Derrick Jones Jr. Domino, Klay Thompson, etc.

The draft is officially over and Summer League is rapidly approaching, but the next item on the NBA's lengthy offseason to-do list is free agency.

A new rule was introduced for the first time this year: Teams are allowed to negotiate with their own free agents one day after the NBA Finals end on June 17, and several deals have already been reported. Teams can begin negotiations with players from other teams after 5 p.m. on Sunday.

The Mavericks have two unrestricted free agents up their sleeves this summer in Derrick Jones Jr. and Markieff Morris, but it won't be easy for general manager Nico Harrison and the rest of the front office staff.

Re-signing Jones is “priority 1A and 1B,” Harrison said during his season-ending press conference. He acknowledged he wasn't sure how he would re-sign him but began the process Friday morning to best position the Mavericks. Dallas entered the offseason as a team subject to the lottery tax but was able to trade Tim Hardaway to the Detroit Pistons for Quentin Grimes and get out of his $16.2 million contract. That gave them the financial flexibility to provide Jones with the $12.9 million tax-free mid-level exception.

Jones has reportedly moved his representation from Aaron Turner of Verse Management Team to Rich Paul's Klutch Sports Group, a clear sign that the two-way forward is working to secure the best contract possible following his best season in the NBA. Jones was a key part of Dallas' run to the playoff finals, starting 66 regular season games and all 22 playoff games and tasked with guarding the opposing team's best perimeter player. He also averaged career highs in points (8.6) and three-point shooting percentage (34%).

Jones' free-agent decision will be another domino to fall for the Mavericks as they decide what to do with Morris and two-way players Brandon Williams and Greg Brown III. Coming off a 13th season, Morris is a respected voice in the locker room and on the team, and his value off the court may be even greater than his production on it.

The Mavs will reportedly be one of the front-runners to acquire Klay Thompson if the guard becomes a free agent.

The Mavericks also have some other paperwork to take care of this summer. Second-year guard Jaden Hardy, who saw his role expand during the postseason, has one year left on his contract and will be eligible to sign a four-year extension on July 6. His contract is currently nonguaranteed, but his $2 million for the 2024-25 season will become fully guaranteed on Sunday. Hardy averaged 4.2 points and shot 40 percent from the 3-point line in the playoffs.

Dante Exum's $3.1 million contract became fully guaranteed Saturday, ensuring he will remain a core member of the Mavericks next season.

Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson reacts during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz, Sunday, April 7, 2024, in San Francisco.(Nick Cooley/The Associated Press)

Internal development was a major theme of Harrison's farewell press conference, and while he saw no major changes to the core seven or eight players who received playing time in the playoffs, he stressed that the essence of his job is ensuring the team improves.

“How can we improve it by 10 to 15 percent?” Harrison said. “I don't think that's a big change.”

Harrison may not be looking to win a grand slam, but adding a four-time champion to the mix could give him a three-point triple threat. NBA insider Marc Stein reports that there is expected to be strong mutual interest between the Mavericks and Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson when free agency opens on Sunday night.

The shooter, who spent his entire 12-year career with the Warriors, could be on the move. The Mavericks are desperate for a stable third source of offense outside of Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving, and Thompson could fit the bill. He's not the explosive scorer he once was, but he can still score in big numbers. He averaged 17.9 points and shot 38% from three-point range last season. His defense has suffered from recent injuries, but the Mavericks have the players to make up for that.

Thompson also said Dallas could benefit from newfound financial flexibility from trading Hardaway, which also raises questions about whether the Mavericks will be able to re-sign Jones. Harrison also said the team's new ownership group, Miriam Adelson and Patrick Dumont, are committed to making the necessary expenditures to keep player salaries competitive.

“I don't think money is going to be an issue. I think it's the right way to go about it,” Harrison said. “Bringing in people with good character. Money isn't going to be a limiting factor. These guys want to win. But we're going to be smart about it.”

Dallas could be a completely different team by the start of training camp, or it could be the same lineup minus Hardaway trying to make a run in a competitive Western Conference, and that lineup will become more clear when free agency opens on Sunday night.

X: Mike Curtis

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