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The New Look Mavericks

July 12, 2012

Well the powder is still dry for next offseason and the 2012-2013 Dallas Mavericks will likely be a competitive team in the Western Conference so the acquisitions of Chris Kaman, Darren Collison, Dahntay Jones, and possibly Elton Brand should be considered a small stroke of genius. Value wise there’s nothing to disagree with as the Mavericks gave up an amnestied Brendan Haywood and a sign and traded Ian Mahinmi to get these new pieces in place. I’ve long been a fan of Collison, who I think could be a Maverick for much longer than the 1 year remaining on his contract, as he’s a top notch floor leader and defender who has just enough quickness to play in a penetrate and kick style offense and just enough of a jump shot to be a capable pick and roll player and a floor spacer. The best thing about Collison for the Mavs is that his elite quickness is exactly what is needed in a Western Conference that has Chris Paul, Tony Parker, Russell Westbrook, and Steve Nash to contend with on a nightly basis. All four of those squads are highly likely to make the playoffs next year and for years to come so adding a defensive stopper at the point can’t be underestimated as a team is likely to have to go through 2 or 3 of them each year to reach the NBA Finals. Dahntay Jones will fit in well with a Carlisle coached team as he rarely shoots, is an elite perimeter defender, and is an inconsistently great 3 point shooter. I say inconsistently great because I’ve never seen a player who fluctuated more often from being a great shooter to a terrible shooter. In four seasons (’04, ’06, ’08, ’11) he shot +38% from 3 point land yet in 3 other seasons (’05, ’07, ’09) he shot under 17%! Looking at the years you’ll quickly notice that they are staggered every other year as for the past 7 years he’s been a great shooter one season and a terrible shooter the next. Unfortunately he was a great shooter last season so expect a horrible performance from him this season. Yet in only 2 seasons of his 9 year career has he attempted +5 shots per game so his role is essentially that of a perimeter stopper off the bench who only takes wide open shots. Think DeShawn Stevenson and remember how helpful he in short spurts 2 years ago. Chris Kaman also intrigues me as just two years ago I would have argued that he was a top 5 center when he averaged 18.5 points and 9.2 rebounds. He’s battled injuries lately yet when fully healthy he’s a very accomplished offensive player who can consistently score in the post, who has an underrated 15 foot jumper, and who can pass adeptly out of a double team. His 1 year $8 million deal is a classic prove it deal as if he performs well the Mavs will get a steal for a season and Kaman will get a +$50 million contract next offseason but if he struggles to stay healthy again it will be a somewhat expensive bust for both parties. He isn’t the dominant, versatile defender that I think Dirk needs next to him (think Chandler) yet even at 80% Kaman is a top 15 center and a clear upgrade over Haywood so the move makes a lot of sense. Brand isn’t officially signed so I’ll hold off much commentary on him but he’s another player who at one time was a legit All-Star yet has struggled to stay healthy lately. He’s a few years older than Kaman and I’m less sure of his fit on this team than Kaman’s, backup PF?, yet after two disastrous seasons in Philadelphia he has enjoyed two very underrated years (15pt 8.3 reb 51% FG in ’10 and 11 pt 7.1 reb 1.6 blk 49% FG in ’11). With Terry/Kidd out and Kaman/Brand in I could see the Mavs running a lot less free flow offense and a lot more set plays with an emphasis on pounding the ball into the post. Interestingly enough the Mavs, especially when Dirk is off the floor, look reminiscent of the Memphis Grizzlies with a solid young point guard who isn’t flashy but is efficient and a great floor leader (Collison=Conley), a rangy small forward (Marion=Rudy Gay), an underused shooting guard who is just a spot up shooter in the offense (Carter=OJ Mayo), and two bullish interior players who are good rebounders and post scorers (Kaman/Brand=Gasol/Randolph). Adding Dirk to that mix makes them a legit playoff contender and possibly as high as #4 in the West yet here is where the logic breaks down. Are the Mavericks trying to win a championship this year or more focused on building a contender by adding an All-Star next offseason? If they are trying to win a championship and maximize Dirk’s “window” they should have gone more forcefully after veterans like Nash and Camby who would have maximized that window the next two years though possibly been burdensome in the final year of their contracts. If they are trying to set themselves up for next summer they would have been better served to trade Marion for a 1st round pick, start the former 1st rounders (Roddy B., Dominique Jones), have the 3 draft picks from this year’s draft play significant minutes off the bench, and get a solid draft pick next year so next offseason you have a roster full of young, cheap talent and additional 1st rounders that you can try and trade for a legit All-Star. In a vacuum I like, borderline love, all of their moves the past two days yet when put against the backdrop of the Mavs aren’t good enough to legitimately contend for a title this season without an All-Star teammate to Dirk then the moves are somewhat puzzling. These moves ensure the Mavs will be a 4-8 seed in the playoffs next year and that sounds like a good thing yet a year from now when Dirk is 35 years old, Roddy B. and all the other young players still are unknown quantities, and the Mavs are bounced easily in either the 1st or 2nd round of the playoffs I wonder if fans will realize they essentially ran in place for a year and are now in another offseason where their only hope for improvement is by convincing a Dwight Howard or Chris Paul to come here. Whether it’s Carmelo Anthony, Deron Williams, Pau Gasol, Tracy McGrady, Chris Webber, etc. it’s almost always a trade that lands a new team a young All-Star. Yes the Heat were built via free agency, the Magic with Hill and McGrady were as well in the early 2000’s, and Shaq in the late 90’s can be classified in that category but the examples of this “salary cap space nets a big fish” strategy working are few and far between. It’s much more likely to work if the Mavs had extra picks and young talent to trade for Howard or Chris Paul or the next young All-Star to demand out of a losing situation (Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, John Wall, etc.). The Mavs brass has talked incessantly about “keeping the powder dry” and these moves certainly do that but instead of taking another shot in the dark by attempting to sign Howard or Paul next offseason I would have preferred they went all in and made every attempt to enhance their chances of actually acquiring an All-Star. Keeping the powder dry isn’t a terrible strategy but without a gun that gunpowder won’t be used anyway and I’m just worried that next offseason the Mavs will find themselves with a bunch of dry gunpowder and no gun to use it with while teams like the Heat, Lakers, and Nets are firing their machine guns in every direction CBA be damned.

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