LAS VEGAS -- The consensus opinion among NBA coaches and executives surveyed during the Las Vegas Summer League is that the Dallas Mavericks made a wise move to give Harrison Barnes a maximum contract, given the circumstances.
At 24 years old, Barnes is a proven, quality, versatile starter who has yet to hit his prime. He's expected to help the Mavs compete for a playoff berth during Dirk Nowitzki's twilight and be part of Dallas' core after the face of the franchise rides off into the sunset. Sure, $94 million is a lot to give a good role player, but that was market value for Barnes, and the Mavs will still have the salary cap space necessary to be aggressive bidders again next summer.
After letting Chandler Parsons leave, the Mavs are much better off with Barnes than without him. However, league sources gave mixed reviews regarding the Mavs' optimistic vision for Barnes' growth into a go-to guy after he averaged career highs of 11.7 points and 1.8 assists per game in a complementary role for the Golden State Warriors last season.
"You're going to see a lot more to his game than you've seen in the past," Mavs owner Mark Cuban said. "I think he can do a lot more than he's been asked to do, and that's what we expect to see. ... Maybe not first year, but I think he's going to grow into [the role of go-to guy]. Just because a guy hasn't done things doesn't mean he can't do it."
Asked about Barnes' offensive potential, one skeptical Western Conference executive said: "At best a third option."
The biggest issue with Barnes is that he hasn't demonstrated the ability to make plays off the dribble, in isolation or as a pick-and-roll ball handler, in four NBA seasons. He is a more explosive athlete than Parsons, but Barnes' doubters say he isn't nearly as fluid and lacks the feel for the game of the players he's replacing in the Mavs' lineup.
"He's been a championship-level system player for Golden State for several years, and he's coming into a situation where we're going to need him to be more of a primary guy," coach Rick Carlisle said. "It's going to take time to develop the mentality, make sure we're getting him in the right situations to do it, but he has the ability and he's a worker. I'm confident that he'll get there."
Mavs pull off coup with Bogut
A few years after Dwight Howard spurned the Mavs to sign with the Rockets, a starting center picked Dallas over Houston. The Warriors allowed Andrew Bogut to choose between the Mavs and Rockets as his trade destination, according to league sources.
The Rockets were willing to make the same trade as the Mavs to get Bogut, which was essentially to take a future second-round pick along with the veteran big man in a salary-dump deal that helped give Golden State the cap space required to sign Kevin Durant.
A source said the Philadelphia 76ers also showed heavy interest in trading for Bogut but were never seriously considered by the Warriors, who wanted to send the center to a playoff-caliber team as a token of their appreciation for his contributions the past four seasons.
Acquiring Bogut in a contract year is widely considered a coup for the Mavs. He can provide the Mavs everything that Zaza Pachulia did last season but is much more mobile and athletic.
"He's a top-five center as a defender without question," Carlisle said. "He's a premier rim protector, he's one of the best centers at taking charges, and he really understands the game. Offensively, we're going to look to get him involved. He'll be a guy we look to throw to on the inside some, and we know he's a great passer and a great roller."
Powell will have an increased presence
Dwight Powell's days as a fringe rotation player should be done. The Mavs didn't give the 24-year-old Powell a four-year, $37 million deal to have his primary role be shooting arrows on the bench to celebrate Wesley Matthews' 3-pointers, as it often was late in the season, with Powell getting a DNP-CD in 10 of 27 games after the All-Star break.
"I expect him to be a rotation player," Carlisle said. "The last two years we've been working toward this period where we could get him signed to a longer-term deal and integrate him to our everyday rotation. ... He's a combination 4/5. I see him playing both positions. Time will tell how much at each, but I do believe there are going to be a lot of situations where he'll play both positions in the same game."
Powell might have taken a discount to stay in Dallas. A league source said the Brooklyn Nets were interested in Powell and pondering making a four-year, $48 million offer to the restricted free agent.
The Mavs are committed to a youth movement as they fill out their roster. Their minimum-salary slots have primarily gone to veterans in the past, but they've made a philosophical shift to give those roster spots to developmental prospects.
One example is 25-year-old power forward Quincy Acy, who agreed to a two-year minimum deal with Dallas on Thursday.
Cuban expects the Mavs to have as many as four rookies on the roster, all of whom will be signed to three-year deals for the minimum or close to it. Second-round center A.J. Hammons and 23-year-old Argentinian wing Nicolas Brussino have guaranteed deals. Summer league star Jonathan Gibson and undrafted forward Dorian Finney-Smith have agreed to three-year deals with some guaranteed money.
Gibson has lit it up in Vegas, averaging 20 points per game while shooting 53.6 percent from the floor and 46.4 percent from 3-point range. He wouldn't exactly be a traditional NBA rookie as a 29-year-old who has played in Israel, Turkey, Italy, Iran and China. The Mavs see Gibson, who averaged 42 points per game in China last season, as potentially a poor man's Jason Terry.
Finney-Smith has struggled offensively in the summer league, getting only two buckets in the first four games, but Dallas considers him a prospect because of his defense. At 6-foot-8, 220 pounds with a 7-foot wingspan and a 35½-inch vertical jump, Finney-Smith has the size and athleticism to defend multiple positions, similar to ex-Maverick Al-Farouq Aminu.