“Victory must now be mine or Galactus shall not fight again.” — Galactus, Devourer of Worlds
Last week I wrote about Dirk Nowitzki, his legacy and his future. Do the past two years represent the sudden decline of Nowitzki? Should fans recalibrate their expectations? Or are these two years statistical outliers with a bum knee to blame? Like most things, the answer is probably somewhere in the middle. Regardless, there is no denying that the future inevitable departure of Nowitzki has been a concern as fans watch the season unfold. And as much as we’d like to put everything on Nowitkzi’s shoulders, he isn’t the only factor in making the Mavs a great franchise. When looking at the long-term health of this franchise, I would suggest that there are four ingredients.
1. Young talent
2. Reliable veterans
3. An All-Star “Go To” Player
4. Trustworthy management, ownership, and coaching
In the young talent category, the jury is still out. For players born in the late ‘80s and ‘90s, the Mavs have: Rodrigue Beaubois, Darren Collison, Jae Crowder, Jared Cunningham, Bernard James, Dominique Jones, O.J. Mayo, Anthony Morrow, and Brandan Wright. Young players aren’t just the replacements for the old team. They are valuable trade assets. They offer the greatest potential for improvement and growth. I believe in O.J. Mayo, and I’d be happy if he signed a long-term contract with the Mavs. The question is money, but I can’t imagine shooting guards are in such high demand that another franchise would overpay for him. Darren Collison? I just don’t know. When you look at his advanced stats, he’s actually slightly better than O.J. Mayo. However, I don’t trust him to run an offense. The rookie class isn’t too bad. Crowder and James are encouraging. This isn’t Cunningham’s year, but who knows how he’ll do once given a chance? Rodrigue Beaubois and Dominique Jones are a disappointment. I believe Brandan Wright is a better player than his minutes and stats suggest.
In the reliable veterans category, the Mavs are one of the better teams in the league. Vince Carter, Elton Brand, and Shawn Marion might be most consistent players on the roster, keeping the Mavericks from having the worst record in the Western Conference. For those crazy fans who want to “suck for luck” in draft, I’m sorry these veterans are ruining it for you with their competitiveness and will to win.
Dirk Nowitzki is the All-Star “Go To” Player, but he wasn’t an all-star this year and he hasn’t been very “go to” this season. There isn’t an easy fix here. Nowitzki is a once in a lifetime player. The last time the Mavs had a player with this kind of raw talent was maybe when they drafted Roy Tarpley in 1986. Fate is fickle. Moving on…
Trustworthy management, ownership, and coaching. I believe this is the most important category for long-term success (that they have some control over). Players come and go. They disappoint and surprise us. Do you trust the coaches and the front office to make the right decisions? I’d like to spend the next three weeks on this subject. Next Tuesday, I’ll write about Rick Carlisle. Then, the week after that, it’s Donnie Nelson. And finally, Mark Cuban will get some attention.
Among all NBA franchises, the Spurs are the most consistent in these four categories. And not surprisingly, they will continue to be a good small market team for quite some time—making all the other small market teams look like whiners. Respect where respect is due. They are a quality operation. As the Mavericks consider their future, they should probably look at the areas where they are weakest.
What are your thoughts? How do the Mavs rate in these four areas? Post your thoughts in the comments section below.
Note #1: For anyone who regularly reads my column, you know that I’ve been busy with a cover feature for the Dallas Observer. It’s about Coach Larry Brown at SMU. I just turned in my final draft (or so I hope) this morning. The story will be available on March 14th.
Note #2: Tomorrow afternoon, March 6th, I’ll be on ESPN Central Texas 1660 AM–talking about the Dallas Mavericks. Listen live at 12:35. I don’t know how long I’ll be on the air or where the conversation will go, but I’ll try to be interesting.
David Hopkins is a freelance writer – a regular contributor to D Magazine and Smart Pop Books. David doesn’t trust teams that wear red. He half-trusts SMU. Follow David on Twitter at @davidhopkins.