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Where Do the Mavericks Go From Here?
Posted By Derek Page On April 17, 2013 @ 12:00 pm In Main Page,NBA | No Comments
After striking out in the Deron Williams/Dwight Howard sweepstakes this past summer, the Dallas Mavericks rallied to put together a makeshift, playoff-hopeful heading into the season. Things didn’t quite go as planned in Dallas as Dirk Nowitzki missed a chunk of the season after preseason knee surgery and the Mavs couldn’t get back on track. The thrown-together roster failed to gain any cohesion over the course of the year and played selfish, me-first basketball – exactly what you would expect from a team featuring so many players on one-year deals.
Dallas started the season 25-32 with Nowitzki on the shelf and subsequently playing his way back into game shape before going on a tear to start the month of March. Dallas has gone 15-9 since March 1 but struggled in the month of April, going just 4-4 down the stretch to miss the playoffs for the first time in 12 years.
If Nowitzki suits up for the majority of the year, this Mavs team likely makes the postseason but that doesn’t solve the many underlying problems for Dallas. Defense and rebounding – two keys to the Mavericks’ NBA Title in 2011 – were nonexistent this season and are areas of concern heading into the offseason.
The Mavericks finished the season with the fourth-worst scoring defense in the NBA (allowing 101.9 per) to go along with the third-worst rebounding differential per game (-3.4) in the NBA. Now, with ten players possibly entering the free agent market this summer, Dallas has the flexibility to make one final push to become contenders again with Nowitzki entering the twilight of his career.
A disappointing 2012-13 season is coming to a close but these Mavs will have plenty of flexibility this summer in an effort to bounce back next season.
Head coach Rick Carlisle has done a remarkable job of keeping this team from imploding this year. Considering the enormous amount of pressure from owner Mark Cuban and featuring a dysfunctional roster, Carlisle should be commended for producing a possible .500 squad this year.
Carlisle’s greatest strength as an NBA coach is his ability to squeeze the most production out of the supporting cast on his roster. The league knows what Nowitzki is going to do on a night-in, night-out basis but getting the most out of players like Darren Collison, Brandan Wright, Jae Crowder, etc is crucial in developing a championship squad. Most likely, Carlisle will have a whole new batch of players to coach up and develop again next season.
The Finals-winning head coach signed a four-year contract extension this past summer and isn’t likely going anywhere anytime soon.
With so much influx expected on the roster this summer, it’s difficult to tell which direction the Mavericks will go in the 2013 NBA draft. Lottery-bound for the first time in over 12 years, Dallas has the possibility of landing a top-pick in this year’s draft.
The Mavericks owe a first-round pick to the Houston Rockets as a result of the Lamar Odom blunder deal in 2011. However, the pick is top-20 protected through 2017 so Dallas will have a first-rounder in June.
The most recent HOOPSWORLD Mock Draft has Dallas taking Michigan standout center Mitch McGary at 14th overall. Center is certainly a need in Dallas and McGary already has a solid repertoire for a 20-year old collegiate player.
Adding more depth to the frontline is a need but it’s more prudent for the Mavs – if they keep the pick – to simply take the best player available with their first-round pick. There are too many holes, and open roster spots, on this Dallas squad for this team to try to draft for a need this summer.
This is not a team that generally builds its roster through the draft (only Nowitzki and rookie Jae Crowder are Mavs’ draft picks that were contributors this season) but Dallas must make the most of its top pick in June.
Free Agency and Trades:
This aspect is going to be crucial if the Mavericks hope to be contenders one last time before the dust settles on Nowitzki’s NBA career. Dallas features 10 players with the possibility of becoming free agents this summer when you include Shawn Marion (Early Termination Option) and O.J. Mayo (Player Option). The Mavs also have two players eligible for Qualifying Offers in Rodrigue Beaubois and Darren Collison that could also be on their way out. These four join Chris Kaman, Brandan Wright, Anthony Morrow, Elton Brand, Mike James and Bernard James (Non-Guaranteed contract) as possible free agents this offsesaon.
With $9.3 million on the table, it’s unlikely that Marion bolts to free agency and, after a disappointing close to the season, Mayo might want to stay and collect his 4.2 mill next year. Still, Dallas will likely possess enough money this summer to try to secure a max-level player in free agency.
Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and Josh Smith are the only healthy, clear-cut difference-makers on the free agent market and are players the Mavericks will pursue with vigor. There’s almost zero chance that either Paul or Howard leave LA, even with Kobe Bryant hobbled with the Lakers, so count them out.
This leaves Smith as the only viable option in the Mavericks’ pursuit of another All-Star caliber player to put next to Nowitzki. The only problem is that both players play the same position and neither Nowitzki (center) nor Smith (small forward) want to move or have been successfully playing other positions. The front office in Dallas may not care about that conundrum however, considering sources say the Mavs offered up everyone on the roster but Nowitzki for Smith at the trade deadline.
Another option could be a desperate push from Dallas to try to acquire Philadelphia 76ers hobbled center Andrew Bynum. While the Mavs possess the money to try to lure the tumultuous Bynum to Dallas, it’s highly unlikely that the Sixers let him walk considering the huge investment they’ve already made in the 25-year old. Barring a sign-and-trade, Philadelphia can pay Bynum the most and have the fast-track in keeping the young All-Star.
More affordable options for Dallas could be players such as Al Jefferson, Tony Allen, Kevin Martin (a player the Mavs have had in their crosshairs for some time now) or Jarrett Jack.
Jefferson could be a viable option for the right price but he’s not the type of player that you can put next to Nowitzki and believe that puts Dallas over the hump.
Allen is a leader and veteran locker room presence that could help the right Mavs’ roster exponentially but is more likely to stay in Memphis with a solid contender in the Grizzlies.
Martin has proven his ability to score and is adept at getting to the basket but would have to take significantly less than the 12.4 mill he made with the Thunder this season.
Jack is a player I’d keep my eye on because A. He’s a vet, which Carlisle is enamored with at the point guard position and B. He can be had for a reasonable price and would provide a whole lot of bang for the Mavericks’ buck.
Possible restricted players the Mavs should have interest in include: Brandon Jennings, Gerald Henderson, Tyreke Evans and Nikola Pekovic. It’s highly unlikely that Jennings or Pekovic leave their respective teams, and Henderson is frankly a stretch, but Evans could be an option. He’s been the odd-man out in Sacramento over the last few seasons and Dallas could make a strong run at the 23-year old guard.
In terms of trade, the only two attractive trade chips Dallas is likely to possess are the potential expiring contracts of Marion and sixth-man Vince Carter. If Marion stays, those two will combine to make nearly $12.5 million next season in Dallas and could be had for a team looking for a salary dump.
The problem for Dallas is that they had an abundance of expiring contracts at their disposal this season at the deadline and teams refused to bite on the Mavs’ offers..
The pressure is on Cuban and the Mavericks’ front office to make a serious splash this summer. Whether it’s a free agent signing or trade acquisition, the onus is on Dallas to acquire another elite-level player to benefit Nowitzki over the next few seasons and then carry the Mavs into the future.
In an extremely competitive Western Conference, Dallas is going to have to make some impressive moves this offseason to become contenders in 2014. Everything needs to go the Mavs’ way this summer in order for this team to be able to compete with teams like San Antonio and Oklahoma City in the West next season.
A healthy Nowitzki and a solid free agent coup this summer makes the Mavericks a bona-fide playoff squad next season but only an All-Star level acquisition makes Dallas contenders. At 34-years old and with just one year left on his contract, Nowitzki’s final season could be spent battling for the seventh or eighth seed out West.
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