- Kurt Helin, my fellow ProBasketballTalk-er, had a chance to interview Caron Butler. Here are Butler’s thoughts regarding what the Mavs’ areas for improvement in the coming year: “Controlling the glass, focusing on defense. Because we can score with the best of them. We have a great player, we have a Hall of Fame point guard and whole bunch of other guys that want to get it done and are willing to sacrifice whatever to win. We’ve just got to put it all together and we will.” Butler also noted that he’s been working with the needs-no-introduction Tim Grover.
- Kevin Arnovitz has a great interview with Texas Legends’ coach Nancy Lieberman, who is getting serious mileage out of her catchphrase (which you may remember from my interview with Lieberman earlier this summer): “Making the irregular regular.” Here’s Lieberman on her voice as a coach, and what the voice will mean to men who haven’t had all that many female basketball mentors: “I think the end message will be similar, but the methods and how they get the information could be different. I’m excited about it because I’m not going to be in practice f-bombing people. That won’t be me. I’ll be firm and I’ll be fair. We won’t tell people what to do. We’ll explain what we’d like them to do. We’ll show them what we want to do. Then, they’ll do it. I will work their tails off. Trust me. I’m not as nice as I’m faking it on this conversation. I will work them really hard, but I’ll love them on the other side. And they need to know they’re loved and cared for. But that doesn’t mean you can walk over me, through me. That won’t happen. But look, I’m going to kill my guys so I might as well be nice to them. I have high expectations. I haven’t made it in a man’s world for 35 years by being soft, scared or insecure.”
- Mike Krzyzewski on Tyson Chandler’s play for Team USA, via Chris Tomasson of FanHouse: “Tyson has been outstanding. We have a relationship from the 2007 qualifying team (and in 2008 when Chandler came close to making the Olympic team) … He doesn’t need the ball. He’s stronger. I bet he’s at least probably 15 pounds heavier and stronger than he was in 2007. He feels healthy.”
- Have $25 burning a hole in your wallet? Then do I have the deal for you. (H/T: Scott Schroeder)
- Josh Howard, infused with Devean George’s trade veto power.
- Caron Butler thinks the Heat could make it to 73 wins. The Bulls’ sacred 72-win mark is seemingly unbeatable, but next year’s Miami Heat have definite advantages those Bulls were never afforded. The ’95-’96 Bulls are certainly one of the best teams to ever lace them up, but is Caron wrong? Isn’t the combination of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade — with Chris Bosh and a hell of a supporting cast — enough to at least bring the Heat into the discussion?
- Andre Miller and Chauncey Billups are two big, strong point guards that have made the most of their size by posting up smaller opposing guards. The Mavs have dabbled with using Jason Kidd in a similar capacity, but he just doesn’t have the scoring chops for it. Regardless, Sebastian Pruiti of NBA Playbook breaks down what it is that makes Miller and Billups so effective in the post.
- Kelly Dwyer is ranking the top 30 players in each of the five conventional positions, beginning with point guards. You can see the first installment (30-21) here, and the second (20-11) here. Jason Kidd comes in at #12, which may seem a bit harsh, but consider the 11 PGs likely to top Kidd in Dwyer’s rankings (in no particular order): Deron Williams, Chris Paul, Steve Nash, Jameer Nelson (already confirmed as #11), Rajon Rondo, Chauncey Billups, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Devin Harris, Tony Parker, and Tyreke Evans. Of those 11, which would you pick Kidd to best in the coming season?
- Jeff Fox of Hoops Manifesto takes a stab at listing the top 10 Mavericks of all-time.
- Rodrigue Beaubois’ surgery was successful.
- From Caron Butler’s blog on HoopsHype: “Aside from the Tyson Chandler trade, my team has had a pretty quiet offseason. I’m not surprised. We had a great roster already. The management looked at the team and thought change wasn’t needed.” Well…that’s certainly one interpretation of the summer’s events.
- Jason Terry on LeBron, Wade, and Bosh uniting in Miami (via Rey Moralde of The No Look Pass): “They gotta come through Texas first. We’ll see what happens. I’m still mad about the ’06 Finals. LeBron just walked into a fire he doesn’t know about.”
- Udonis Haslem, to whom the Mavs had reportedly offered their MLE, will re-sign with the Miami Heat for a significantly lesser salary. Hard to blame him, especially when he’s choosing both loyalty to the franchise/fan base and a better shot at a title over the extra coin.
- Tim MacMahon of ESPN Dallas makes an interesting note about Ian Mahinmi’s future development with the Mavs: “One issue with Mahinmi: He’s played two years in the D-League already, so he can’t be shipped to Frisco. That means he’ll have to develop without getting many minutes.”
- Mark Cuban doesn’t seem too happy with the way the Superfriends assembled.
- The Mavs are apparently growing more amenable to the idea of parting with Erick Dampier’s contract to acquire Al Jefferson…as long as Minnesota is willing to also take on DeShawn Stevenson’s $4.2 million expiring contract and the $11.7 million left on Matt Caroll’s deal. If anything goes down regarding Jefferson and the Mavs, it will almost certainly a package of draft picks headed Minny’s way (likely with a few first rounders). However, Marc Stein reported a bit later that the Utah Jazz have moved to the front of the pack to acquire Al, which puts quite the damper on the Mavs’ plans.
- Dirk will officially sign with the Mavs later this week.
- Rick Carlisle on John Wall’s debut (via Kevin Arnovitz): “He has fantastic ability and tremendous upside. He’s a different version of Derrick Rose, a little different kind of player, a little different body type and a little different style of play. They both have a great ability to defend. As they learn more, they’ll both get better and better. Wall is a little longer athletically and maybe a little more of a scorer.”
- Mark Deeks/Sham Sports parses through the Mavs’ Summer League roster.
Ed. note: Now that the Mavs have re-signed Brendan Haywood and the Celtics have signed Jermaine O’Neal, consider this a comparative piece explaining the Mavs’ choice. Haywood was the better option all along for a number of reasons, and if it came down to Dallas choosing between which center to pursue, they made the right call.
There is no poetry to Brendan Haywood’s game. Many of his moves lack polish, and he isn’t easily captured in cliché. Haywood is simply an effective individual defender and a capable finisher at the 5 who is somehow unspectacular enough to live comfortably under the radar and skilled enough to be a vital part of the Mavs’ off-season plans. Regardless of what you’ve read elsewhere, Haywood is the option at center. Any reasonable alternative (Chandler, Biedrins, Jefferson, Shaq, etc.) save from Jermaine O’Neal would be a clear defensive downgrade, and none of those players can boast Brendan’s two-way utility.
That’s why it warms my heart that the Mavs are now linked to the fairer O’Neal, even if he’s not quite the catch that Brendan is. Their defensive abilities are certainly comparable, but what worries me most about Jermaine are his offensive delusions and relatively inferior rebounding. Last season, O’Neal averaged about six more FGAs per 36 minutes than Haywood, despite the fact that the two are roughly equal in terms of their offensive efficiency. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it would be rather important for O’Neal to not see his roles on the Mavs and Heat as congruent. Miami’s dearth of scorers last season afforded Jermaine an opportunity to be more of a focal point, whereas he would fall down a few pegs on the Mavs’ scoring ladder.
If not for a few rather glaring asterisks on O’Neal’s application, he could be considered Haywood’s equal. Jermaine is 31 going on 60, and heavy minutes, significant usage, and a long NBA career have sent O’Neal’s athletic abilities through a meat processing plant. Even though Haywood isn’t likely to improve from here on out, his career is at least moving laterally, which in this case functions as an advantage. O’Neal’s injuries are also a bit of a concern, as he’s played 70+ games just twice in his last seven seasons (Haywood played five 70+ game seasons over that same span).
However, the most frightening footnote of all — fair or unfair — is O’Neal’s latest playoff performance. Jermaine completely disappeared against Boston’s defense in the first round, when Miami needed offense more than ever. Dwyane Wade desperately needed some kind of help to make the series competitive, but Jermaine could only manage 4.2 points and 5.6 rebounds on 20.5% shooting. In case you’re curious, that’s good for a 2.5 PER. The Celtics were operating at a special level all throughout the playoffs, but that’s the same level at which the Mavs hope to compete. If Jermaine couldn’t even manage to be competent against the turned backs of the Celtics while all eyes were on Wade, would he really be a wise choice for the Mavs’ starting center?
Haywood was merely himself during the Mavs’ abbreviated postseason run, and made three more field goals than O’Neal (12 to 9) despite taking about half of the attempts (21 to 44). He didn’t step outside himself, defended well when given the opportunity, and played the victim almost as well as Rodrigue Beaubois. There should never have been any dispute over who was Dallas’ rightful starting center, yet Brendan was denied both minutes and opportunities on the basis of some ridiculous criterion. It didn’t stop him from posting a 19.3 PER over six playoff games, but Haywood was clearly restricted from making his full impact by forces outside his control.
A Haywood-O’Neal center tandem would be fantastic for Dallas, but it’s admittedly a bit of a long-shot. The Mavs and Jermaine were both reportedly interested in a union, but since, the Celtics have emerged as the front-runners to sign O’Neal. On top of that, Miami is a legitimate option for Brendan Haywood if they fail to entice LeBron James (luckily, there doesn’t seem to be any other serious competition). LeBron would eat up the cap space with Haywood’s name on it, and while his joining with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh would be the bane of the league at large, it would be a positive development for the Mavs. With no one left to bid against, Dallas would likely be able to come to reasonable terms with Brendan, and the starting five for next season would be secured. Throw in a coup for Jermaine and good return on Dampier, and the Mavs have the potential to be one of the most complete teams in basketball.
UPDATE 11:59 AM CST: According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, Jermaine O’Neal has agreed to sign with the Boston Celtics. Well, it was fun while it lasted, folks.
Donnie Nelson, who was bound for the Rhineland, will instead head to a slightly more local destination: Dirk Nowitzki’s home. Nowitzki altered the initial plans and opted to meet Nelson in Dallas rather than have Donnie come to him, which could indicate a number of things. From where I’m sitting, it doesn’t seem to be any kind of negative for the Mavs; while Dirk coming back to Dallas could actually make it easier for him to visit with reps from other teams around the league, there’s also something affirming about his homecoming.
Everything starts with Dirk. I know this, you know this, and rest assured that Donnie and Mark Cuban know this.
“If Dirk doesn’t stay, our whole world changes…There is no mix if there’s no Dirk in the mix,” [Nelson] said.
With him, Dallas is among the more intriguing free agent destinations and a viable candidate for a sign-and-trade. Without him, the Mavs are very questionable to make the playoffs at all, and could easily slip into the mid-lottery.
Mark Cuban is set to meet Joe Johnson in Los Angeles in what could be a rather futile endeavor. According to Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Hawks are set to offer Joe every penny they can: a full max offer for six years (one more year than any other team can because they own his Bird rights). It’s a ludicrous move for a good but hardly elite player, and it could end the Joe Johnson bidding war before it ever really began.
If Cunningham’s source is correct, the Hawks are willing to go further than any other team in the league would or could. NBA fans of every kind can only hope that Johnson’s potential max deal doesn’t act as a free agent barometer; if other players measure themselves against Joe, we could be looking at even more overpaid free agents than anticipated.
Regardless of how things turn out, Cuban is ready to jet set across the country to hit the free agent trail, but his exact destinations are somewhat unknown. I think it’s safe to say that visits or talks or communication of some kind between Cuban and both LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are scheduled, but the exact timing and nature of those discussions will only be revealed in the coming weeks.
Rick Carlisle is set to be on Brendan Haywood’s doorstep when free agency begins, which is both great news and odd news. It’s terrific that the Mavs are giving Haywood the royal treatment, because while he isn’t quite as essential to the Mavs’ future as Dirk, he’s not far behind. Dallas is lost without a real center, and considering that most of the off-season gameplan revolves around shipping out Erick Dampier, it’s imperative that the Mavs have someone reliable to man the middle next season. Brendan is as good of a choice as any, and although his time in Dallas thus far has been unremarkable, he can and will do better with more experience in the Mavs’ system.
The starting job is there for Brendan if he chooses to return. Here’s the team’s stance courtesy of Donnie Nelson, via Art Garcia of NBA.com:
“That’s just a natural progression of that position,” Nelson said. “Those two guys, as a one-two punch, are a pretty formidable center tandem, but I think it would just be, like I said, just a natural progression for Haywood to step into that role.”
However, given that his relationship with Rick Carlisle has never been all that sunny, I find the choice in delegation a bit curious. Obviously Rick and Brendan maintain a sense of professionalism in their interactions, but when we’re talking about an unrestricted free agent who is going to get competitive offers from other teams and is a crucial part of Dallas’ immediate future, I’d want someone a bit more endearing to Haywood on his porch. It’s probably a non-issue, but why risk it?
Free agency officially begins at midnight tonight (EST), and there’s sure to be a flurry of reports and activity. Everyone wants to know who is going where with whom and for how much, and the pressure to report that information first will be rather incredible. Consider sources. Read everything with skepticism. Don’t misunderstand silence for disagreement, and don’t think that every hesitation is worthy of panic. If Dirk wants to take his time to consider his options, it’s his right. If LeBron James wants to sit on his choice until the start of training camp, he can. No one can accurately gauge the pace of free agency until it begins, but I think it’s safe to say that everything won’t be resolved overnight.
Get comfortable for the long haul, because even the deals that are “done” aren’t, and the moves that are “a lock” are often anything but. There’s so much yet to happen and a lifetime before it all does, so be patient, stay tuned, and hope for the best.
The morning’s rumor of a potential Joe Johnson sign-and-trade isn’t likely to satisfy Maverick fans’ insatiable palates for additional stars. After months of hoping and wishing that Erick Dampier’s contract would be able to score a truly remarkable player in return, Johnson may seem rather bland.
There’s nothing wrong with Joe. He’s a fine shooting guard. One of the best in the league, in fact. He’s just not a talented enough player to radically change the way the Mavs operate. Dallas would be a better team on both offense and defense, but Johnson isn’t the kind of transformational talent some may have been hoping for.
Dwyane Wade is, and after months of internet silence concerning the possibility of him becoming a Maverick, it seems Wade may be more interested than initially thought. From Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel (via DallasBasketball.com):
The Miami Heat just might win a triple crown. A source close to Dwyane Wade said the Heat guard believes his team is poised to pull off a free-agency coup of landing himself, Cleveland Cavaliers guard LeBron James and Toronto Raptors forward Chris Bosh.
However that same source, as well as a party inside the league, told the Sun Sentinel that Wade also plans to cover himself during the initial days of the free-agency negotiating period by scheduling interviews with the New York Knicks, Chicago Bulls, and, in somewhat of a surprise, the Dallas Mavericks.
There are a number of reasons why Wade is unlikely to end up in Dallas, most of which I’ve already articulated. That said, the fact that Dwyane is considering the Mavs a legitimate possibility speaks to both the quality of the franchise and this opportunity. If Winderman’s source is indeed correct, Dallas has secured a spot at Wade’s table, even while other teams with cap space — New Jersey and Los Angeles being the most notable — are on the outside looking in. That’s big for not only the Mavs’ chances of stealing away one of the best players in the game, but also their viability in other trade or sign-and-trade scenarios.
Most reports concerning Wade’s future point to him staying in Miami while luring other talented players to the Heat. That seems a realistic outcome, given the ridiculous amount of cap room Pat Riley has cleared in anticipation of free agency. Supposing there is some truth to those reports — and there does seem to be, particularly to Wade’s affinity for Miami — the Mavs’ best chance of luring Dwyane would be a doomsday scenario in which Wade was somehow left out in the nuclear winter. For instance, if LeBron James and Chris Bosh go to the Bulls, Joe Johnson and Amar’e Stoudemire sign with the Knicks, and Carlos Boozer picks the Nets, that would put Wade in a bit of a bind. Sure, he could push for Riley to sign David Lee and Rudy Gay, but something tells me that’s not quite the payoff Dwyane is looking for.
Even if the chips fall as described, Wade coming to the Mavs would hardly be a sure thing. Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson would face the same sign-and-trade pitfalls as they would with any other free agent target, putting a lot of power in the hands of competing GMs.
Regardless, I’m still entranced by the idea of a collision between Mavs fans and the man that set the 2006 Finals ablaze. It’s something I’ve discussed numerous times in this space as the possibility of Wade playing for Dallas has come and gone throughout the last year. Still, I remain fascinated by the potential acquisition as an invaluable case study in the power of laundry.
The Spurs may be the closest thing the Mavs have ever had to a true rival, but no singular source has done more damage to Dallas as a franchise than Dwyane Wade. He denied the Mavs their best opportunity at an NBA title, the one elusive accomplishment that burns a hole in Dirk Nowitzki’s résumé. He’s at least part of the reason that Avery Johnson lost his job, that Dirk doesn’t get the respect he deserves, that the Mavs traded Devin Harris for Jason Kidd, and that Dallas remains something of an NBA punchline. I know time heals all wounds and all that, but I’m sure the thought of Dwyane’s parade to the free throw line still leaves plenty of MFFLs a little queasy.
None of that can be repaired. Nothing Dallas ever does will win back that 2006 title, or take back everything that happened in the fallout. Yet if Mark and Donnie were to somehow put Wade in a Maverick uniform, not only would he be absolved for his sins against the franchise we know and love, but he’d be revered as a pillar of the team’s present and future, regardless of his past. That’s a pretty huge reversal, and a testament to Wade’s abilities. The league’s top players are viewed in a vacuum, and regardless of who Dwyane is, where he’s been, or what he’s done, he’d be welcomed like a star to the city he burned to the ground.
- We already knew this was going to happen, but the Mavs have announced they will pick up J.J. Barea’s $1.8 million team option for next season. Michael Dugat of DallasBasketball.com compared Barea to other reserve point guards around the league by using base statistics, and the results show about what you’d expect: we’re all far harsher on Barea than we should be.
- The Mavs plan to bring in Brian Zoubek for a workout, likely as a prospect for the 50th pick.
- Eddy Rivera reviews Brandon Bass’ 2009-2010 season for Magic Basketball: “In retrospect, it’s fair to wonder why general manager Otis Smithsigned Brandon Bass. There’s no question that Bass is a good player but he’s the equivalent of being a round peg trying to be inserted into a square hole. Bass’ strengths as a player are completely the opposite to what makes the Magic successful. For instance, even taking into account his efficiency on offense, Bass is the lone player on Orlando that bases his game around the mid-range jumper. Add to the fact that Bass was never able to learn the Magic’s defensive schemes and there shouldn’t be a surprise that he barely saw minutes this year.”
- We should know by the end of the day whether or not Dwane Casey will be the next coach of the Atlanta Hawks.
- Andris Biedrins is a very attainable non-free agent that the Mavs could score this summer, but doing so would mean Dallas struck out on a number of fronts beforehand. If Nelson and Cuban end up using Dampier’s contract to grab Biedrins, it’s merely consolation. Still, better something than nothing, right?
- UPDATE: Jason Terry, on Nate Robinson’s performance in Game 4 of the NBA Finals: “What a game from 1 6th man to another nate way 2 show up and show out town bizness”
- UPDATE: John Hollinger ranked the top 50 single-game Finals performances of all-time, and Dwyane Wade’s Game 3 and Game 6 in 2006 ranked 9th and 19th respectively.
- Caron Butler was on the Scott Van Pelt Show, where he shot the breeze on the nature of NBA stardom, Kobe Bryant traveling with him to his hometown of Racine, Wisconsin for ribs, and a few Mavs topics (via ESPN Dallas).
- Speaking of Caron, you can now follow him on Twitter at @realtuffjuice.
- Wang Zhizhi listed Britney Spears, N*SYNC, and the Backstreet Boys as his favorite artists for his NBA.com profile. That is all.
- Rodrigue Beaubois made the Team for NBA Hipsters, Dirk Nowitzki was righteous even in defeat, and Caron Butler is apparently a member of Team Edward; there’s lots of fun to be had with Shoals and Ziller in their playoff retrospective.
- Chad Ford says there’s a 10% chance that Dirk ends up on the Phoenix Suns this summer (and a 15-20% chance that Dirk leaves the Mavs). That number seems awfully high to me, but then again Ford was put on the spot with a specific, numerical question in the middle of a chat. My guess of 1.854% probably wouldn’t be any more or less accurate, since dumbing these things down to a percentage is pretty ridiculous. Still, for what it’s worth, there are basketball brains out there that think this is a legit possibility. I still don’t see it.
- ESPN’s Free Agent Slot Machine is nothing more than a neat little distraction, but for what it’s worth, I wasn’t able to get LeBron to wind up on the Mavs in what was probably over 100 spins (though Nick Taylor was, on his fifth roll of the dice). Dallas also isn’t even listed as a possible destination for Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, or Joe Johnson according to ESPN’s experts, leaving James as the only big-name free agent the Mavs have a shot at.
- Mark Cuban isn’t the only owner to be fined for his comments regarding LeBron James, even if the price of Cubes’ CNN Money spot remains the most substantial. The Hawks’ Michael Gearon Jr. was fined $25,000 by the league for tampering, and according to Brian Windhorst of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, it was due to this remark made by Gearon to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “If somebody came to us tomorrow and said you can have LeBron for max money and it puts you in the luxury tax, I’d do it in a a heartbeat. But am I going to do that for Ilgauskas? Am I going to do it for Jermaine O’Neal? I don’t think so…”
- Question of the day: should it be considered tampering if Dwyane Wade, a free agent himself, discredits an entire franchise that just so happens to be a player this summer? How about if he sits down to have a discussion with other free agents? The NBA isn’t exactly the thought police, even if they’d like to be, and it’s always going to be an impossible task to control what players do in their spare time. That said, which has a bigger impact: Cuban’s comments on the record with CNN, or Wade having a heart-to-heart with LeBron and Joe Johnson?
- If so, is this tampering?
- I’m way late on linking this fantastic write up by Kelly Dwyer on Dwane Casey, but give it a read if you haven’t already. It’s not always easy to determine the value of a specific assistant coach, unless that coach has an outrageously public or specific role (think Boston’s Tom Thibodeau). That said, if you think the Mavs losing Casey to the Hawks wouldn’t be a loss, you’re sadly mistaken. This is a coach that’s well-deserving of a head gig somewhere, and Dallas has the luxury of having him as an assistant. That’s going to change at some point and it could be this summer. Casey deserves a team of his own, and while all Mavs fans should be happy for him should he finally get such a team this summer, it’d also be a notable off-season loss.
- Kris Humphries on Mark Cuban, to Paul Allen (no, not that one) of 1130 AM in Minneapolis: “(Mark Cuban) is so into it and so on the refs. It’s human nature, if a ref doesn’t like you, you’re not going to get calls. One thing that was funny to me is one time during the game, Mark’s riding the ref. He sits literally right on the baseline by the bench. He’s riding the refs and Dirk turns over to him and he’s like in a few choice words basically, ‘Be quiet because they’re just going to screw us more.’”
- A third baseman for Oklahoma said that his team “doesn’t want to be the Dallas Mavericks.” Ouch.
- Kiki Vandeweghe went the way of Del Harris in New Jersey, in similarly abrupt fashion.
- Slipped through the cracks here, probably because it was a given: DeShawn Stevenson picked up his $4.15 million player option for next season.
The Mavs’ potential for off-season turnover exists regardless of how deep they go into the playoffs. Given the unique financial circumstances afforded to the Mavericks this summer and the never-ending arms race that exists between NBA teams, no one should be surprised to see Dallas make significant changes this summer even if they somehow stumbled their way to an NBA title.
The reason for that is Erick Dampier. Due to the unique performance-related incentives of Dampier’s contract, he can be traded this off-season and then his entire 2010-2011 salary can be subsequently voided. That makes him an invaluable piece in a potential sign-and-trade, supposing Mark Cuban and the Mavs can entice one of this summer’s bigger talents and manage to convince a rival GM to play ball.That’s what makes Dallas’ off-season outlook so difficult to predict: if the Mavs are to acquire anyone of note this summer by using a sign-and-trade, they’ll have to do it with the blessing of the team said player is deserting. Accurately gauging how willing another GM may be to do such a thing requires an intimate knowledge of management style, manager personalities, ownership complications, and overall team strategy that goes far beyond my pay-grade.
Instead, the best way to predict which players could interest the Mavs is simply to analyze which among them may be the most attractive. Unfortunately, that also hinges greatly on the status of the Mavs’ own unrestricted free agent, Brendan Haywood. Haywood is a franchise center. He’s a capable big that can catch and finish, he’s a top-notch interior defender, and he helps well. Should Dallas lose him to another team this summer, their irrefutable free agent strategy would be aimed at securing another big man. Dampier seems like a lock to be moved; should his salary become fully guaranteed for net season by Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson’s choice, he’ll be owed $13 million next season. I consider myself a stronger advocate of Dampier than most, and I’ll be the first to admit that his level of production doesn’t even whiff that price tag. The allure of dropping Damp’s salary — either by trade or by cutting him loose should the right opportunity not present itself — is simply to great for him to remain a Maverick at his current salary, which makes Haywood an essential piece in the free agency equation. We know that Dirk Nowitzki is not a center, and should Dallas be left Haywood-less, they would essentially have four options:
- Sign a cheap, veteran center for the minimum to start and play major minutes for the team. (Read: disaster.)
- Try to acquire a center like Shaquille O’Neal, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Ian Mahinmi, or Jermaine O’Neal using the mid-level exception.
- Try to acquire a power forward and play him at center, either through a desperate grab for Chris Bosh, a run at a mid-level guy like restricted free agent Luis Scola, etc.
- Scrap the free agency dream entirely and try to trade Damp to a team looking to get out from under their center’s contract (Nene, Andris Biedrins, etc.).
How Haywood’s negotiations go this summer obviously hold enormous implications for the Mavs’ off-season plans, so speculating beyond that point is probably fruitless.
So consider me without fruits; I can’t help but think that a number of stars could look awfully good in a Maverick uniform.
LeBron James is this summer’s big prize, but the likelihood of him somehow ending up in Dallas is incredibly slim. It’d be nice, sure, and the Mavs would probably offer him the best chance to compete immediately of any potential destinations. The team is already established in Dallas, and that’s enticing. Then again, do you know where the team is also already established? Cleveland. Who knows how this year’s playoffs will affect LeBron’s decision, but title or not, I like the odds of him sticking with the Cavs.
Chris Bosh also seems like a pipe dream, mainly due to two factors: Bosh does not want to play center, as he’s expressed time and time again in Toronto, and he wants to be The Man, which he wouldn’t be in Dallas. The key in the Mavs acquiring any signed-and-traded free agent is the player’s desire (not just willingness) to come play for Dallas, and Bosh could be described as lukewarm at best when approached about the possibility of playing in his hometown.
Instead, if I’m the Mavs, I have my eyes fixed on the fortunes of two players, one of which is an incredibly unlikely target and the other only mildly unlikely: Dwyane Wade and Joe Johnson.
Caron Butler is only the illusion of a starting shooting guard. He can, in theory, shoot, score, handle the ball a bit, and defend. He just doesn’t manage to do the former two efficiently, and his defensive abilities are competent and only likely to diminish with his age. Butler’s Game 5 explosion was so welcome because of the contrast it posed to his typically inefficient scoring nights, and having other scoring threats like Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry around Butler hasn’t elevated his efficiency like we thought it might. He’s more or less the same player he was in Washington, only playing well into April.
That leaves the Mavs still looking for a legitimate 2-guard, and the combination of Damp’s contract provisions and Butler’s expiring deal gives Dallas a unique opportunity. They could potentially offer a team like Miami or Atlanta a player of Butler’s caliber in a sign-and-trade, while also allowing them to dump a bit of salary in exchange for Dampier’s deal. The ability of those teams to acquire Damp and then cut him immediately at no cost is something that no other team in the league can offer in a sign-and-trade, which does give Dallas a bit of an edge. Enough of an edge to willingly sign off on the departure of a franchise player? Probably not, but the Mavs are hoping so.
The wild card in all of this is Rodrigue Beaubois. The rook quickly carved out a niche for himself as a highly efficient scorer, and he hasn’t even begun to actualize his full potential as an NBA player. Few players come into the league with the gifts that Beaubois possesses, and should the right prize be available, Dallas may dangle him as trade bait. Teams may not be eager to give up their star player for Butler and Damp’s savings alone, but if Cuban and Nelson are willing to include a rookie guard that has star written all over him? I’m guessing they’d at least get their phone calls returned.
As for the two players I specified, it’s simple: shooting guard would be the Mavs’ biggest hole in the rotation if they can hang on to Haywood, and Jason Terry wasn’t necessarily the ideal candidate, even his prime. JET still has plenty left and is ideal as a sixth man, but just doesn’t have the size or defensive aptitude necessary to guard opposing shooting guards well, and isn’t very good at guarding opposing point guards, either. Terry is much improved on the defensive end, but even those improvements don’t have him quite where he would need to be in order to be a highly effective starter.
Two guys that do have that defensive ability — in addition to elite offensive skills — are Wade and Johnson.
Wade is the dream that probably shouldn’t even be chased. For one, because Miami and Chicago are considered the favorites to acquire him. Rightfully so, as both can try to pair him with very talented players, and both boast some sort of hometown advantage. I’m confident one of those teams will land Wade, and they’ll be very, very happy together.
The Mavs could still have an opportunity to play home-wrecker here, supposing Pat Riley is willing to play along with Cuban and Nelson’s plans. I don’t see that as even a remote possibility, but again, I’m not Riles. Maybe he’s very high on Beaubois, or decides he wants to give Caron another go with the Heat, or maybe just wants to do right by Wade for all that he’s done for the franchise. These are not probable scenarios but they are scenarios, and the Mavs would be considered fools if they didn’t do their due diligence when the top shooting guard in the league (yeah, I said it) becomes available.
There would be, of course, that one thing. That one little thing. That one little he single-handedly (we’re not counting officials) destroyed the Mavs in the 2006 Finals thing. It would certainly make the relationship…interesting. There were comments exchanged from both sides in 2006-2007, the thought of the series still stings most Mavs fans, and I can only offer one piece of advice to all parties involved: get over it. This is Dwyane Wade. He’s a remarkable player with a hell of a career still ahead of him, and even though it’s extremely unlikely he’ll wind up a Maverick, the very thought should have Mavs fans sending him love letters and fruit baskets. They don’t come much better than Wade, and regardless of the past between him and the Mavs, his talent and Dallas’ needs should make him a top priority.
Consider Joe Johnson the back-up plan. He’s older, less efficient on offense, a bit slower on defense, and generally not as Dwyane Wadey as Dwyane Wade is. That doesn’t mean he would be anything less than an excellent addition for Dallas. Messing with Atlanta is always a mess, but I think Beaubois could pose an intriguing piece for the Hawks in particular. There’s no reason that Rodrigue can’t do everything that Mike Bibby currently does, only with better activity on the defensive end, better driving ability, and impressive length. He could be a perfect point guard if the Hawks continue on with Mike Woodson (or at least his offensive and defensive systems), and Atlanta may find the idea of getting Beaubois back in a sign-and-trade far more palatable than letting Johnson walk.
However, as talented as Johnson is, there are two concerns. For one, giving a 29-year-old a five or six year deal could end up being a nightmare, especially with the new CBA likely decreasing the possibility of such long-term, lucrative deals in the future. Second, a lot of Caron Butler’s more irritating habits also exist in Johnson, Joe is just better. He’s still a jumpshooter and a lot of his offense in Atlanta has been isolation-centered, he’s just a better player than Caron. Whether that’s good enough to put the Mavs over the proverbial hump or not is unknown, but it’s certainly not a bad start.
It’s almost trite at this point to say “stay tuned,” but that’s exactly the approach Mavs fans should take with regard to the team’s future. So much of what the Mavs will be able to do depends on who wants what, who goes where, and what teams have which options on the table. Fathoming all of that a few months in advance definitely qualifies as impossible, and all that we’re left with is a microscope fixed on the free agent class, an ear on every news and legitimate rumor available, and a head full of pipe dreams and possibilities. The dominoes will be falling soon enough, and we know Mark Cuban will be ready to pull the trigger. Until then, all eyes should rest on Brendan Haywood, who could very well determine the Mavs’ free agent destiny.