The Dallas Mavericks are in a win-now mode. The roster isn’t getting any younger and during this free agency period, they’ll need to go after pieces that can help them win the NBA championship this year. They might do best to consult experience this offseason.
Tyson Chandler received a call last week that he’s coming home. Home being Dallas, that is. The heart and soul of the Mavs’ 2011 championship unit is—fingers crossed—back where he belongs. After a disappointing season in New York, Chandler and fellow disappointer Raymond Felton were shopped. Chandler, 31, is no stranger to the game—having played on the 2012 U.S. Olympic team and he has a thirteen-year resume in the league. The Mavericks ranked No. 26 in the NBA in rebounds per game (40.9) in 2013-14. Not a single player on their roster averaged double-digit rebounds. Chandler’s disaster of a last season still yielded 9.6 per game.
After a 49-33 season and pushing the San Antonio Spurs to Game 7 in the playoffs—the best any team played the eventual champions—the Mavs are in a win-now mode. A big part of last season’s success was roster experience: Shawn Marion, Vince Carter, Devin Harris, and Dirk Nowitzki. The roster, now barren, only expects to resign 12-time All-Star forward Dirk Nowitzki, the face of the franchise for the past 16 years. Equipped with one of the best coaches in the league in Rick Carlisle, a resurgent Monta Ellis, and the 2012 Defensive Player of the Year in Tyson Chandler, Dallas isn’t the least sexy at the dance.
“We’re going to swing for the fences. I think some of these guys are opting out just to create leverage, and they’ll go back. Then there’s some that really want to go to different teams. We’ll try to put ourselves in position to get them.”
Marc Cuban’s comments last month that the Mavs are looking to aggressively pursue superstars in free agency, while making it clear that he’s not willing to offer max contracts, is kind of like saying, “I’m going to craft a Fortune 500 company without investing in human capital.” In layman’s terms, there’s no way in hell that LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, or Kevin Love, the marquee players in this year’s free agency, are coming to Dallas.
“My feeling is that I’m a prospective free agent out there, we became a lot more attractive, because I don’t know many front lines that not only have that kind of punch in terms of inside-outside, but also two great guys, great teammates, guys that you love to go to war with, night in and night out,” Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said last month. “I think the future is bright here in Dallas.”
Nelson might have an attractive franchise, but the hue of the Maverick future may turn a darker shade if significant moves aren’t made in the coming months. Dallas clearly has a system in place that works, but what do they need to retool in 2014-15?
In an era where the fountain of youth is routinely surveyed before teams consult hardened veterans, Dallas is playing a different hand this offseason.
With $26 million in salary-cap space after the Chandler/Felton six-player deal, now that they’ve reportedly made a 3-year, $30 million deal with Nowitzki, the Tim Duncan pay cut provides them with some crucial opportunities arise for much-needed fixings. Ditching Brandan Wright’s $5 million salary would certainly be a move in the right direction.
Simplicity might be the best route. Dallas needs to resign some of their veterans. Marion was also a member of the 2011 championship team, and plans to play for two more seasons before retiring. The 36-year-old free agent will see his $9 million contract obliterated, but the 10.4 points and 6.5 rebounds he averaged last season aren’t commodities Dallas is looking to part ways with.
Although Devin Harris will need a slight raise on the $1.3 million veteran’s minimum he made this year, the career-high 7.8 assists he averaged per 36 minutes are numbers worth noting. In a backup position, Harris can provide Dallas comfort not having to put all of their eggs in Raymond Felton’s basket.
Vince Carter presents an interesting scenario. Carter, 37, is an eight-time All-Star who hit the most clutch shot of Dallas’ season.
But does that constitute resigning him for more than the $3.2 million he made this season? He shot a career low from 16+ feet from the basket and from the field overall. Those aren’t great indicators that you deserve a pay raise, but for the right price, he could play alongside Marion for another season.
In terms of available free agents, Luol Deng’s skillset could certainly benefit the Mavs. With fellow 3-and-D specialist Trevor Ariza generating significant interest, Deng might be available for cheaper than the $10 million he refused last season in Chicago. Boris Diaw’s versatility could provide more outside shooting and assistance at the small forward or power forward positions.
There are a myriad of options Dallas can consult this offseason to fix what primary problems they have: perimeter defense and rebounding. Luckily, they’re equipped with talent and a guru at the helm. Look for Dallas to pursue experience this offseason to find a remedy for last season’s troubles.