The Mavericks may be rolling uphill, but at least they’re rolling. After adding Chris Kaman on a one-year deal that keeps next summer’s free agent hopes in check, Dallas quickly turned in a nice sign-and-trade deal for unrestricted free agent Ian Mahinmi, as first reported by Jonathan Givony of Draft Express. Mahinmi was almost certainly on his way out of Dallas, and in exchange for setting up their reserve center candidate with a four-year, $16 million deal, Dallas acquired Darren Collison and Dahntay Jones. If that isn’t enough for the something-for-nothing fetishists, I’m not sure what would be.
Now Dallas has its primary playmaker (and a pretty solid one relative to the free agent field) and a good wing defender to fill out the rotation, in addition to a decent starting-caliber big and an eye on another. Not a bad day for a team trying to figure its way into the bottom half of the playoff picture, and not a bad day for anyone who planned on watching said team with any measure of satisfaction in the coming months. There’s a lot left to discuss and a lot left to digest, but the fact that the Mavs were able to fill two needs economically without picking up any necessary salary commitment beyond this season is pretty nice, to say the least.
Collison is obviously the more intriguing piece, and his pick-and-roll potential with Dirk Nowitzki (and possibly Elton Brand, if we’re in the mood to count chickens) gives the upcoming season the slightest shimmer. If there’s any kind of spark there — and especially if Collison continues to improve — then the Mavs have the option of extending Collison the qualifying offer for another season at a mere $3.3 million, bridging the stopgap phase and an ideally rosier future with an affordable, rookie-scaled deal. Jones isn’t likely to stay in Dallas beyond this season, but considering the defensive limitations on the back line, the Mavs should and will take every bit of applicable defense they can get.
These minor moves are where Donnie Nelson and Mark Cuban — and thus where the Mavericks as a franchise — thrive. That may not mean much in the summer of discontent, but the capacity to manipulate marginal assets, cap exceptions, and slight cap space pays off consistently and invariably. Big moves will always pull from the chance aligning of stars, but the most effective front offices are those that can create some modicum of success for themselves. These Dallas Mavericks, without fail, make the playoffs. It’s just what they do. Whether that’s a good thing at this point is another conversation entirely, but if absolutely nothing else, Nelson and Cuban have already cobbled together a supporting cast for Nowitzki that keeps Dallas competitive and staves off despair. Even in these unfortunate circumstances, that can’t be discounted.