At this time a year ago, the Dallas Mavericks were reaching out to the San Antonio Spurs in an effort to acquire Kawhi Leonard … and were practically getting laughed at. There was no way in hell, they were told, that Leonard would be dealt anywhere in the West after a season of making Gregg Popovich’s life miserable.
But here we are now with NBA free agency about to open this weekend, and a source with close ties to the Mavs has told TheLines.com that Dallas expects to get a meeting with the NBA’s most sought-after free agent once bidding can begin at 6 p.m. EDT on Sunday. We can’t identify the source, but as for whether the meeting actually happens, that’s all on Kawhi.
A darkhorse emerges
Are the Mavs the favorites to land this year’s NBA Finals MVP? Hell no. At this point, the Toronto Raptors hold that ground because they can offer Leonard more money and more years than any other team, along with a chance to defend his NBA title.
But the Clippers are surely in the running, as are the two New York teams … and the Mavs are a team that nobody outside of ESPN’s Bobby Marks is paying much attention to.
The indifference is reflected in the wagering opportunities that are out there in the legalized US sports betting market, with the Mavs listed at 55-1 at FanDuel SportsBook and 40-1 at DraftKings Sportsbook to win the NBA championship. (In a sign of how the NBA gambling market is the Wild West, DraftKings has the New York Knicks listed at 30-1 … way shorter odds than Portland, Indiana, and San Antonio.)
Kawhi does not show his cards … so there is more speculation than fact being published on NBA-themed websites. But there are people in the know who are privy to privileged information, and the source who spoke to TheLines.com not only disclosed the Leonard information, but also said the Mavs are targeting Kemba Walker the hardest … and have no interest in free agent centers Nikola Vucevic and Al Horford. But they still are seeking a big man to do the dirty work down low to allow Kristaps Porzingis and Luka Doncic to operate from the perimeter.
This is worth noting for a few reasons:
- The Mavs will have somewhere in the area of $56 million in available salary cap space when free agency begins, so they will be spenders. Their core right now consists of Doncic, Porzingis, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Dwight Powell, and they will have additional cap space if they use the stretch provision on Courtney Lee, who is owed $12.76 million next season.
- For gamblers, let’s consider the following proposition: The Mavs can build a Big Three of Porzingis, Doncic and Leonard, and build around that. Hardaway’s $19 million comes off the cap in a year. Right now, they have just $19 million committed to 2020-21 salaries. They are on a two-year rebuild that could culminate in a “Big Four.”
- Taking that assumption as valid, you can go with the championship odds referenced above, the over/under win total odds (41.5) … or the longshot odds…
- For MVP, Doncic is at 95-1 at FanDuel Sportsbook and 125-1 at DraftKings Sportsbook.
For MVP, Porzingis is 100-1 at FanDuel and unlisted at DK.
A highly speculative wagering market
Look, there are nice futures odds on some very good teams who only need to tweak their roster:
- Milwaukee is +500 (5/1) at DraftKings and +550 at FanDuel
- Golden State is +1100 at FD and +800 at DK
- Oklahoma City is 26-1 at FD and 25-1 at DK
- Indiana is 70-1 at FD and 40-1 at DK
- (View all 2019-20 futures odds here)
The sportsbooks are being forced to post early over/under win totals (typically, these come out in late July) because of the evolving and competitive US sports betting industry post-PASPA.
It is making for a guessing game before free agency even begins, and the trick for the savvy gambler is to jump on the best odds while they are hot. Are the Mavs championship material? No. Not today.
But the NBA is going to look a whole lot different one week from today … and those odds on Porzingis and Doncic will certainly drop if the Mavs end up being the team that pulls off the biggest surprises.