Where Do The Mavericks Go From Here?
In some ways 2011-12 was a very disappointing season for the Dallas Mavericks. After all, they were the defending NBA champions and they were swept out of the playoffs in the first round. That might have been a little more disappointing if the team that lost in the first round was more like the team that won the championship, but as it was, the two teams bore little resemblance to each other.
Indeed, rather than approaching this season as an opportunity to defend a championship, the Mavs front office approached this season as a year of preparing for 2012 free agency. They signed a bunch of older veteran players to short-term deals and hoped it would be enough to appease their fans as they unofficially started rebuilding.
At the end, that veteran group was not nearly a match for the up-and-coming Oklahoma City Thunder.
Now we turn the page.
Before the start of the 2011-12 season Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle played good soldier, saying he enjoyed a challenge when he was asked about the departure of so many key pieces of his championship team. Of course, Carlisle had his own exit clause. Despite leading the Mavericks to their first franchise championship Carlisle’s contract was not extended, meaning he is now a free agent.
Just as players grow and develop with each passing season, coaches do, too. Carlisle has shown the ability to adapt and grow, as well, using elaborate stats to help push his players to new heights. He also became a master of utilizing strong assistant coaches while heading up the Mavericks. If Dallas decides not to bring Carlisle back he will have no shortage of offers from other teams looking for championship-caliber leadership from the sidelines.
The Mavericks should make a decision on the coaching front soon, as coaches almost always want to have input into the draft process, not to mention free agency.
The Mavericks have not been a team that builds through the draft, and that isn’t likely to change as the team looks to maximize the last couple of years of Dirk Nowitzki’s prime. The Mavs own the 17th pick, which could turn out to be a contributing player, and also have three second round picks as things stand today. Still, this is a team that’s looking to put Nowitzki in a position to win another championship before he retires, so developing young players is unlikely to be a priority unless the Mavericks simply have no other choice. If the Mavs do plan to make young players a part of the solution going forward – even current players like Roddy Beaubois and Dominique Jones – Carlisle might not be the right coach going forward. He has a very short leash and a small tolerance for mistakes, making it hard for young players to carve out a role.
It is, perhaps, the worst-kept secret in the NBA that the Mavericks have their sights set on Deron Williams in free agency. The Brooklyn Nets have done everything but hand Williams the deed to their new arena in an effort to assure he stays with the team, yet sources close to the situation tell HOOPSWORLD that Williams is very much leaning towards his home town of Dallas.
On paper it’s hard to see why Williams would choose the Mavericks’ vacuous roster over that of the Nets, who have some significant pieces already in place. The Mavericks don’t have the cap space to sign Williams outright and they don’t have the pieces to offer in a potential sign-and-trade with Brooklyn. It’s being assumed that Brendan Haywood and Shawn Marion will be the subject of an amnesty and a trade, respectively, but then you have even bigger holes to fill and little cap space to do it. Haywood isn’t much, but he is the only starting center the Mavericks have. They certainly can’t afford to get into a bidding war for players like Roy Hibbert, Chris Kaman and JaVale McGee, some of the cream of this summer’s available centers.
The back-up plan if Williams can’t be convinced to come to Dallas is rumored to be Steve Nash, and while reuniting Nash and Nowitzki makes a great story, it’s hard to see how Dallas is a contender with Nash, either. Nash would cost less than Williams, but he is also a notch below due to age and the wear and tear his body has taken over the years. If they could get Nash for something like $10 million versus a max deal for Williams, the Mavericks would have a little more breathing room, but they would also be a much more vulnerable team in terms of injuries.
Needless to say, free agency will absolutely determine whether or not Nowitzki will get another shot at a title before he retires, and that will start with the point guard position.
The Dallas Mavericks got Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd their championships, and that’s no small thing. It was disappointing to see them opt not to truly defend that title with the players they allowed to walk away, but then again the new Collective Bargaining Agreement would have made that a very expensive proposition. When you hear the deep-pocketed Mark Cuban talking about not wanting to pay the luxury tax penalty, you know it’s bad. But fans and players don’t care about that, they only care about winning.
Given Nowitzki’s age and the Mavs’ standing as one of the NBA’s elite teams over Dirk’s tenure, the Mavericks might just have the most questions to answer and the most pressure to answer them correctly of any team in basketball. This summer is going to determine the face of the Mavericks for the rest of Nowitzki’s career, and that’s a daunting challenge to Cuban and his front office team.