While researching this list, debating other Mavs fans as to what exactly “best-value” constitutes, it was determined that a best-value contract, at least for this particular list, would be any deal in which a player far exceeded the production of their price tag or directly elevated the team to greater success. We also determined that deals acquired by the Mavericks rather than originally signed by the team should not count, meaning 2010-2011 Tyson Chandler doesn’t count, but 2014 Tyson is in the cards since he was finishing out the sign-and-trade deal Dallas signed him to when dealing him to New York post-title. Got it? Good.
5. Dorian Finney-Smith (2020-Present)
Dorian Finney-Smith came into the NBA as an undrafted free agent out of Florida in 2016. In his time for the Gators, Finney-Smith was a quality hustle player and defender with no outside shot to speak of. Perhaps because of that, he was able to sign with the Mavericks originally for a paltry $3.4 million over the span of 3 years. That deal would see Finney-Smith thrown into the fire and forced to grow as he was abused defensively throughout his rookie campaign specifically. Over time, however, Finney-Smith would develop as a three-point shooter, with the sudden leap in his efficiency occurring the past two seasons.
The once 29% three-point shooter became a 37.6% shooter, flashing tremendous growth that would see the Mavericks reward him with a 3-year, $12 million contract this past Summer. In return, Finney-Smith put forth his best season to date, shooting 39.4% from three while taking another step forward as a quality perimeter defender.
By the regular season’s end, Dorian was riding high and had been since the birth of his son. These moments included his game-winning three against the Wizards on the road and multiple big games in the playoffs against the Clippers. He averaged 9.8 points and more than 5 boards while being asked to handle key defensive assignments on a nightly basis.
At 28-years-old, Dorian is likely nearing his ceiling, but he remains an incredibly valuable piece of Dallas’s current core and is unquestionably a talent whose value far exceeds his paltry $4 million annual price tag.
4. Vince Carter (2011-2013)
Vince Carter came to Dallas at an awkward juncture. While the Mavericks had just captured their first (and only) championship in franchise history, they’d elected not to return the roster who had delivered them the Larry O’Brien trophy, citing the impending CBA negotiations. To be fair, an NBA lockout did occur, and the season wouldn’t start until Christmas Day, but in lieu of their championship team on opening night, Mavs fans were greeted with a cast of unfamiliar faces sporting the blue and white for the first time. Among them was the somehow already 14-year veteran, Vince Carter, who had played for the Suns the previous season.
The “Keep Your Powder Dry” Mavs of 2012 never stood a chance at competing, but VC helped keep them relevant over the course of his three seasons in Dallas. During Carter’s time in Big D, the Mavericks made the playoffs twice, with Carter showcasing a knack for knocking down big shots, such as his Game 3 buzzer-beater over Manu Ginobili in the first round of the 2014 playoffs.
Carter was one of the most important Mavs during the initial years following their title, and the fact that he was making just over $3 million per year was just icing on the cake. The shot vs San Antonio was well-worth Carter’s Dallas deal.
3. Peja Stojakovic (2011)
Peja is a somewhat cheap inclusion on this list as he spent less than a full season with the Mavericks, but thanks to a very advantageous buy-out market acquisition, he was signed by the Mavericks was just $706,108 following his 5-year, $63 million contract with Indiana. While his best days were long gone, he remained a lethal three-point shooter when not saddled with lower back tightness.
In his 25 games for the Mavericks, Peja averaged 8.6 points on 40% from beyond the arc on 4.2 attempts per game. The man had one role and did it very well, and his marksmanship was essential to Dallas’s early success in the 2011 playoffs against teams like the Blazers and Lakers. In that Lakers series specifically, he was near automatic, helping Dallas first extend to a 3-0 series lead and then teaming with Jason Terry to pour in 15 threes on 16 attempts.
Even though Peja was unplayable in the Finals against Miami due to his lack of speed and defensive liabilities developed with age, he nevertheless played a huge hand in Dallas’s championship run, and for less than $1 million, what more could you possibly ask?
2. DeSaganaDiop (2005-2007)
Surprised? Allow me to explain. DeSaganaDiop came to Dallas in 2005 as a first-round bust for the Cavaliers. When he signed with the Mavs for a 3-year, $5.9 million deal, he was expected to be little more than depth off the bench, but Diop instead became a defensive sensation, providing the Mavs with some much-needed rim protection as he supplanted Erick Dampier and helped lead Dallas to the NBA Finals for the first time. In the second-round match-up with San Antonio, Diop’s defense was crucial, making Tim Duncan work for everything he got, which was admittedly still plenty. That little bit added up to a lot however as it allowed Dirk and the Mavs to rally past the defending champions, ultimately closing out the series on the road in a winner-take-all Game 7.
Although Diop would falter in subsequent years, he was a big part of Dallas’s defensive turnaround under Avery Johnson that catapulted Dallas to the big stage and even built a 2-0 series lead. Had the Mavs sealed the deal, he would likely be remembered more fondly, but alas, the dropoff for Diop was harsh, though that didn’t stop Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson from rewarding him with an absurd $32.3 million contract over 5 years in 2008. Perhaps realizing this blunder, Dallas would move Diop to Charlotte the following season.
1. J.J. Barea (2008-2010)
And now we come to the best-value contract in Mavericks history. J.J. Barea came to Dallas in 2006 on a 2-year deal that paid him just $1.1 million. Early on, the Puerto Rican sparkplug from Northwestern struggled to find a place in the Mavs rotation. There were some early squabbles with Dirk and questions as to whether or not he would stick around, but Dallas saw something in the 5’9 point guard. In 2008, Dallas signed Barea to a 3-year, $4.9 million extension, unknowingly securing their biggest x-factor for an eventual title run in the process.
While Barea had become a solid rotation player for the Mavs, Rick Carlisle’s decision to move him into the starting lineup in place of DeShawn Stevenson after Game 3 of the Finals, with Dallas trailing LeBron James and the Miami Heat 2-1 mind you, was a gutsy call, and a major reason Rick still has his believers in Dallas for his basketball prowess.
Barea completely turned the series around, helping the Mavericks rally back to rattle off three consecutive wins as he continually slashed and darted into the lane, breaking down the Heat defense for easy buckets and kick outs to open shooters. Without this adjustment from Rick, Dallas more than likely loses the 2011 Finals, denying Dirk and the franchise as a whole the perfect storybook ending to the heartbreak of five years prior. Not bad for a 5’9 kid from Puerto Rico who very easily could have faded away after his initial two-year deal came to a close.