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The glass half full look on the Mavs offseason

July 11, 2012

With time comes perspective and after last week’s horrendous free agency collapse that saw the Mavs whiff on Deron Williams, Steve Nash, and Goran Dragic while watching Jason Kidd and Jason Terry leave for other teams it was difficult to keep any kind of perspective other than the idea that Mark Cuban was a complete idiot. With a little time I’ve calmed down and see a few positive things to the Mavs approach that no one is talking about as everyone is focusing on the doom and gloom. I’ll breakdown a few of these items as Deron Williams isn’t coming back and next year’s free agent class is 11 1/2 months away so we might as well get used to the roster as it is and try and find some bright spots.

Young talent

In nearly every trade for an All-Star caliber player these past few years the demands have been the same: we want young players, future 1st round picks, and salary cap relief (aka take our crappy contracts we got stuck with). Cuban has been more than willing to add payroll by accepting any worthless contract given to him and gives away 1st round picks like they’re meaningless, his drafting record the past few years makes them only slightly more valuable than meaningless, yet his lack of young talent has hurt him over the years from getting everyone from Carmelo Anthony via trade in 2011 to attracting Deron Williams via free agency this summer to the new target of Dwight Howard. Part of the issue is that every offseason Cuban has gone after veterans who can help Dirk win a championship now yet part of that also is that those veterans not only lack trade value but eat up the playing time of any young talent on the team. Looking at the roster right now it’s easy to see the issue as the Mavs have three recent first round picks penciled in at point guard or shooting guard (Roddy B., Jared Cunningham, Dominique Jones). The local media is freaking out about this as they see doom and gloom but it could be interpreted simply as Cuban accepting that he has to let his young players finally play. I’m not saying that there won’t be growing pains because anyone who has seen Roddy play the past two seasons knows he is great one night and terrible the next but to be a player in trades you need young talent and to develop young talent you have to give them playing time. As much as I respect Ramon Sessions game and think he would fit perfectly with Dirk on pick and roll plays I wonder if at this point the best course of action wouldn’t be to trade Vince Carter for the highest draft pick you can get for him and go into next season with Roddy B. at PG, Dominique Jones at SG, and Jared Cunningham as the combo guard off the bench. There are 48 minutes a game available at both spots and not signing another free agent would pretty much guarantee thatCarlislewould have to give those three the majority of those 96 minutes a game next season. One way or the other the Mavs would know what kind of players they had with those 1st round picks and if one of them rose to the occasion and became a quality player the Mavs would officially have young talent allowing them to be players next time a young All-Star demands a trade.

First round picks

Every year there is a team in the late 1st round that essentially auctions off their 1st round pick for money. Usually it’s around $3 million and it involves teams like the Lakers, Heat, etc. who are so deep in the luxury tax they can’t afford to add a 3 year +$1 million a year contract to their team. Also every year teams who need to clear salary cap to sign a free agent or get under the luxury tax threshold gives up draft picks in exchange for a team under the cap taking on a bloated contract. The Mavs have no additional 1st round picks over the next few years and it hurts their ability to trade as other teams like the Rockets, Suns, Cavs, etc. have all of their picks plus a few additional ones from other teams and could easily create a package to trump Dallas’ set of picks. If we are assumingDallasis accepting this season as a rebuilding year to play their young talent and keep salary cap room available then they should be in every discussion this season in regards to taking on bad one year contracts in exchange for picks. The more recent example of this is the Dwight Howard to the Nets possible trade as they need a landing spot for Kris Humphries via sign and trade. He wants a multi year deal yet once he realizes no one is willing to give it to him he’ll accept a 1 year $10 million deal and the Mavs should eagerly be trying to be that team to get an additional 1st round pick in exchange for a slightly overpaid center who averaged a double double last season. Roy Hibbert signed for $14.5 million per year after a season where he averaged 12.8 pts and 8.8 rebounds so signing Humphries to a 1yr $10 million deal after a season where he averaged 13.8 pts and 11.0 rebounds WHILE getting a 1st round pick out of the deal is too good to pass up. Some would say a team shouldn’t help build a superpower but it’s important to remember that if the Mavs don’t do this deal they still will get creamed by the Lakers, Thunder, Spurs, Heat, and Knicks so instead of worrying about how they added the Nets to that list they should be trying to get themselves into that upper echelon and adding draft picks gives them that chance. The Rockets are a perfect example of what can happen when you have additional 1st round picks as their best player is Luis Scola yet they’re legit contenders to land either Dwight Howard or Andrew Bynum because of their picks available in a sign and trade deal.

Conclusion

Cuban has been overestimating salary cap space and how powerful the draw is to play alongside Dirk while underestimating the value of 1st round picks and the need to have young talent available to trade. Hopefully this offseason taught him something as if he forces Carlisle to play the youngsters and focuses on adding 1st round picks he could position the Mavs to be legit players next offseason in free agency and through sign and trades instead of being the early 2000’s Bulls who had plenty of cap space and thought that winning 6 championships the previous decade would have been enough to entice a Grant Hill, Tracy McGrady, Tim Duncan to join them. They struck out each and every year while winning 30 or fewer games 6 straight seasons eventually giving up their salary cap dream and building around above average players like Kirk Henrich, Ben Gordon, and PJ Brown. Cuban has put them on this track and there’s no logic in going back now as it would just make things worse by signing mediocre players to long term deals. Yet unless Cuban tweaks his strategy a bit and starts emphasizing draft pick acquisitions and youth development I expect the Mavs offseason from hell to repeat itself.

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