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.
The Dallas Mavericks can’t invest in long-term prospects and have seen the few possible short-term fixes pass them by. It’s a sad, treadmilled existence; the level of now-mandatory prudence keeps the Mavs in fine financial shape, but that alone doesn’t mean that they’re getting anywhere. The past week has demonstrated the tremendous risk involved in leveraging cap space, and yet Dallas has little option save to keep their books clear and try again.
But in the meantime, Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson will surely clad all kinds of rentals in Maverick blue. Dallas is very much in the running for an amnestied Elton Brand, among other targets, but the first solidified get is Dirk Nowitzki’s kind-of-German national teammate, Chris Kaman, who according to Marc Stein of ESPN.com, has agreed to terms on a one-year, $8 million deal. There’s not much flare to the pick-up, and not much potential; it’s a move designed solely to keep Dirk sane and the team’s head above water, and Kaman is a useful addition in both regards.
UPDATE (4:58 PM EST): Surprise: Kidd’s negotiations with the Mavs were apparently an elaborate hoax, as Marc Stein has now reported that Kidd will join the New York Knicks on a comparable deal. Those who groaned after hearing of this non-signing can now breathe free; Kidd is a Maverick no more, a development which should open the door for an amusing array of short-term ball-handling solutions. Then again, supposing Delonte West stays in Dallas, maybe the Mavs can put the ball in his hands and look to employ stopgaps elsewhere. Oy vey — I like West quite a bit, but this is going to be a miserable season of Maverick basketball.
1:03 EST: The Dallas Mavericks are a twice-spurned and very desperate team. So desperate, in fact, that after failing to manufacture returns on their visions of the future, they’ve reluctantly returned to the status quo. Per Jeff Caplan and Marc Stein of ESPN Dallas, Kidd and the Mavs have virtually settled on a three-year, $9 million deal that flies in the face of Dallas’ long-term vision while avoiding any real damage.
After a quick shuffle of third parties, the Mavs again appear ready to jettison Lamar Odom’s contract westward (and in a way, homeward); as originally reported by Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News – and later clarified by Brad Turner of the LA Times – Dallas will deal Odom in a four-team trade that will also move Mo Williams to Utah and the draft rights to Furkan Aldemir to Houston, while scoring the Mavs a trade exception, cash, and an additional $2.4 million (the price of an Odom buyout) in sweet, sweet salary cap savings.
That brings the total savings of the past 24 hours to (roughly) a cool $3.8 million, between ditching Odom, trading Kelenna Azubuike, and saving on the rookie scale difference between the 17th pick and the 24th pick. There’s no need to hash out the specifics of the Mavs’ cap number until we get a better idea of what might become of Jason Terry, Jason Kidd, and a slew of minimum salary players that currently have cap holds against Dallas’ total, but we have the pleasure of watching first-hand as Donnie Nelson and Mark Cuban take their quarters to the free-agent slot machine.
Draft night has come and gone, but the urge to instantly evaluate the Mavericks’ performance remains. That doesn’t make such a review any less impossible, but it certainly adds noise to what should already make for an incredibly chaotic off-season.
If you’re in the minority who can accurately speak to the specifics in the games of Jared Cunningham, Bernard James, and Jae Crowder — much less the even more extreme minority who can feasibly predict how any of the above might pan out against NBA competition — then by all means: chatter away. But if you’re in the other, significantly larger camp, I suggest that you — and we — table our judgment. We have an entire off-season, the full run of summer league, a training camp, a preseason, and a good chunk of regular season competition to go before we can even begin to determine what each new Maverick is capable of — and that’s assuming that James and Crowder stick around to make the roster in the first place.
The limitations of post-deadline roster moves require teams to telegraph their intent, to some extent; there could be no surer sign of a signing to come than when the Dallas Mavericks — a team with a full roster — requested waivers on Sean Williams on Thursday. There would be no need for roster flexibility without an immediate candidate in mind, and per Marc Stein of ESPN.com, Dallas will soon sign Kelenna Azubuike — a player the Mavs have coveted ever since his D-League days — to a minimum contract for the remainder of this season with a team option for next year.
Azubuike flies well under the radar for some reason, but brings a rather complete package to the table for a role player: he defends well, has put up some stunning percentages from the outside (he’s a career 41-percent shooter from beyond the arc), and taps into his natural athleticism by being an active cutter. He’s not all that much of a shot creator, but could be a great, low-cost option on the wing if everything goes according to plan.
Supposing the roster can hold the weight of collective expectation, can a team ever really have too many project big men?
Apparently not. According to Marc Stein of ESPN.com, Dallas will soon sign wayward forward Yi Jianlian to a one-year contract, filling out their 15-man roster and completing a trinity of low-cost gambles for a rotation big man.
Another day, another low-key signing by the Mavs with a potential payoff far greater than the risk. According to Marc Stein of ESPN.com, Dallas is currently finalizing a two-year deal for former New Jersey Net and Texas Legend Sean Williams. It’s not a spectacular acquisition, but Williams — who wore out his NBA welcome during his tour in New Jersey from 2007-2010 — steps in as an immediate impact shot blocker with the potential to be a more complete defender.
One good cost-cutting move apparently deserves another.
Just days after the Mavs swept up Lamar Odom up from L.A. in order to tidy up the Lakers’ books (helpful gent, that Donnie Nelson), Dallas has agreed — per Marc Stein of ESPN.com — to send Corey Brewer and Rudy Fernandez to Denver in exchange for a future second round pick. This isn’t an equitable trade, but it allows the Mavs to liquidate some depth for the sake of immediate salary savings and an extra chunk of cap space next summer.
Contrary to popular belief, Tyson Chandler’s departure from Dallas did not leave a gaping hole where a starting center should be. The Mavs may have lost a valuable contributor and an invaluable leader from their championship squad, but they retain Brendan Haywood and Ian Mahinmi, a capable starter and reserve, respectively, to fill minutes in the middle. It’s certainly not an optimal arrangement, but considering the circumstances, Dallas is likely better off relying on their in-house bigs rather than re-signing Chandler to a team-stymying contract.
But even after giving Haywood and Mahinmi every benefit of the doubt, the Mavs were still in need of another utility big. With that need in mind, Donnie Nelson, Rick Carlisle, and Mark Cuban scanned the free agent market, considered the available possibilities, and…signed the unproven, 24-year-old Brandan Wright to a one-year deal for the league’s minimum salary. Wright may not be the free agent big man Mavs fans had in mind, but Carlisle clearly sees Wright’s potential as a reserve center.
But what, exactly does Carlisle see?