the New York Knicks, Porzingis made it clear that he wanted to be traded out of the team. At this time, Porzingis was still sidelined from an ACL injury from a year prior so no one really knew what to expect from the young 7’3″ forward after a year-long hiatus from basketball. But Dallas GM Donnie Nelson knew what he was doing and chose to sign the Latvian in a 7-man trade which shipped out key pieces in DeAndre Jordan, Wesley Matthews and Dennis Smith Jr (and a few future picks to boot).
By this time, the Mavs were looking great as they were already being led by another European sensation in Luka Doncic and acquiring Porzingis was nothing but huge for the franchise. After spending a few more months in rehab, Porzingis finally debuted for the Mavericks in October 2019 and the new-look Mavs featuring this Doncic-Porzingis duo would be born. As the season went on, Porzingis would settle into his role as the Mavericks’ starting center and would dominate down in the block.
Porzingis would end up exploding for multiple 30-point games in the second half of the season, ultimately helping the Mavs clinch a playoff spot in the very unique 2020 NBA playoffs inside the NBA Bubble in Orlando due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although Porzingis’ playoff debut ended with a disappointing first-round exit, he was straight up balling inside the Bubble. He would end up averaging 28.2 points per game and 9.2 rebounds in the nine games he played inside the Disney Campus in Orlando – including the three playoff games he started for the Mavs before injuring his knee.
Though it’s a bit premature to claim, but the acquisition of Porzingis is clearly looking like one of the best free agent signings in recent franchise history and the way he complements Doncic gives Mavs fans a ton of reasons to get excited again.