With seven days until free agency begins, it’s time to officially start naming names as ideal targets for free agency. This week, The Two Man Game will go through each position and determine who appears to be ideal fits for the Mavs.
Money is always an issue, but the Mavs will have their share of cap space to work with. Chris Paul and Dwight Howard will not be mentioned on these lists because it’s blatantly obvious that they would be on the top of their respective lists, but they’re still long shots to come to Dallas.
Meshing all the pieces together is just as important of a part of deciding on the pieces. The number one option at shooting guard might not be an ideal match with the number one option at small forward. These rankings will be solely on my own projections. A quick blurb from Editor-in-Chief Rob Mahoney’s free agency primer on the SI.com’s Point Forward will be mentioned for each player.
It’s apparent that the point guard position is the most important position the Mavs will need to take care of this summer. There were countless amounts of times over the year where they looked disorganized on offense and couldn’t execute the simple task of getting Dirk Nowitzki the ball. Getting a point guard who can handle the offense is an extreme priority this summer.
Let’s look at the free agent options at the point guard option.
It’s been a slow and frustrating descent for the Mavericks and their fans since climbing the championship ladder in 2011. The quality of team play dropped as fan favorites left for different opportunities, while new faces mostly failed to live up to expectations. To recall how the Mavericks got to this point, it’s illuminating to look back to an email sent from Mark Cuban to Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas on December 8th, 2011:
“The reality is that in the new system, cap room will have far more value than it had in the past…
The rules are different now, and while it makes it tougher this year because of the affection we have for many of the guys that are leaving, if we want the Mavs to be able to compete for championships in future years as well, it’s a hard decision, but I believe the right decision.”
Cuban has been consistent with his desire to construct a winning team within the constraints of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. During a May 28th radio interview with ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM Cuban said, “If we don’t get the big name, we want to start building that base of a team that can start having some continuity of playing together.” Despite Dirk Nowitzki being on the final year of his contract, it’s been generally understood that the Mavericks are trying to build a team around or with Dirk, while also building a team capable of being successful after Dirk retires.
But there’s been an elephant in the room that has not been acknowledged: What if those goals are mutually exclusive?
Mark Cuban has been very careful in what he’s said to the media over the last few years, mentioning how important cap flexibility is in the long term while also giving attention to Dirk’s dissatisfaction with the last two seasons. If Cuban and Mavericks general manager Donnie Nelson are able to land either Chris Paul or Dwight Howard, then this point is moot. But what if they don’t?
The remainder of the talent in the 2013 free agent pool either doesn’t fit with Dallas’ plan, like Josh Smith, or represent risky gambles, like Brandon Jennings or Andrew Bynum. Signing one or more of the second tier free agents might benefit Dallas in the short term by making the team more competitive. However, it’s hard to imagine any 2013-2014 Maverick squad without Paul or Howard being a “championship” or “top-seeded team,” which Cuban insists is possible.
Any influx of talent might make Nowitzki happy as he heads into his final years in a Mavericks uniform, but at what point is doing something for Dirk detrimental to Dallas long term? He turns 35 on June 19th. Dirk’s offensive game remains amazing, but he’s also expressed a desire for someone to share the load. Do any of the non-superstar free agents really strike the Dallas front office as the kind of players they can build around after Nowitzki retires?
On the flip side, if Dallas elects to sign a roster full of project players and single-year contracts again, they’re essentially wasting a third straight year of Dirk’s career. For many Mavericks fans, Nowitzki is the alpha and omega when it comes to Dallas as a franchise, and putting together a competitive team while he finishes out his Hall of Fame tenure is an utmost priority. After all, when Nowitzki re-signed with the Mavs at a discount in the summer of 2010, he did so with the understanding that the front office would do its best to surround him with high-caliber players. The lockout and ensuing CBA changed the landscape drastically, and in the process limited Dallas’ team-building options. Yet another lost year for Dirk would be tough to swallow for all involved, even if such a course proves to be best for the Mavs’ greater efforts to construct a contender.
Nowitzki has long been a good soldier for the organization, despite playing with the least talented teammates of any superstar from his generation. While he’s on the record saying he’s willing to take a hefty pay cut when he re-signs after next season, another wasted season could change his internal calculus. Loyal though he might be, Nowitzki’s re-signing in that scenario would first require that he endure another year on the “mediocrity treadmill” without losing faith or interest in the Mavs’ rebuilding efforts. Dallas has been a step above bad for two seasons, held together mainly by Dirk’s brilliance. As he ages, he can’t be expected to carry a .500 team in a Western conference that only seems to get better each season. Nowitzki has seen the peak, and to trudge through the lowlands with a middling team through his slow decline would seem a painfully unfulfilling turn.
As the Mavs attempt to thread the needle in building a team for the future that will simultaneously make the most of Nowitzki’s twilight years, the front office is flirting with disaster. Despite all assurances to the contrary, Dallas’ plan seems to be to land Paul/Howard or bust. The Mavs are reportedly shopping this year’s pick for salary cap space, as has become something of a trend; Dallas traded away younger assets like Corey Brewer and Jordan Hamilton only to make cap space in the past, and the bid to have max-level cap room has left the Mavericks’ cupboard alarmingly bare. If Dallas strikes out with Paul and Howard, it’s quite possible the 2013-2014 Mavericks will be a bad team with a murky future. Despite trying to place themselves in the best possible situation for this off season, the Mavericks are left at the mercy of the decision-making of others.
It’s an uncomfortable situation with meager chance for positive resolution. Yet this is the lot of a team rebuilding around an aging star owed $22.7 million in single-year salary, left only to rely on the long-shot landing of Paul or Howard. For now, acquiring either superstar remains a vague possibility for a franchise in need of hope. Yet come July, the overwhelming likelihood is that both Paul and Howard will sign elsewhere, leaving Dallas to face difficult questions with few — if any — encouraging answers.
There have been a lot of positive remarks about the questions and answers series that has started during the offseason. I think people are just thirsty for Mavs information or debate, but we’ll continue running with the series. If you ever have questions you want tossed into future a batch, you can always send them through Twitter or through the comments section.
This batch provides a good mixture of looking back, looking ahead and evaluating who the true gambles are this offseason with free agency. If Dirk and Carlisle were your kids and you had to pick one as your favorite, who would you pick? Wait, parents don’t have to pick a favorite child? Oh, that’s good to know for the future. Anyways, a variation of that topic is brought up.
For now, here are 10 more questions and answers about the Mavs.
February has been kinder to the Dallas Mavericks than any other month this season. While they don’t appear to be playoff-bound, the Mavericks are finally playing playoff-quality team basketball. This month has seen Dallas soundly conquer the postseason-worthy Golden State Warriors, comfortably take care of business against lottery-bound opponents and keep it close in tough losses to the Thunder, Lakers and Hawks. A roster full of veterans and one-year signings hoping to become permanent fixtures in Dallas has summoned a sense of urgency that few other lottery teams can muster.
This determination, combined with improved team defense, a more cohesive roster and Dirk Nowitzki’s return to dominance, has produced a visibly-improved Mavericks squad. The most compelling factor in the recent reversal, however, has come from a far less visible element: the quelling of the turnover woes that haunted Dallas throughout much of their season.
According to data from Basketball-Reference.com, the Mavericks have posted fewer turnovers than their opponent in their past six contests and are -17 overall in the turnover category over the past month. Their season average of 14.0 turnovers per game entering February, a consistent trouble spot in close losses, has been reduced to an impressive 11.4 a night. This improvement has led the Mavericks to become proud owners of the NBA’s fifth lowest turnover percentage, the only advanced measurement on either side of the ball where Dallas currently rates above 14th in the league.
Dallas management will carefully review the roster at season’s end to try to assemble a team that can reproduce the recent run of quality play in order to maximize Dirk’s last few productive years as a Maverick. If Dallas wants to return to being a contender it should seriously consider how to make the kinds of roster moves that can replicate the team’s newly developed responsibility with the basketball.
Today is the day. The trade deadline is finally here. At 2 pm central standard time, the wheeling and dealing will pretty much be over. The Mavericks are in a tough spot as they try to balance their run for the playoffs this year and continue their process of transitioning into the future. With viable trade assets in Shawn Marion, Vince Carter and Chris Kaman, anything is possible. Dallas could be looking for players that can boost their playoff chances this year, they could look to accommodate other teams and acquire nice pieces in return or they could unload everything and work with a relatively clean slate going into the offseason.
The most recent report came from Ken Berger of CBSSports.com suggesting that the Mavericks have made Roddy Beaubois, Dominique Jones and Brandan Wright available for draft picks, according to sources. Some have joked that the Mavericks would be willing to take a third-round draft pick for either Roddy or Jones (there are only two rounds in the NBA draft). Picks are quite valuable in today’s new NBA as rookie-deal players are all the rage. The Mavericks would be interested in obtaining those picks, but they won’t do anything to compromise their cap room.
As the festivities of All-Star weekend faded away, the trade deadline became the top story for the league. Rumors, like the ones mentioned above, always run rampant as the deadline approaches. Owners and general managers are valuable sources of information, but it’s hard to really figure out if they’re giving you information that is worth running with. The best thing to do is just look around the league and get a feel for where each team is at and determine if there is something in terms of a fit for your team. That’s what we’re going to do here. As the trade deadline inches closer and closer, it’s time to look at every team around the league and see if there’s anything that makes sense for the Mavericks.
As it was mentioned last week, Brandon Jennings has been a player of unique interest in the realm of the Mavericks as the trade deadline approaches. With the help of ESPNDallas.com’s Tim MacMahon, the evaluation of Jennings was further enhanced earlier this week. One thing is a given, the young point guard does fit the qualifications of what Mark Cuban and the rest of the front office is looking for in terms of a target as the trade deadline approaches.
Jennings is coming of a 34-point performance in the losing effort to the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday night. He scored 23 points in the second half of the game that ended up going into overtime.
When thinking about Jennings more, I wanted to gather more information. When deciding where to look, I wanted to talk to someone who actually follows the team and would give an honest assessment of him. I spoke with Jeremy Schmidt, the editor of Bucksketball – the Bucks’ affiliate for the TrueHoop Network. With that in mind, there are quite a few things to examine when looking at Jennings. Let’s look at what we found out.
It’s time for another round of Bloom and Doom. For those that missed the first batch of it in December, here you go. January’s batch can be seen here.
In an effort to keep the discussion going, I sought out ESPNDallas.com’s Tim MacMahon for his opinion on pressing issues for the Dallas Mavericks. You can view MacMahon’s coverage of the Mavericks at ESPNDallas.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @espn_macmahon. Periodically, we are going to touch base and discuss topics with our own unique point of view.
MacMahon likes to call it like he sees it. That perspective can hover on the other end of the spectrum from my optimistic viewpoint on things. You could say it’s a classic case of good cop, bad cop. Our different perspectives should make for an interesting conversation on hot topics revolving around the Mavs. This round of bloom and doom really hits the crux of it all with the team. Everything is right in MacMahon’s wheelhouse, and the second-to-last question might be the hardest one I’ve had to answer.
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.
You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.
Even a thorough scrubbing of the Mavs’ Friday night game against the Milwaukee Bucks would reveal few — if any — notable flaws. Dallas started fast, repeled Milwaukee’s advances, and finished strong. They played a dominant game on both ends of the court, and rested weary legs in anticipation of Saturday’s date with the Sacramento Kings. They left absolutely no doubt of the game’s verdict, a welcome occurrence in a season where doubt has become a recurring theme.
Vince Carter had his highest-scoring game in a Maverick uniform by way of a remarkably aggressive first-quarter performance. He had two nice dunks — both in the half-court offense, mind you — in the first five minutes of the game. Carter has brought an assertive scoring approach to each of his games as a Mav, but this quick start was notable if only because his performance was so efficient and so emphatic.
You know the drill. The Difference is a quick-hitting (or in this case, day after) reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.
12 it is. The streak had to stop somewhere, and unfortunately it folded along with an early 20-point Dallas lead. The Mavs should have had this win squared away, but the inevitable Bucks run was far more damaging than anyone could have anticipated. Dallas’ offense came and went, but it was the defensive concessions in the third quarter that marked the Mavs’ fate. Despite being the worst offensive team in the league, the Bucks shot 61.1% (including 75% from three) and attempted 11 free throws in the third, putting up 32 and completely tilting the game in the process. Brandon Jennings’ 10 points and three assists in the third led the Bucks, but Chris Douglas-Roberts’ seven points (on 2-2 FG and 3-4 FT) were just as instrumental. Both players made incredible plays, but their success was allowed by a defense that failed to protect the paint, fouled too often, and ceded the three-point line.
Andrew Bogut (21 points, 10-12 FG, 14 rebounds, two blocks) was absolutely tremendous, and he brutalized the Mavs’ interior defense. Neither Tyson Chandler nor Brendan Haywood could effectively defend or box out Bogut, and yet the Bucks center’s offensive impact still paled in comparison to his defensive influence. Bogut only recorded two blocks, but he seemingly altered every attempt in the paint. He made the drives of Jason Terry and J.J. Barea particularly uncomfortable, but his defense was more far-reaching than merely challenging layups. Hands down the best player on the floor.
That would mark one of the first times during the Mavs’ win streak that such an honor wasn’t bestowed on Dirk Nowitzki (30 points, 12-24 FG, 3-6 3FG, seven rebounds). Dirk was his typically magnificent self, but even Nowitzki’s terrific offensive night and nice defensive effort stood dwarfed by Bogut’s two-way dominance. It seems silly to ask more of Dirk than the 30 points on 50% shooting he so skillfully offered, but that’s what Dallas needed. Those four points needed to come from somewhere, and while Caron Butler (4-11 FG), Jason Terry (3-8 FG), and Brendan Haywood (0-4 FT, after Scott Skiles opted to intentionally foul Haywood in the fourth) provide easy scapegoats, Nowitzki has conditioned us to expect the improbable. This is the first time in six games that Nowitzki shot only 50% from the field. In four of those six contests he shot at least 66.7%. Dirk has been on an unearthly tear, but was unfortunately mortal on just a few too many attempts tonight.
The ball movement in this one should be a point of pride for the Mavs, as they totaled 28 assists on 37 field goals. Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, and J.J. Barea all had some inspired finds, and though the offense peaked in the first quarter, all three ball-handlers continued to work for optimal shot attempts. There were faulty judgment calls all around, but the positives of Dallas’ passing far outweighed any potential negatives. Turnovers can be costly — and they occasionally were, such as Bogut’s steal and go-ahead dunk with 5:37 remaining in the fourth quarter — but the Mavs’ offense performed at a respectable level in spite of their miscues.