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NBA AM: The Offseason’s Most Dangerous Team?
Posted By Derek Page On May 8, 2013 @ 8:00 am In NBA | No Comments
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The 2013 NBA Offseason’s Most Dangerous Team
Heading into the 2013 NBA offseason, there’s a prominent franchise biding its time and ready to strike when free agency opens this July. The Dallas Mavericks dismantled a championship team just two seasons ago with the idea that flexibility would set them up for what is expected to be a monster summer in free agency.
The difficult decision of letting then 28-year-old and eventual Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler walk (and the Mavs’ future championship hopes along with him) in the summer of 2011 was in preparation for this free agent class. This puts owner Mark Cuban and the rest of the Mavs’ brass in the proverbial pressure cooker with the legitimate possibility that Dallas could strike out this summer. If Dallas can’t lure at least one potential or current All-Star into the fold this offseason, unloading the majority of the 2011 championship team will have been in vain.
Working in the Mavericks’ favor is the fact that they’re viewed around the NBA as a first class organization with an owner that puts an emphasis on accommodating his players throughout their time in Dallas. Another bonus is former NBA MVP Dirk Nowitzki’s presence on the Mavericks’ roster. Even though he’ll be 35 years old at the start of the 2013-14 season, Nowitzki is still an elite player and the seven-footer has a playing style that suggests he can be productive for many years to come.
Even though each of these players’ originating teams can give them longer, more fruitful contracts, joining the Mavericks in the state of Texas would ensure the lack of a state income tax. This puts Dallas on a more level playing field with teams out of states like California or Georgia, who can give players more years (five) and more overall money (around $110 million), but feature a state income tax.
Dallas has just four players guaranteed to be on its roster after the season, so the flexibility will be there to make a run at a max-level player this offseason. The Mavericks have also quietly contended since dismantling the squad after 2011 that this team would have the potential to lure not one but two superstars if the opportunity presented itself. While this remains to be seen, it wouldn’t be wise to underestimate what has been a shrewd and savvy Mavs front office since Cuban bought the team.
With that in mind, let’s take a deeper look at who the Mavericks will be targeting this offseason:
The Main Targets:
Dwight Howard, Center – Los Angeles Lakers
2012-13 Stats: 17.1 PPG, 12.4 RPG, 2.4 BLKPG, 19.48 PER
Dallas has been salivating over Howard since it was apparent that the big man would be hitting the free agent market and he’ll be their number one target when free agency gets underway. A hobbled Howard put up elite-level numbers despite playing all of this season at less than 100 percent. Originally expected to return to action closer to December or January after offseason back surgery, Howard was ready for training camp in September and started the season for L.A.
Howard finished the regular season first among centers in rebounding, fourth in scoring and third in blocks per game – quite the stat-line for an “off” year. Sources indicated as far back as Howard’s days with Orlando that Dallas was a top choice on his list and the Mavs will make their best pitch should he give them an audience this summer.
Chris Paul, Point Guard – Los Angeles Clippers
2012-2013 Stats: 16.9 PPG, 9.7 APG, 2.4 SPG, 26.43 PER
Although it appeared that Paul would almost assuredly stay in Los Angeles after the teams’ record-setting regular season, things could change after a quick first round postseason exit. Los Angeles was sent packing after losing four straight games by an average of 14 points this past week against Memphis Grizzlies, which didn’t sit well with Paul.
When healthy, Paul is likely the NBA’s best point guard and is a difference-maker on any prospective team that will vie to acquire his services this summer. The Mavericks’ pitch to land Paul should be the idea of playing with a veteran, proven presence like Nowitzki and the opportunity to craft the roster around those two for both next year and beyond.
Paul’s best option remains with the Clippers, but the Mavs could make a solid play for the All-Star point guard based on who else they’re able to acquire.
Josh Smith, Forward – Atlanta Hawks
2012-2013 Stats: 17.5 PPG, 8.4 RPB, 1.8 BLKPG, 17.82 PER
To no avail, Dallas did all it could aside from parting with Nowitzki to try to acquire the 27-year-old Smith at the 2013 NBA trade deadline. It’s clear that the Mavs have a legitimate interest in Smith and, based on his numerous trade requests over the past few years, Smith could have his mind settled on moving elsewhere.
Unfortunately for Dallas, Hawks general manager Danny Ferry and the Hawks have done everything in their power over the last year to try to keep Smith in Atlanta after this summer. Like the Mavs, Atlanta will have plenty of cash at their disposal to try to lure both Smith and potentially others to fortify the young Hawks.
Other Potential Options:
Al Jefferson, Center – Utah Jazz
2012-2013 Stats: 17.8 PPG, 9.2 RPB, 1.1 BLKPG, 20.99 PER
The 28-year-old center has been a steady, reliable contributor over the course of his nine NBA seasons and could be the perfect consolation prize should Dallas strike out on the three players above. While defense hasn’t exactly been his forte during his career, Jefferson’s offensive prowess and rebuilding skills would work wonders in Dallas.
Kevin Martin, Shooting Guard – Oklahoma City Thunder
2012-2013 Stats: 14 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 16.09 PER
A proven scorer, Martin represents a solid option and an idea the Mavericks have toyed with before at the shooting guard position. The only problem is that Martin doesn’t particularly do much else on the floor well and might be out of the Mavs’ price range depending on the desperation of other NBA teams.
Jarrett Jack, Point Guard – Golden State Warriors
2012-2013 Stats: 12.9 PPG , 5.6 APG, 3.1 RPG, 15.93 PER
A strong playoff push for the Warriors may have made Jack more expensive heading into the offseason, but that doesn’t mean the Mavs’ interest should subside. Jack has put up numbers as a back-up in Golden State that Mavericks’ point guards Darren Collison and Mike James could only dream of this season.
Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle prefers experience at the point guard position and the 29-year-old Jack has the potential to provide veteran savvy while still in the prime of his career.
Tyreke Evans (Restricted), Guard – Sacramento Kings
2012-2013 Stats: 15.2 PPG, 3.5 APG, 4.4 RPG, 18.16 PER
A forgotten man in Sacramento, Evans has shifted positions and been moved around the Kings’ lineup without hesitation the past few seasons, which could seal his exit this summer. Should the Kings decide not to extend Evans a qualifying offer (or not to match an offer from the Mavs), Dallas could be waiting in the wings to acquire the 23-year-old guard.
Brandon Jennings (Restricted), Point Guard – Milwaukee Bucks
2012-2013 Stats: 17.5 PPG, 6.5 APG, 3.1 RPG, 16.20 PER
While it’s unlikely that the Bucks, who will be able to match any offer submitted this summer, will let him go, Jennings is an intriguing option for Dallas. Another player in the Mavs’ crosshairs around the NBA trade deadline, Dallas views Jennings as a potential franchise point guard.
Nikola Pekovic (Restricted), Center – Minnesota Timberwolves
2012-2013 Stats: 16.3 PPG, 8.8 RPG, .8 BLKPG, 20.26 PER
It’s more likely that the Portland Trail Blazers will make a sizable offer to the breakout, third-year center and that the T-Wolves will subsequently match. Talented seven-footers in the vein of Pekovic don’t exactly grow on trees so Dallas would likely have to overpay to acquire the young center this summer.
Andrew Bynum, Center – Philadelphia 76ers
2012-2013 Stats: N/A
Even though he missed the entirety of the 2013 NBA season due to injury, Bynum is still a talented 25-year-old player with tremendous upside heading into the offseason. Bynum may be in line for a substantial offer despite missing a year and is likely a back-up plan on the Mavs’ agenda should other options fall through.
Mike Conley: Top-Five NBA Point Guard?
Mike Conley had no trouble coming through when his team needed him the most in a crucial Game 2 matchup that saw the Memphis Grizzlies steal home court from the Oklahoma City Thunder. With OKC’s defense keying on the Memphis frontcourt, Conley stepped up and gave the Grizzlies a lift by nearly notching his first career playoff triple-double and leading his team to a 99-93 victory on Tuesday night.
Conley notched team-highs in points (26), assists (9) and rebounds (10) last night against the Thunder and at least one teammate believes he’s among the league’s best at his position. Labeling Conley a top-five point guard might seem like a stretch to most NBA fans, but Grizzlies’ guard Tony Allen held fast in his belief that Conley was among the NBA’s best.
“I’ve been saying it for a long time: He’s up-and-coming,” Allen said. “He had 26 [points], nine [assists] and 10 [rebounds]. If I would’ve hit that three in the corner, he probably would’ve had a triple-double, but Mike Conley is now one of the top-five point guards in the league whether anybody like it or not. I know a lot of people got their favorites and who they think should be, but Mike Conley’s in the conversation now.
“He’s been able to do these type of things on the court night-in, night-out and I’ve watched him everyday get better.”
Memphis rode Conley’s performance, easily his best this postseason, to even the series with Oklahoma City at one game apiece heading back to the FedEx Forum.
“If I have to score, I’ll score,” Conley said. “If I have to be a facilitator, I’ll do that. I’m just trying to do whatever it takes to win. … I figured if we were going to win, I was going to have to step up, take control and take command of the ball.”
“He played like he’s been playing all season and we needed that,” Memphis head coach Lionel Hollins said.
In the span of a minute late in the fourth quarter, Conley hit two huge shoots – scoring five straight points that put the Grizzlies up 94-90 with 1:04 left in regulation. Conley’s late-game heroics weren’t lost on Thunder superstar Kevin Durant, who’s near triple-double of his own (36 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists) wasn’t enough to lead OKC to the win.
“He hit two big shots in the fourth quarter,” Durant said. “A player like that, you’ve just got to try make it tough on him.
“He came out and you can tell from the way he played that he was going to try and change the game.”
The Grizzlies now find themselves in the driver’s seat with three of the series’ next five games being played in Memphis on their home court. Even against a Thunder squad that’s missing it’s All-Star point guard in Russell Westbrook, the Grizzlies know they can’t take Durant or OKC lightly moving forward.
“We understand that there’s more work to be done,” Allen said. “For the most part I just like the fact that one through 15 each guy’s been focused.”
There’s a long break between Game 2 and Game 3 with the series’ next game not coming until Saturday night. Game 3 will be televised Saturday at 5 p.m. EST on ESPN.
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