The trade deadline is always an interesting time for the Dallas Mavericks. Mark Cuban has always said two things when it comes to that time of the year: the team will always be opportunistic and don’t believe what you hear or read when it comes to them. The team is at a crossroads. The chances of making the playoffs are slim and the team has to do what they can to ensure they don’t waste any more time off of Dirk Nowitzki’s career. The deadline on the 21st is one way they can help build for the futre. How do the Mavericks assess things as the trade deadline approaches? Let’s look at the assets and what could be out there.
The Mavericks absolutely love Marion. Love him. The fact that he still seems to be showing signs of improvement at age 34 is a testament to his ability to keep himself in great shape. Marion has let it be known that he will not report to a bad team if he’s traded to one. It’s hard to imagine that he would pass up a deal that would pay him in excess of $10 million, based on a trade kicker coming into play. Trading Marion represents a very tough situation. Yes, you would free up extremely valuable cap space, but you have to replace his underrated greatness. Benjamin Button, Swiss Army knife or whatever you want to call him, Marion brings extreme value to a team like Dallas (even if they’re floundering).
There’s a very fine line that the Mavericks have to walk on in regards to what you do with him as a trade chip. There’s financial flexibility the organization wants to keep and there’s a defined market that Marion would be a part of. Bad teams aren’t going to see a major need for him. Contending teams are going to want Marion, but what assets are they realistically going to want to give up that the Mavericks would like? A pick will clearly be a bottom end pick at the end of the first round (a spot Dallas is used to working in) or maybe a young player that clearly doesn’t fit in what that team is doing in terms of a win-now mode. The thing with that is that the young player isn’t going to be great (like an Eric Bledsoe). Teams wouldn’t waste their young player asset for a rental like Marion. The player in return would be a guy that rivals Roddy Beaubois or Dominique Jones in the form of a guy who fills the back end of the rotation and is just a lottery ticket.
It still seems unlikely that the Mavericks would let Marion go, but things can clearly change as the deadline approaches.
Like Marion, the Mavericks value Carter’s abilities on and off the floor. The big difference between the two comes down to money. In today’s new salary cap world, Vince Carter presents a player that is a best-case scenario for a team provided that he is healthy. At just around $3 million, Carter clearly gives the Mavericks more bang for their buck. He’s not a defensive stopper by any stretch of the imagination, but he is underrated in terms of a defender. At age 36, you see Carter taking charges at a rate that probably makes J.J. Barea jealous. A player that old and with that many miles on him taking charges shows that he’s committed to do whatever it takes to help a team win and show he’s a team player.
There were discussions that Vince Carter could have been shipped out and the Mavericks could have acquired Jose Calderon in exchange. The Mavericks didn’t need to “waste” their asset on a player they easily could obtain in the summer as Calderon is an unrestricted free agent. In terms of what the Mavericks would ideally like to get in exchange for Carter, it’s a simple case of getting a first-round pick or a cheaper, younger project. Trading Carter for an asset of that kind clearly represents an outlook that suggests this season is ready to be packed up.
There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that. If things go south as they look they could, the goal is evaluating what you have in O.J. Mayo, Darren Collison, Jae Crowder, Bernard James and maybe Jared Cunningham. You also want to do what is necessary to get Dirk Nowitzki back into form and have him ready to go for next year. You can reward Carter by sending him to a contender that wants a shooter for the stretch run and to work with going into next season. A pick probably makes the most since (which will be explained later). As of right now, it doesn’t appear the Mavericks are overly inclined to trade Carter (like Marion). Again, situations are very fluid so things can change if a solid situation presents itself.
Kaman missed his eighth consecutive game as the Mavericks went toward the All-Star break after suffering a concussion on Jan. 28. Reports indicate that he has passed his test, but he is still dealing with headaches. Conspiracy theorists will talk to you (after they adjust their tinfoil hats) that the Mavericks are just telling Kaman to sit and wait to get dealt. There’s some merit to that as the New Orleans Hornets openly did that last season with Kaman. As an expiring contract, Kaman would attract interest from teams around the league. The issue is that Kaman does have a history with injuries. That would be considered a major red flag for a team that’s trying to acquire him, especially for a contender. If a team is making a playoff push, they’re acquiring Kaman because they consider that he can be a piece as a starter or coming off the bench that can boost their team. They can’t count on that if they can’t depend on Kaman due to health issues. I think that hurts his chances of being traded.
Roddy Beaubois, Dominique Jones, Brandan Wright, Dahntay Jones
To me, if the Mavericks were going to make a deal, it would seem to me that a trade would likely involve one of these four players. Dahntay is a player that can be a valuable one as a defensive option. His spot-up shooting has gone sideways this season, but he has shown over recent years that he can shoot. He’s been a pro in Dallas and has kept himself ready for when coach Rick Carlisle calls on him.
Brandan Wright is an intriguing player for the Mavericks and any other team around the league. Injuries derailed him for the early portion of his career. Little nicks and bumps have popped up for Wright, but he’s been a player of impact for the Mavericks since he joined the team during the 2011-12 season. He has developed a touch to where he can hit jumpers 10-12 feet away from the basket and that will make him more attractive as a big man. He clearly needs to develop more of a defensive tenacity in terms of a on-ball defender. Wright also needs to work on his rebounding. He’s still going to have value as a young big man who can still be developed into whatever you want him to be within your system.
Time has pretty much run out for Beaubois and the other Jones. They’ve been given chance after chance and neither has really shown more than having the ability to tease everyone with their potential. A change of scenery would definitely be a positive for either player. This is just my opinion, but it’s also entirely possible someone like Roddy could just call it a day and head back to France to play basketball over there. It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for him. He’ll still get handsomely paid, play a substantially easier schedule and be back in his familiar stomping grounds. If the Mavericks aren’t making a big move, it seems like one or a few of these four players would be in the mix.
… just wanted to check to see if you’re still reading. There’s no way they’re trading Dirk.
Let’s now look at two prominent names who have been mentioned as targets the Mavericks might be looking at:
Josh Smith’s name has been linked several times with the Mavericks. His name has been linked to many other teams as well as Smith is one of the hottest commodities as the deadline approaches. He certainly did well to impress the Mavericks in the Hawks’ game versus the Mavericks this week. Smith scored a game-high 26 points on 10-of-15 shooting. He was 4-of-5 from 3-point range. Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reported that Dallas has had “internal discussions” in regards to Smith. Dallas has cap space to work with going into next year and they’re always looking to be opportunistic in terms of teams unloading big name players, but I don’t think Smith is necessarily a fit. Everyone seems to be under the assumption that Smith will command a max deal during free agency this summer.
When speaking to several high ranking Mavericks officials of this past week, it seems like there have been discussions about Smith but it ends up meeting a dead end. The feeling is that they don’t necessarily view Smith as a player that can carry or lead a team, thus not seeing him as a player worthy of a max deal. I won’t be surprised if Smith’s name keeps getting linked to Dallas, but I don’t really see anything materializing there.
I can’t see the Lakers deciding that trading Dwight Howard is the best move for them. Sure, there is the possibility that Howard could write another chapter of the Dwightmare and leave Los Angeles. That would definitely make you think that the Lakers would be inclined to consider trading Howard away and get something in return for him. That’s not necessarily true. The drop off in payroll would somewhat help their heavy tax number and there’s just a general sense of arrogance with the Lakers. They could easily say, “Dwight is leaving? Okay, we’re the Los Angeles Lakers. Look at our history and track record. We’re going to be okay.” There’s not much of an argument you can make against that kind of stance if they decided to take it.
The Mavericks will clearly do whatever they can to try to acquire him, whether it is a deadline move or during free agency. It remains to be seen whether or not Dwight truly wants to stay in Los Angeles or not. To me, I’m taking the stance I took during the Deron Williams sweepstakes during this past offseason. News and rumors will circulate every single day leading up to the period where you can talk to free agents. I’m not buying a single thing that’s said. You can buy into it if you want if you want to enjoy a good roller coaster. Just wait until it comes closer to when it is time to sign on the dotted line.
Should the Mavericks even want Dwight Howard? Of course. He’s still the best center in the league and when healthy, you could put him in the debate as one of the best 3-5 players in the entire league. There’s drama that has come along with Howard, but I think a lot of that has to do with the environment he’s been in over the last two years. The biggest concern I would have over Howard is his back. It seems like Howard came back too quickly this season. Making things worse, the Lakers don’t have much in terms of options that can allow Howard to rest, especially earlier in the season. With Mike D’Antoni as the head coach, he’ll work his starters to the max and that can’t help someone who is dealing with a major back issue.
The pain and scapegoating could paint Dwight as a sympathetic figure, but I don’t think that will really fly. The point remains, Dwight Howard is an elite player. If you have a chance to get him, you do what’s necessary to take your shot to get him. You may strike out, but you have to step up and go for it. The results of this season show what can happen when you swing and miss. That being said, you can’t be scared to go big and throw your chips into the middle of the table. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. You won’t know unless you try.
Brandon Jennings’ name has been thrown around as a potential target for the Mavericks, according to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein. Jennings would likely fit the framework Mark Cuban is working under in terms of acquiring a big name player as Jennings would become a top 3 player for the Mavericks. Reports around the league suggest Jennings is unhappy in Milwaukee and is looking to move to a bigger market. Things have definitely played out probably as much as they could between Jennings and the Bucks.
Dallas kicking the tires on the Brandon Jennings clearly suggest they’re still looking to improve at the point guard position. That’s not necessarily a direct shot at Darren Collison, but the two guards do operate the position in a different way. Jeff “Skin” Wade of the Ben and Skin show on 103.3 FM ESPN Radio had a great analogy for Collison. Darren is a Trent Dilfer type of point guard. For those that don’t know, Dilfer was the quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens when they won Super Bowl XXXV in 2000. Dilfer wasn’t the main reason for the Ravens’ success. He was known more as a game manager. Collison is a part of the machine for the Mavericks on offense but he hasn’t been asked to control things late in games. Collison is a player that still needs to develop more as a pick-and-roll facilitator. With Dirk in the mix, you would like to see more between those two but it hasn’t been there. Vision and passing precision is a definite source of development for Collison in that aspect.
On the other hand, Jennings thrives in the pick-and-roll setting. In today’s NBA, you need a point guard who can operate and thrive off playing in the pick-and-roll. Jennings has shown the ability to do that. The problem with him is his overall efficiency. He’s essentially a 40 percent shooter for his career. Jennings has been a volume shooter at the position, but one has to wonder how much has that actually been dictated by the personnel that has been beside him for a better portion of his career.
When looking at Jennings, you have to decide if he can be the second or third best player on your team. That question clearly remains to be seen. Looking at the stacked point guard position now in the league (with everyone being healthy), you have a hard time making the case that Jennings is anywhere near being a top 12-15 point guard in the league. The obvious room for optimism is based on the bumps Jennings could get playing in a winning culture like the one Dallas has, playing with a head coach who can help his development in Rick Carlisle and playing with a player the caliber of Dirk Nowitzki.The simple question is, what is Jennings’ ceiling as a player? If he’s already maxed out his potential now, that should make the Mavericks hesitant to acquire him.
There is an outside the box theory that would lend some support to trying to acquire Jennings. Think back to Deron Williams last summer and what helped him decide to stay with the Nets. Money helps, but he said the front office moves to acquire someone like Joe Johnson helped show the team was committed to improving the team. Don’t get me wrong, Johnson is a nice player, but I’m not really sure at his price tag that he’s a player that really fits in the grand scheme of things. That’s the rub, though. Players tend to look at things much differently than writers or fans do. Players would view Brandon Jennings as a guy who has has had a 50-point game in the league and 20 instances where he’s dropped at least 30 in a game during his career. That’s exciting to players. If you land a player like Jennings and use him as a recruiting tool for someone like Dwight Howard, that makes for a combination that is very intriguing.
The Mavericks wouldn’t acquire Jennings simply as a nice attraction piece for Dwight Howard. That’s simply not how they operate. They would look to acquire him as a vital cog to their next step in the team’s progression. They would like him for simply face value, not what else he could potentially bring to the table in terms of luring another player into town.
It once again goes back to the question of determining what Jennings’ ceiling truly is. It’s also a matter of whether or not Mark Cuban is potentially willing to go upwards of $10 million to find out what the answer is to that question. To me, it seems like a heightened situation to what they had this past summer with O.J. Mayo. Mayo presented a player that was someone of a risk as a major acquisition. He was coming off a bad situation in Memphis where he fell out of favor with the organization and was at a crossroads for his career. He sought out the advice of his peers and decided Dallas was the best place for him. The Mavericks did their due diligence in determining whether or not Mayo was going to be the right fit for their organization. You would have to think the Mavericks would once again due their reconnaissance in regards to Jennings.
As for what Milwaukee might want in return, I’m guessing they’d love to unload Drew Gooden’s contract. If you as a team have the ability to get $13.2 off your books over the next two years, you’ll definitely try to do that. I have a hard time believing Dallas would be interested in taking him back when they have someone like Bernard James who can play the position at a much cheaper rate. Bringing back Elton Brand is also another option. With Jae Crowder playing his college ball in Marquette (and being very cheap in terms of a contract), the rookie would be a player of interest for the Bucks. You would also have to think Darren Collison would be in the mix as well.
The wild card in the situation is Shawn Marion. They would be able to reduce their cap number and give them more room to work with if they find a way to incorporate a third team into the deal to acquire Jennings. Milwaukee wouldn’t have a use for Marion, but incorporating a third team might reduce the amount of assets the Mavericks have to offer to Milwaukee to get Jennings. A first-round pick is something that would likely be something Milwaukee want, but Dallas actually doesn’t have a pick to directly offer them right now. There pick is top-20 protected. If their pick somehow lands outside the top 20, it will be shipped out to Oklahoma City (stuff with Lamar Odom, Derek Fisher and James Harden…it’s a long story). So Dallas doesn’t really have that to offer for Milwaukee unless they acquire another one.
It would be a tricky situation, but the Mavericks could probably find a way to acquire Jennings if they really want to. Doing so and involving Marion keeps the Mavericks in a spot of acquiring assets and still maintaining the ability to go after Dwight Howard. The question is, do they want to? It’s all about the assets, and the clocking is ticking. We’re seven days away from the trade deadline.
Bryan Gutierrez writes about sportsmen. He is a contributing writer for Mavs.com. Bryan also attended Ball So Hard University. You can follow him on Twitter @BallinWithBryan.