ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reported last night that the ongoing trade negotiations between the Mavs and the Wizards have turned serious. Super serious. As in, we could have an official trade by later tonight. That’s a big jump from “the Mavs are interested in Caron Butler,” and based on the Mavs’ rumored acquisitions? I don’t see how Dallas fans could be anything but pleased.
The deal as reported would send Josh Howard, Drew Gooden, Quinton Ross, and (possibly) James Singleton to Washington in exchange for Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood, and DeShawn Stevenson. Butler will undoubtedly be the headline-grabber in Dallas, the real prize here may be Haywood.
Drew Gooden has been solid for the Mavs this year, but Haywood is a legitimate game-changer at center. He’s one of the most physical defenders at the position in the entire league, and an offensive superior to Erick Dampier. Dwight Howard ranked Haywood as the third best defender in the league, and an in-depth look at Haywood’s D over at Bullets Forever only tells us more of the same; the Mavs are adding a center that instantly upgrades their interior defense and rebounding, two things he was able to do in Washington despite some truly miserable circumstances.
Then of course, the Mavs would hope that Caron Butler can return to form, or at the very least, improve on Josh Howard’s production as a Mav. It’s incredibly difficult to tell which parts of Butler’s game are due to a genuine regression and which parts simply come from playing for a terrible team at a terrible time, but Caron has a lot working in his favor with the Mavs. Rick Carlisle is a top-notch coach, and Dirk Nowitzki is an insanely talented and productive player. Jason Kidd makes things so easy on offense, and having an offensive threat like Jason Terry and a defensive weapon like Shawn Marion relieves a lot of pressure. On top of that, Mark Cuban spares no expense in making his players comfortable, and the outlook of the team as a whole is decidedly more optimistic than that of the Wiz. It’s amazing what a change of scenery and a different disposition can do for a player’s performance, and Dallas has all of the ingredients necessary to facilitate a Butler resurgence.
DeShawn Stevenson is the filler element, and he’s essentially the price the Mavs have to pay for Butler and Haywood. Once upon a time he was something of a defensive stalwart, but even that aspect of his game has faded in the last two seasons. Now he’s merely an Abe Lincoln-tatted headcase with an overinflated ego and marginal on-court effectiveness. Stevenson can be destructive, but if his minor distraction is what it takes to bring such substantial talent to the Mavs, then Donnie Nelson and Mark Cuban have certainly pulled a fast one on Ernie Grunfeld (or at the very least, managed to capitalize on Grunfeld’s misfortune).
It’s honestly a shame to see the Josh Howard era end under such depressing circumstances, but the Mavs’ brass made a beautiful move. This is more than you could ever hope for from a trade deadline deal, and if the Wizards cut Drew Gooden loose only to re-sign in Dallas some 30 days later? The Mavs get that much deeper, with a pretty fearsome 10-man rotation. If Butler and Haywood indeed find themselves in Maverick uniforms, it might be time to get excited — this team will be absolutely tremendous.