After 16 seasons in the NBA, Dallas Mavericks' forward Dirk Nowitzki will become a free agent at the tender age of 36 years old this summer. He's coming off a season in which he averaged 21.7 points and 6.2 rebounds, while shooting 49.7 percent from the field and 39.8 percent from 3-point range. He led the Dallas Mavericks to a 49-33 record and the 8-seed in the West before losing out to the San Antonio Spurs in seven games.
Nowitzki was paid $22.7 million for his services last season, completing a four-year, $80 million deal he signed in the summer of 2010. If he pressed the Mavericks' organization to re-sign him for similar money, he could probably get it, but he says he expects to take a pay cut to help the team, and isn't expecting a "Kobe deal," like the one Kobe Bryant signed in an extension with the Lakers this past season. From The Dallas Morning News:
Nowitzki knows he will take a pay cut from the $22.7 million he made this season. It's just a matter of how big of a cut. Something in the $10-million-per-year area might work. But the key is making sure Nowitzki is happy and there's still enough money left to pursue in-demand free agents.
“We want to get better as a team,” Nowitzki said. “And I'm pretty sure I'm not going to sign Kobe's deal – unfortunately (Bryant signed a two-year, $48-million extension). “We'll find a good way where I feel respected for what I did and we still have enough money left for us to get great players in here. Cubes has been great to me and been loyal to me for a long, long time. I'm sure we're going to find a great solution for everybody.”
The Mavericks have the potential for possessing a lot of cap space this summer, but it would take some finagling with their cap holds to have enough room to keep Dirk and add a superstar player. They have $31.2 million commited to 10 players next season, but could make that $28.3 million to eight players if they waive Samuel Dalembert and do not give a qualifying offer to Bernard James. However, the cap holds the Mavs possess for Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, Vince Carter, DeJuan Blair, and Devin Harris change that cap space.
Nowitzki has a cap hold of $23.8 million to retain his Bird rights in free agency. Marion's cap hold is $13.9 million, Carter's is $6 million, and Blair and Harris both have a cap hold of roughly $915,000, according to ShamSports. With the salary cap projected to be around $63.2 million for next season, the Mavericks really don't have any cap space unless they renounce the rights to their free agents.
Re-signing Dirk for roughly $10-12 million per season will help that, but they still need to possibly say goodbye to Marion and Carter. Blair and Harris could expect to get nice deals in free agency as well, so the Mavs would have to hit on a big free agency signing or bring in a key player via a trade with their cap space. But Dirk taking a big pay cut will certainly give them plenty of options to either keep their current roster together for a year or two, or allow them to bring in a big-time player now. He isn't handcuffing the organization in the way many people feel Kobe Bryant did with his two-year extension that limits quite a bit of their ability to absorb multiple big contracts.