Don Nelson: ‘I can’t believe that Dallas isn’t getting more free agents’

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Just two years ago, the Dallas Mavericks were dreaming of adding Deron Williams and Dwight Howard.

But Dallas struck out on both, Williams re-signing with the Nets and Howard joining the Rockets.

Instead, the Mavericks – who play in a state without an income tax, haven’t had a losing season since 2000 and have one of the NBA’s most committed owners – have chosen from the free agent scrap heap.

Former Dallas coach Don Nelson, via Dwain Price of the Star-Telegram:

“I’ve said that for years that I can’t believe that Dallas isn’t getting more free agents, because it’s such a great place to play,” Nelson said.

“You’ve got an owner (in Mark Cuban) that spends money and is a players’ kind of owner, and you’ve got Donnie (Nelson, the Mavericks’ president of basketball operations) there who knows talent. I know they’ve tried and missed on a few, but that’s always surprised me how come they don’t get a big-time star player who wants to come there.’’

It is a little surprising the Mavericks haven’t attracted better free agents, but we’re dealing with a small sample. For years, they had one of the NBA’s highest payrolls and no cap room. Since Dallas trimmed costs and increased flexibility, how many top free agents have been on the market? The Mavericks got Howard and Williams to strongly consider them, but ultimately those two signed elsewhere. That doesn’t mean free agents have something against Dallas.

The Mavericks’ fortunes could change soon, anyway.

Dallas has just $28,675,575 in salary committed for next season. Some of the remaining cap room will go toward keeping Dirk Nowitzki, but that still leaves a whole lot of money to work with.

if I were a free agent, I’d view the Mavericks very favorably. I’d see how they turned Monta Ellis from leper to someone getting darkhorse All-Star consideration. I’d see how they boosted the stock of O.J. Mayo, who received $4.02 million for his lone year in Dallas before the Bucks gave him $24 million for three years. I’d see how Rick Carlisle uses the sweet-shooting Dirk Nowitzki to make the job of everyone around him easier.

That doesn’t mean I’d ultimately sign in Dallas, but it’s an appealing place.

If the Mavericks keep pursuing free agents, they’ll get some good ones soon enough.