June 14, 2021 | 12:15 pm EDT Update
But a high-level power broker within the league says the Mavericks recognize that there’s urgency to build a contending team around Doncic after losing in the first round in each of the past two seasons. The clock is ticking. Internally, there are concerns the front office’s dysfunction has hurt its ability to do so — and that poor relationships Doncic has with key members of the franchise, including Voulgaris, could impact his current desire to remain in Dallas long-term. The team’s most recent postseason defeat against the LA Clippers served as a direct indictment on the roster constructed around him. Can Mavericks management remedy that in time? Or, as some team sources fear, will they pay the price for the dysfunctional dynamics that exist in some corners of the organization?
It’s not that Doncic’s situation with the team is at a critical inflection point right now. Multiple team sources simply fear that it’s heading that direction. Those concerns mostly center on Cuban and the decisions he makes regarding who he trusts and imbues with power. Sometimes, it’s examples like Voulgaris, a sports gambler with no league experience being given near total control of the team’s roster. Other times, it’s the relationships he doesn’t sever: The Mavericks’ front office has come to be known around the league for its long-existing power structure that, Voulgaris aside, has barely changed.
In early February, during the second quarter of a home game against the Golden State Warriors, Luka Doncic carelessly turned over the ball and received feedback from a Dallas Mavericks employee he didn’t care for: Haralabos Voulgaris, a well-known sports gambler hired by team owner Mark Cuban in 2018. Voulgaris, sitting with an open laptop in his typical courtside seat across from the Mavericks’ bench, motioned downward with his hands, which Doncic specifically interpreted as Voulgaris telling him to calm down, multiple team and league sources tell The Athletic. Doncic snapped back, telling Voulgaris, according to one source’s recollection, “Don’t f—— tell me to calm down.” The same sources say Voulgaris later professed that his motion wasn’t solely directed at Doncic, but regardless of intent, it only worsened an already inflamed relationship between the two.
As one team source says, “Mark Cuban is the most powerful person in the organization, but whoever he’s listening to is second.” Cuban was won over by Voulgaris’ vision: an analytics-driven spread pick-and-roll offense with Doncic as the focal point which he has tried implementing in the past seasons.
Multiple league and team sources point to the 2020 draft as a particularly egregious example of Voulgaris’ power, an evening one source described as “embarrassing.” Most members of the scouting department joined the team’s war room remotely through Zoom and were surprised when Voulgaris, attending in person, didn’t consult them for either of the team’s first two selections (Josh Green and Tyrell Terry) despite disagreements they held with at least one of the players he picked. “What did (he) sell to Mark to make him believe (he) can do this?” asks one source with an intimate knowledge of the situation. “Nobody knows.”
For Porter, ProFitX projects a starting salary of $26.7 million, $2 million less than the max. The Nuggets could start Porter’s deal at $25 million in the first year and include an additional $3 million in bonuses, which would take Porter’s total compensation (if he hits the bonuses) right at the max. As a trade-off for giving Porter less than the max, the Nuggets could remove any prior injury exclusion or language that protects the team with regards to his back.
Like Porter, Gordon is set to enter the last season of his contract and could leave as a free agent next summer, a risk the Nuggets knew when they acquired him for Gary Harris, RJ Hampton and a future first-round pick. When the Magic structured the four-year, $76 million contract that Gordon signed in 2018, they did so with the salary declining in each year. As a result, the maximum extension that Gordon can sign for is four years, $88 million. The $19.7 million cap hit in year one is a 120% raise off his $16.4 million salary in 2021-22.