Did the Dallas Mavericks take a step back in 2022 NBA Free Agency after losing Jalen Brunson?

The Dallas Mavericks weren’t expected to make a significant splash in this summer’s free agency. They were limited in what they could accomplish since the team already exceeded the cap limit. Still, there were steps they could do to make sure their upward trend would continue.

Next season will reveal whether Dallas’ front management was successful in making those crucial moves. The biggest talking point, for sure, is losing Brunson. He was the team’s second-best ball handler, and arguably its second-best player, during the playoffs. That alone means that the Mavericks’ 2022 free agency has not been promising.

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Dallas Mavericks 2022 NBA Free Agency Grades

Losing Jalen Brunson: F

Jalen Brunson chose to follow the money all the way to the Big Apple. The New York Knicks also moved Nerlens Noel and Alec Burks to the Detroit Pistons to make room for a near-max contract for Brunson. This meant that there wouldn’t be any sign-and-trade move involved, resulting in the Mavericks losing Brunson for absolutely nothing.

In terms of points scored and game-winning assists, Brunson was second on the Mavericks. In terms of rebounds per game, he was tied for third on the squad. He is also only 26 years old.

What stings even more for Dallas Mavericks fans is that they could have actually kept Brunson on the cheap, relatively speaking. He might have been signed by the Mavericks for four years at $55 million, but they decided against it.

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Based on comments from Jalen Brunson’s father to ESPN during the playoffs, Brunson notified Dallas in January that he would accept a contract extension if one were made at the time. The extension, however, would have prevented the Mavericks from trading Brunson for a potentially bigger star before the trade deadline. Dallas didn’t want their trade deadline options restricted, so they refused to give the extension at that time.

A few months after, Brunson lit up the postseason, helping the Mavericks all the way to the Western Conference Finals. In hindsight, signing Brunson to a very team-friendly deal would have been a smarter move to make.

Now, he’s out, and the Mavericks’ backcourt has been left wanting.

Adding JaVale McGee: C

Over in the frontcourt, the Dallas Mavericks committed $20.1 million to sign veteran center JaVale McGee. This move is a little baffling since it moves Christian Wood to the four spot and raises questions about Dallas’s vaunted small-ball combinations.

The 34-year-old McGee is coming from a pretty solid season with the Suns. He averaged 9.2 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks per game in under 16.0 minutes of play. That’s not bad at all for an older journeyman center.

This will be McGee’s second go-around with the Mavericks, having played in the 2015-2016 season. Should he start alongside Wood, that would make for a very different-looking Mavericks squad compared to last season. Will it be better, though? The jury is out on that.

McGee does improve Dallas’s rebounding and rim protection. He is also a potentially better roll and lob target compared to Dwight Powell. McGee might also be a slightly better matchup to marquee bigs like Rudy Gobert, Deandre Ayton, and Bam Adebayo. His championship experience ought to positively influence the team’s locker room atmosphere as well.

Looking ahead, the Mavericks would do well to make another deal to provide depth on the wings and in the backcourt. The pain of losing Brunson will be much lessened if they are able to bolster their squad with another talented player who fills either one of those criteria or both.

Remember that one roster spot for the Mavericks is still available. Goran Dragic, a free agent guard and a buddy of Luka Doncic, has frequently been mentioned in connection with them, but they could be reluctant to hire him. They still have time to act, but time is running out and the market is closing.