Let me start off with the warning that no part of me would be surprised if the Mavericks try to not spend more money than what is necessary to try to sign Deron Williams. Mark Cuban has gone on record as saying he believes '13-14 is when cap space will really start to matter, and after Williams there's not much out there in the summer of 2012.
However, if instead they try to get it all this summer, or at least really get started, there are some interesting restricted free agents.
For those of you who may not know or remember, here's how restricted free agency works: The team that currently has a player's rights has, with that, the right to match any offer that other teams makes. Perhaps just as importantly, they have 72 hours to decide to do so, in which the team that made the offer can't do any more wheeling and dealing with the money they've promised.
For the Mavericks, this means two things.
First, the odds of Dallas getting a high impact player through RFA are low. To get one, clearly, a team must offer more or longer than the team which holds the guy's rights. This isn't always overpaying. If you'll remember the Marcin Gortat example from some years ago, it certainly would not have been a bad contract for a talent of his caliber, it was simply that, however talented, Gortat was redundant on a team that already had Dwight Howard.
Second of all, it means Dallas must decide how stripped down they want to be regardless of whether they achieve their RFA goals, whatever those might be, because they have to have the cap space and have to resign themselves to possibly come away with nothing.
Nevertheless, there are some intriguing targets for the Mavericks. In my mind, the most interesting are Roy Hibbert, Brook Lopez, and JaVale McGee, and I'd listen to arguments for OJ Mayo and Eric Gordon.
Dallasbasketball.com has already reported that the Mavs are weighing a bid for Hibbert. This is, without a doubt, the right thing to do. McGee might have the most talent and Lopez might be the best, but with Hibbert you know what you're getting, you're going to get it, and unlike Lopez, there haven't been recent injury problems.
At the same time, though, Hibbert might be the least available of the three. He's the only one on a team that won a playoff series last year, although arguably McGee showed as much in going toe to toe with Andrew Bynum. He's also on a team with a cap number under 35 million next year, as opposed to the Nets and Nuggets who are at 45 and 42 respectively, if all their team and player options turn up. You can see the Pacers' reluctance to spend in the past as either a cheapness that bodes well for the Mavericks or intelligence in terms of knowing where to spend.
However, as nicely as Indiana turned out last year, no one should forget they did it against a Magic team without Dwight Howard, which barely counts, and a Heat team that played a lot of games without Chris Bosh. Even with Hibbert, Paul George, Danny Granger and David West are not going to get it done in a league with the Heat and the Bulls, and the Pacers management, on some level, has to know that.
On the other hand, not everyone is Mark Cuban. Some people would rather have a winning team that just might surprise a few people than blow it up because it probably can't keep winning titles. After all, even signing Hibbert for 10 million a year, a number the Mavericks almost certainly couldn't match, would give Indiana around 20 million left in cap.
As for McGee, it's highly unlikely that the Nuggets would give up Nene to acquire him if they weren't committed to keeping him around. And while they've got a lot of contracts on the books, they do have the cash.
The only way the Nets are letting Lopez go is if somebody else gets Deron and they decide to blow it up, which doesn't make sense because the Nets without Deron are what might you call "already blowed up"---and their cap number without him, not calculating holds and so on, is a miniscule 27 million or so.
All in all, I do not expect restricted free agency to be a very lucrative source of talent for the Mavericks this year, but that doesn't mean their decision whether or not to approach won't have effects on the 2012-2013 version of the team.
Assuming they really are going to make some kind of offer, that offer would presumably have to be around 10 million. To go after Deron Williams first and then dip into restricted free agency, they'd have to have about 28 million cleared.
I'm not a cap expert, but assuming a cap of 60 mil, which might be a little low, they currently have around 19 million and could knock off another 8.4 mil by amnestying Haywood or 8.6 for Marion. I've been cautioning people not to be so certain that it'll be Haywood and not Marion, despite our affection for one and not the other, because C is a much less replaceable position than SF, but the fact that Marion comes off the cap a year earlier than Hawyood may end up being the deciding factor on who to keep.
If the Mavericks were to release Haywood, Brandan Wright would be the only center they'd have under contract. Because despite a widespread lack of concern for this issue, there's no guarantee someone won't offer Ian Mahinmi more money and more playing time.
The wild card could be whether can get rid of Lamar Odom's contract, but for now, it seems like all of Dallas' eggs are in Deron Williams' basket.
For more of Andrew's coverage of the Mavericks, check out his work at Mavs Moneyball.