This is where we see if Donnie Nelson and Mark Cuban really know what they’re doing.
The Mavs have some rather pronounced needs, and both limited time and avenues with which to fill them. The summer offers the draft, the free agent market, and the trade scene, three very different methods of acquiring and shuffling talent to find the perfect recipe for championship success. Realistically, the Mavs had no way to make a big impact in the draft. The players on the hole are not NBA ready, and the few that are likely need time to develop as NBA defenders. In fact, expecting the Mavs to significantly upgrade their rotation with one late first round draft pick is listed on Wikipedia as one of the symptoms of a Nyquil high. It should be, at least.
Some of the incoming rookies could be upgrades in the Mavs’ rotation, but their cost to the current core would be insurmountable. We’d be looking at a lateral move in the short-term (at best), while enduring the growing pains of an inexperienced guy used to playing against boys rather than men. Everything’s bigger and faster in the pro game, and expecting a rookie to be the difference between a 6th seed and a contender is looney. That’s why I was generally optimistic about Nelson’s selection of Rodrigue Beaubois. The guy has some talent, and he’s clearly a next gen point guard with his ability to both defend quick guards and attack opposing defenses. He’s going to take some time, but really, find me another prospect in last night’s draft that won’t. Even the Blake Griffins in the world wouldn’t solve the Mavs’ problems in one fell swoop.
It’s up to Donnie and Mark to re-tool in free agency and through trades, which is something we’ve been prepared for all along. We’re looking at a full midlevel exception ($5 million and some change) to stick a band-aid on a wounded interior defense, while also managing the potential losses of unrestricted free agents Jason Kidd, Brandon Bass, and James Singleton. That’s excluding the unrestricted Gerald Green, who hasn’t offered much to the team as of now, and the restricted Ryan Hollins, who likely hasn’t done enough to warrant a big offer on the market. Things could get much, much worse if there’s a free agent exodus. Nelson needs to take care of business, hold on to whatever assets the Mavs can (there’s no unique reason the Mavs can’t hold on to their free agents) and look in by looking outward. The Mavs aren’t going to show a world of improvement next season unless they can secure some help inside and on the wing, and it’s going to take everything in Donnie Nelson’s bag of tricks to get the job done. I’m ready for some fireworks, Donnie, so give us a show.
On the bright side, the economy has many owners feeling light in the pocketbook. Few teams have the salary cap room to make outrageous offers to the free agents on the Mavs’ radar. And with 2010 seeming but a hop, skip, and a jump away, rebuilding teams will be reluctant to throw big money toward marginal stars. This a damn near ideal situation for the Mavs to swoop in on the prizes of the free agent class. The full midlevel may be the most attractive offer that many of these free agents see, meaning the Mavs are in the thick of this market. Compound all of that with an owner clearly willing to pay the luxury tax, and that’s quite a lot going in the Mavs’ favor.
Free agency officially begins at midnight (ET, 11 PM CST) tonight. Getcha popcorn ready.