Rumor Mongering: Center Yourself

Posted by Rob Mahoney on May 4, 2010 under Rumors | 5 Comments to Read

Jeff Caplan of ESPN Dallas:

Haywood said he would like to remain with the Mavs. He said he has spoken to his agent Andy Miller and will begin examining his options in the next couple of weeks. Dampier, with one non-guaranteed year left on his contract, might or might not be back. “Yeah, I love everything about it,” Haywood said. “I love the organization, the coaching staff, everything here is done first class. You can’t argue with anything that they have here.”

Earlier in the regular season when Dampier got a start over Haywood, after the game Haywood was asked how he felt about it and said, now famously: “I just work here.” That sent up red flags. Haywood’s play has also wavered, in terms of his physical presence and attention to detail defensively. On Friday, Haywood said he would not expect to be named the starter wherever he signs. “I don’t believe in that. That comes from working hard and preparing in the summertime,” Haywood said. “I feel when you come into camp, your play should speak for who should be the starter.”

As I already mentioned, Brendan Haywood could more or less by the key to the Mavs’ success next season. It’s not easy to find a center as serviceable as Haywood at all, and things are a tad trickier for a capped out team with few movable assets. Dallas will need to make a few moves to take the next step as it were, but such steps are fruitless without a solid big manning the middle. Erick Dampier is as good as gone, so the news that Haywood may want to stick around is rather cheery. The Mavs can offer Brendan the longest deal and the most money, and while that’s not necessarily in the team’s best interest in terms of financial flexibility, it does give Dallas the best chance to be competitive during Dirk’s remaining years as an elite player.

Dallas will need a center for next year and beyond, and Haywood could give them that. It all depends on whether or not the Mavs can keep Brendan and if they want to. Haywood was considered by players and management to be the centerpiece of the Josh Howard trade, though it’s unclear how, if at all, his postseason performance and behavior since the trade have impacted his place with the team.

This is just the initial step in what’s sure to be a long off-season, but it’s a place to start. Brendan wants to stay, or says he wants to stay at least, and in the coming months we’ll see exactly what that means.

Nearing Completion

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 21, 2010 under Commentary, Roster Moves, Rumors | 4 Comments to Read

As we enter buyout season, the Mavs will keep an eye to the ever-growing free agent pool. They’ll hope for Drew Gooden, bat their eyelashes at Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and entertain the idea of adding another point guard. But Z is Cleveland-bound if he’s cut loose, Gooden likely won’t find his way out of L.A., and one can’t help but wonder how effective another point guard could really be if added this late in the season.

But according to Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News, the Mavs may be headed in a more traditional direction. The common platitude for playoff-bound teams is the eternal search for another shooter. Every playoff team needs a guy that can stretch the floor. You can never have enough shooting. That team really needs a player who can come in off the bench and hit a big shot. Wash, rinse, and repeat, ad nauseam.

Don’t get me wrong, shooting is nice. But most of the time what playoff caliber teams are really missing is another defender. They could use five good minutes off the bench with no purpose other than to limit an opposing scorer. Sometimes it comes in the form of a savvy, journeyman wing, and others, a young athletic center that can defend the rim with his shot-blocking.

The problem, of course, is that those players typically aren’t floating around in free agency; good defenders are usually deeply embedded in the playoff rotation of another playoff team, making them rather difficult to pry away. Plus, whereas good defense is much more difficult to quantify on paper and in workouts, good shooting is far easier to spot. For a coaching staff and management team with no time to lose at this point in the season, identifying a usable commodity quickly and easily is invaluable.

So rather than workout a defensive standout, the Mavs have opted to bring in Von Wafer and Rashad McCants, two shooting guards linked to Dallas in the off-season, for workouts. Here’s what I wrote about the two when I was evaluating potential free agent acquisitions for the Mavs over the summer:

Von Wafer, SG (unrestricted) – Von Wafer is a ruthless scorer.  He’d cut the throat of a kitten for a bucket, but that same drive makes him a bit of a black hole.  For what it’s worth, he also had trouble getting along with Rockets’ coach Rick Adelman, perhaps the most players’ coachy of players’ coaches.

Wafer may never tighten the screws that keep his head on his shoulders, and that’s likely the red flag that has kept the Mavs away.  If Wafer can’t learn to play nice with his coach and his teammates, he’ll never be able to thrive in the shot-in-the-arm role that best suits his game.  I don’t think Wafer has the talent or potential to pan out as a top-level scorer, but he would rock it as a punch off the bench.  The Mavs already have that covered with a cat named Jason Terry.  You may have heard of him.  But if Von has trouble finding a home and re-enters the market for bargain value, the Mavs would be stupid to pass up the depth…unless Wafer’s even more troublesome to a locker room than I give him credit for.

Rashad McCants, SG (unrestricted) – He’s young, he’s available, and he’s a scorer.  Unfortunately, he’s not much else.  McCants is a mouth with a jumpshot, but enough of both that he could inject some swagger and balance the court with his range.  As long as the deal is within reason, McCants could be the extra gun arm needed to shoot the lights out.  He also just so happened to work out with the team a few weeks back, so he’s got that on his side.

Not much has changed. Out of the two, I much prefer Wafer; he’s an excellent shooter but can score in a variety of ways. Neither is much to speak of in the way of perimeter defense, and months away from the NBA game isn’t going to help. But if the Mavs are determined to sign a back-court scorer, I’d strongly urge for Wafer over McCants, at least in terms of their on-court contributions. Wafer caused enough of a problem for Houston that he was let go for nothing, and the fact that he couldn’t drum up interest with any other team in the league is a bit worrisome. But if the Mavs are looking for another scorer in the Jamal Crawford/Flip Murray mold (albeit without Crawford’s playmaking abilities…or maybe just without the willingness to make plays), Wafer seems to be the superior option. One can only hope that his experience playing overseas has been a humbling one, and that Wafer is ready to grow up a bit on the court and off it. That, or maybe just come in and score like mad.

Over Before It Began

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 19, 2010 under News, Rumors | Read the First Comment

With Erick Dampier sidelined, the Mavs are rumored to be interested in the services of buyout candidate, Zydrunas Ilgauskas. That said, I wouldn’t hold your breath.

Ilgauskas is a decent enough option as an emergency back-up, but there are two possibilities far more likely than him ending up in Dallas:

  1. Big Z could end up staying a Wizard. The Wiz are now under the luxury tax line thanks to a smart move that shed Dominic McGuire’s contract, and don’t really have an incentive to cut Ilgauskas aside from doing the guy a personal favor. Now, Z could put the pressure back on the Wizards organization if he agrees to a substantially reduced buyout, but I’m not sure that would be the wisest thing for an aging center on his last big NBA deal.
  2. If the Wizards do cut Ilgauskas loose, there’s not question that Cleveland is the favorite to sign him. Zydrunas has a ridiculous amount of history with that city and that team, and I have no qualms in saying that if released, Big Z returning to Cleveland is pretty much a lock. Here’s what he told Mary Schmitt Boyer of the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

    “Right now I’m a Wizard,” he said. “I think eventually they’ll let me go, but that’s just my guess. They haven’t told me anything yet. First I’ve got to go to Washington, and hopefully after a couple of days they’ll let me go home.”

    Home. Home is where Ilgauskas has played for the last 12 seasons. It’s where he played 760 games. It’s where he was named a two-time All-Star, went to the NBA Finals, and hopes to return for a championship. Zydrunas Ilgauskas is going straight back (ahem, after 30 days) to Cleveland if the opportunity presents itself, and no team in the league — not Dallas, not Atlanta, and not any other contender should they come knocking at his door — is going to stop him.

Rumor Mongering: An Immovable Object

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 9, 2010 under Rumors | Be the First to Comment

Rodrigue Beaubois has come a long way since he set foot in Dallas, and he has a long way before he gets where he’s going. And if there’s truth to Mark Cuban’s words, Roddy will get there in a Maverick uniform. From Tim MacMahon of ESPN Dallas:

Teams talking trade with the Dallas Mavericks shouldn’t bother asking for rookie guard Roddy Beaubois.

“I’m not going to trade him,” owner Mark Cuban said while sitting in the first row before the Mavs-Warriors game.

Beaubois’ name has popped up in a lot of trade speculation because he’s has a lot of talent and an inexpensive contract. If a cost-cutting team wants to get basketball value out of a deal instead of just expiring contract, Beaubois is the Mavs’ best fit.

Of course, that’s exactly why the Mavs want to keep the kid. Cuban backed down a bit after declaring Beaubois off-limits, but odds are strong that the only way Beaubois departs Dallas is in a sign-and-trade deal for one of the free-agent superstars this summer.

“There’s maybe one or two guys in the league that I would trade him for,” Cuban said. “That’s it. Other than that, he’s pretty much untouchable.”

It’s obvious hyperbole, but the point is made: Beaubois is a vital asset for the Mavs at this juncture. He represents the only real potential for internal growth on the entire roster, and Cuban isn’t about to give that up. In Beaubois, the Mavs have a guy who can play both guard spots, contributes on both ends, and does so for a pretty minimal salary commitment. Under the current CBA, rookie contracts are worth their weight in gold; talented players, brimming with potential, are able to mature under the watchful eye of team personnel without any serious, long-term salary cap implications. It doesn’t get any better than that, and if you think the Mavs are enjoying Roddy’s production now, in the first year of his deal, think of how much of a bargain he’ll be in year four (provided his development goes according to plan).

I wouldn’t blame Cuban, Donnie Nelson, or Rick Carlisle for wanting to cash in on Beaubois’ trade value if it meant adding a significant piece now. But Roddy is going to be a very good player in this league for a very long time, so unless the trade was an absolutely certain boon for the Mavs (and I’m talking championship contention boon), Cuban has the right idea. We don’t want Nash to be next in the long line of Maverick point guards traded away only to find greatness (though Devin Harris’ sub-par season is doing a great job of bucking that trend).

Rumor Mongering: The Butler Conundrum

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 8, 2010 under Commentary, Rumors | 4 Comments to Read

The three players most commonly linked to the Mavs are all wings: Kevin Martin, Andre Iguodala, and Caron Butler. The Mavs’ interest is said to flow in that order, meaning that acquiring Butler may very well be a back-up plan. It’s definitely an option, but hardly the option.

Which could be a problem. From Marc Stein in the Weekend Dime:

As my ESPN.com colleague Chad Ford wrote Thursday, Washington’s preference is moving Butler ahead of team statesman Antawn Jamison, who has been chased hard by Cleveland since last season and with particular vigor since the Cavs lost out to Charlotte in the trade race to acquire Stephen Jackson.

On the surface, a Jamison-to-Cleveland trade would seem somewhat irrelevant to the Mavs; a team in the opposite conference would get stronger by preying off of another team in the opposite conference, with none of the Mavs’ rumored targets directly compromised. But consider this: Cleveland is supposedly aggressively pursuing Antawn Jamison via trade, while the Mavs supposedly have something of a Josh Howard-Caron Butler swap on the back-burner. Though Washington may prefer to move Butler, they may not be in a position to move both Butler and Jamison. Trading away all of the talent opens up quite the can of worms, and the Wiz will have a rough go of it drawing season ticket holders and free agents alike if there are no ballers of note left in D.C. by summer.

If Jamison is indeed item 1-A on the Cavs’ agenda, it could put the Mavs in a tough spot: either Dallas strives for a possibly more attainable target in Butler (remember, Sacramento is still unwilling to move Kevin Martin and Andre Iguodala likely has Samuel Dalembert tied to his ankle as a salary anchor), or could miss out entirely if the Mavs’ other plans fall through and Cleveland scores Jamison. It’s a bit premature for the Mavs to jump on a deal for Butler, but there’s definite reason for the decision-makers in Dallas to have their ear to the ground for tremors out of Cleveland.

Rumor Mongering: Counterproductive Problem Solving

Posted by Rob Mahoney on under Rumors | Be the First to Comment

On TrueHoop, ESPN’s Chris Sheridan notes that Milwaukee center (and former Mav) Kurt Thomas could have a new home by the trade deadline:

ESPN.com has learned that Thomas, the 37-year old backup center/forward for the Milwaukee Bucks, has emerged as a fallback trade option for the few playoff-bound teams (including Portland, Dallas and Cleveland) open to the idea of taking on additional salary.

Dallas owes a 2nd rounder to Indiana and has the option of sending its 2010 or 2011 pick to the Pacers, and the Mavericks are also owed a 2010 second-rounder by Oklahoma City — although the Thunder keep it if it falls between Nos. 31 and 45. Dallas also does not have a one-for-one salary match for Thomas other than Drew Gooden, who is a better player than Thomas. (The Mavs do have a $2.9 million trade exception from the Kris Humphries trade to New Jersey, but that exception is not large enough to absorb Thomas’ deal.)

As Sheridan notes, acquiring Kurt Thomas would be a tricky proposition for the Mavs. The Bucks will move him if they can score a very minimal asset — a second round pick, the standard trade chip of cap-clearing deals. But that requires Milwaukee’s trade partner to be $3.6 million under the cap, or in possession of a trade exception to trim that number.

But here’s the catch: teams that are over the cap, like the Mavs, can’t use trade exceptions to absorb incoming player salaries if the value of a single trade exception does not exceed the incoming player salary. Or, if the Mavs were to include actual players in the deal to even out the salary for trade purposes, they still wouldn’t be able to receive salary worth more than 125% of the outgoing salary. All of this is to say that the Mavs are stuck in a position where they can’t use a trade exception to acquire the player they want, which if Sheridan’s sources are correct, is Thomas.

There’s one hypothetical deal that the Mavs could throw Milwaukee’s way: Quinton Ross, Tim Thomas, and J.J. Barea for Kurt Thomas. Make no mistake: this is a horrible deal for Dallas. Ross and Thomas are great guys to have at the end of your bench, and I’m convinced that the Mavs could get back more for Barea than a 37-year-old center with an expiring contract. But if the Mavs somehow end up with additional depth via another trade (say, one involving Josh Howard) and are convinced that Thomas is the answer, there is at least one option where the salaries match. It would only save the Bucks’ a few hundred thousand dollars and wastes Barea on a team with no need for a point guard, but it can technically be done.

I can’t see how Thomas would solve the Mavs’ problems, though. He would give Dallas another traditional center, albeit one that doesn’t operate from the low post on offense and isn’t really the answer to shoring up the defense. Thomas is a fine one-on-one post defender, but why bother if Kurt won’t offer much in the way of a team defensive concept? He’s a fine player to have, but I’m just not sure he’s worth the headache of involving a third team or completing the trade mentioned above.

Thomas has averaged just 13.3 minutes per game for the Bucks this year, along with 2.6 points per game and 3.5 rebounds per game.

Eye on the Prize: Butler Auditions

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 7, 2010 under Rumors | Be the First to Comment

Now that trade season is officially upon us, I’ll be revving up the rumor dissection and analysis. But to take it a step further, we’ll be checking in with the Mavs’ rumored targets of choice periodically to keep tabs on their recent production. So keep your eye on the prize, no matter your prize of choice.

’09-’10 hasn’t been a great year for Caron Butler, but you’d never know it based on his dismantling of the Orlando Magic on Friday night. Butler poured in a season-high 31 points against Orlando’s stable of swingmen, and colored within the lines on a game-winning play:

Butler didn’t go rogue with the game on the line, but stuck to the game plan and was rewarded with a clean look. It’s also amazing what not having Shawn Marion in your face will do for your offensive game. To go along with his tidy 31 points (on 50% shooting with eight free throw attempts), Butler rounded out the box score with nine rebounds and two assists.

———-

Kevin Martin’s night at the office was a bit abbreviated, but for all the wrong reasons. Phoenix absolutely ran Sacramento off the court Friday night (the Suns scored 39 in the first quarter alone), and Martin logged just 27 minutes as the starters turned in a bit earlier than usual. Not that Martin’s 27 were particularly productive — K-Mart scored just five points on 2-9 shooting. Perhaps worst of all: Martin was -31 on the night.

———-

Andre Iguodala is the image of versatility, and his statistical contributions typically indicate as such. That was certainly the case on Saturday night, when he led the Sixers to a 102-95 victory over the Rockets. 14 points on 37.5% shooting is hardly awe-inspiring, but 10 rebounds? Six assists? Two three-pointers? All against a team of stellar perimeter defenders? Not too shabby.

The 76ers are limited offensively, and depend heavily on Iguodala to make everything go. Teams in that vein will always be fighting an uphill battle against Trevor Ariza, Shane Battier and the Houston Rockets, making 14-10-6 a pretty impressive line. Not to mention the fact that Ariza had just nine points on 33.3% shooting.

Rumor Mongering: Alternate Reality

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 13, 2010 under Rumors | 4 Comments to Read

In what was supposed to be a relatively uneventful trade season for the Mavs, we know two things:

  1. The Mavs made a move to swap Kris Humphries and Shawne Williams for Eddie Najera, earning some short-term savings, bringing a fan favorite back to Dallas, and picking up a guy with a positive influence in the locker room.
  2. Before that, the Mavs tried to package Hump, Williams, and Drew Gooden in a salary-clearing deal for Carlos Boozer that would have saved the Jazz $2.5 million initially, an additional $2.6 million if they decided to waive Gooden, and possibly more if the Mavs threw cash compensations into the deal.

Needless to say, the latter would have been a complete game-changer. If the Mavs had the luxury of bringing Boozer off of the bench (and make no mistake, that’s the role that would best serve the team) instead of Gooden, Dallas immediately becomes a contender for the Western Conference crown and the title. Plus, if the Mavs could have picked up Drew Gooden on the flip side after being waived, they would have a dominant rotation of bigs capable of matching any in the league.

But it wasn’t meant to be. Rather than trade out of their luxury tax obligations by ditching Boozer for pennies (or halves of pennies, really) on the dollar, the 9th place Jazz know that right now they need Carlos Boozer. Deron Williams has quietly had a terrific season, but would he be able to fend off the Thunder, Rockets, Hornets, and Grizzlies with Kris Humphries’ production replacing Boozer’s? Hardly. Booz is absolutely crucial to Utah’s playoff hopes, and while I’m sure that on some level Kevin O’Connor would love nothing more than to rid himself of the headache, he’s well aware of his team’s dependency.

So no Boozer, for now, at least. And now that Drew Gooden’s contract has lost its value to teams over the luxury tax (his salary is now guaranteed for the season), hopefully never. As Stein mentions in his piece over at TrueHoop, the Mavs don’t gain much if they agree to swap Josh Howard or Erick Dampier in a deal for Boozer. That said, Stein cites a different line of logic than I would. According to Marc, trading Howard, Dampier, or another core piece for Boozer is troublesome in that there’s no guarantee of Carlos’ return. That’s true. But the real trouble would be what the Mavs would do this season without either one of those players. If they lose Dampier, the vaunted Mavs’ defense falls to pieces, and Damp’s minutes are ceded to a guy marked by his inability to block shots and his irrelevance as a low post defender. If they lose Josh, the perimeter defense suffers, albeit with a bit less of an overall effect on the team’s success on that end than if they were to trade Damp. Trading Josh seems like the more palatable option…but while Boozer would bolster the Mavs’ rotation in the frontcourt, the backcourt would likely be a mess. No Howard means more Terry (who for all his improvements on defense, is a merely average defender) and more Barea (who has really struggled lately and continues to be a defensive liability), which is a pretty lethal blow to the team defense.

Carlos Boozer would be an interesting addition, and the Mavs took a shot. A long shot, admittedly, but Nelson, Cuban, and Carlisle tried to offer the Jazz exactly what they need. That Utah still fancies themselves contenders for the playoffs seems to be the real complication.

The First Sign of the Apocalypse

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 9, 2010 under Commentary, Rumors | 3 Comments to Read

(Video via Wes Cox of Mavs Moneyball)

I love it. One of the most memorable Maverick threes to date. Plus, Dampier chimed in with the money quote(via Eddie Sefko) :

“I was overdue,” the 6-11 Dampier quipped. “I knew it was in when I shot it. The great shooters know.”

But Damp wasn’t the only one with thoughts on The Shot Heard ‘Round the World. First, let’s check in with the opposition, to see how the Spurs are swallowing the most inconsequential shot of the game (via Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News):

Some of the Spurs were none too happy when Mavericks center Erick Dampier, his team already ahead by nine points, fired up a 3-point shot that fell in the game’s final seconds.

“Come on, man,” said Spurs veteran Antonio McDyess. “If you’ve got respect for the other team you don’t (take that shot). I know the shot clock was running out, but that’s just showboating to me. We’ll remember that, too.”

Seems a bit extreme to me. After all, if Damp misses, is McDyess still appalled at the lack of sportsmanship? This was about as statistically improbable as it gets, which is why JET dished it to Dampier in the corner in the first place.

Next, let’s see what the Mavs’ head honchos had to say about their emerging three-point threat (via Richard Durrett of ESPN Dallas):

“I’m not crazy about it, to be honest, at that point in the game,” Carlisle said. “But it’s over.”

Mavs owner Mark Cuban was chuckling about it before Saturday’s game.

“I asked the commissioner to put him in the 3-point shooting contest,” said Cuban, referring to the annual All-Star Game skills competition. “We’ll see what happens.”

Rumor Mongering: Do the Hustle

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 5, 2010 under Rumors | 6 Comments to Read

Trade season is officially upon us! While there’s been plenty of speculation concerning what the Mavs should do with Erick Dampier and his virtually expiring contract (as well as Drew Gooden and his conveniently structured deal), there’s been little in the way of whispered rumors much less substantive trade discussions. Credit the Mavs’ record and chemistry thus far for that.

But apparently, the Mavs were still actively looking to cut ties with Shawne Williams, and were willing to part with Kris Humphries to do so. Yahoo!’s Marc Spears and Adrian Wojnarowski:

Discussions for a trade that would’ve exchanged Eduardo Najera for Kris Humphries and Shawne Williams are “on life support,” a league source said, because the New Jersey Nets have been unable to clear a roster spot to make it happen. New Jersey had hoped the Dallas Mavericks would add some money to the deal to allow them to buy out Williams’ contract, but the Nets haven’t been able to make a roster move. They tried to trade former first-round pick Josh Boone to Denver for Joey Graham and his non-guaranteed deal as a precursor to the Dallas deal, but those talks dried up, too.

Najera has fought injuries all season, but when healthy he’s certainly comparable to Humphries; Najera a bit more range, a bit less athletic, and much better defensively. But that’s hardly why the Mavs would pursue such a deal. Najera’s contract over the next to seasons is partially unguaranteed, meaning they’re likely to be on the books for less in total coin if Hump and Williams were shipped out in favor of Najera. Eddie would make his grand return to Dallas and be a free agent by summer, and Shawne Williams would likely be the Nets’ problem. But it wasn’t meant to be, and unless there’s a change in New Jersey’s roster situation, the talks are dead.