Here are another batch of questions and answers regarding the Mavs and this offseason. With free agency less than a month away, it’s really time to start getting down to business. This round starts to look at the nuts and bolts of the concept of going after the big fish this summer, Chris Paul and Dwight Howard. It also digs a little deeper into the new plan or window that Mark Cuban announced in the last few weeks.
1. What should the mindset be if the Mavs strike out on both Dwight Howard and Chris Paul?
Mark Cuban went into pretty big detail half a week ago on how they need to react, either way, to free agency. It now appears that there is a two-year window in mind, mainly due to Dirk’s contract coming off the books after the 2013-14 season. Shawn Marion’s deal will come off the books, unless they maneuver his deal and there’s an “extension” of sorts coming. Ideally, the Mavs would have over $30 million of space to work with.
Either way, they’re going to have to trust all the work they’ve been doing since the end of the season with their evaluations. There are guys who, if they mesh well together, could provide a capable boost to the roster. Their evaluations weren’t exactly perfect or exactly faulty this past season. To use baseball analogies, there’s no shame in hitting a couple of doubles this offseason with their acquisitions. They just can’t strike out again.
2. What do you make of Mark Cuban saying there is a two-year plan?
I think people groan at the idea of having to wait even longer. That’s a fair reaction, but what do you expect to happen in a short period of time? If the Mavs were able to hit it out of the park with acquiring Howard or Paul, they would still be very restricted with being able to improve their team for this coming season. They would have a chance to move into the top half of the West, but they would still be a flawed team in the playoffs. Like the Miami Heat in the Big 3 era, the second year would start to be the time where they could really make up some ground with their minor acquisitions.
Things just take time to develop. They either get a big fish or they just find nice acquisitions. Either way, they need to start making moves because the fans will grow tiresome. But, what’s the alternative? Bring everyone back or just Tyson Chandler from 2011? Either way, you’ve committed more money and have fewer options to work with.
3. What would be your primary sales pitch to Dwight Howard?
It would be that Dallas has been successful over a sustained period of time. Dallas essentially sacrificed this past season and the one before it to get into a position to pounce on big name free agents. They’ve essentially created space to replenish their roster in a quicker fashion than most other teams.
You also would be joining a team with a proven winner in Dirk Nowitzki. You also have a warrior in Shawn Marion who has shown he’ll be another defensive anchor, not putting all the responsibility on Howard. He would also have a coach in Rick Carlisle that would find a way to maximize his strengths on offense. Cuban has also shown that he’ll spare no expense on adding things to the organization in an attempt to make it better. He’s hired a team psychiatrist, has an army of basketball operations people who focus on advanced statistics, the list goes on and on. Cuban is always looking for ways to put his players in the best position to succeed.
Yes, there is sacrificing a year in salary by taking a four-year deal, but Howard is still young enough to earn a major max contract after playing through this initial contract with Dallas. There are other bells and whistles that can be mentioned in the pitch, but I think those are the main attractions.
4. What would be your primary sales pitch to Chris Paul?
It would pretty much be the same pitch as it would be to Dwight. The bigger point of emphasis I would make with Paul is playing with Dirk. Those two playing off each other in the pick and roll would be absolutely lethal.
The thing you heard a lot about Paul and the Clippers was that he had to push his players to try to find that next gear. Paul clearly wouldn’t have to do that with the likes of Dirk and Marion on board.
5. How much work do the Mavs have cut out for them within their conference?
It’s quite a bit. Next year, San Antonio might start to see a decline as Duncan and Ginobili get a year older. They will need to depend on Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard more, going forward. It’s a problem they’ll clearly take as they make another trip to the Finals. You expect Oklahoma City to be stronger with more assets and a healthy Russell Westbrook. Memphis will focus on finding a perimeter shooter to help balance their offense. Golden State will be a year wiser after this year’s run.
Denver, Houston and both Los Angeles teams would be the next tier of teams that Dallas would have to deal with. Even if the Mavs make a lot of moves that make a lot of headway this summer, the expectations have to be realistic once the season starts. Dallas will have to scratch and claw to stay competitive in that bottom half of the playoff picture, just like they had to this past season.
Bryan Gutierrez writes about sportsmen. He also attended Ball So Hard University, studying ideologies of Clark Kent. You can follow him on Twitter @BallinWithBryan.