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Dwight just ruined my night!

July 6, 2013

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With news coming down recently that Dwight Howard spurned the Mavs for the Houston Rockets it’s time to re-assess the Mark Cuban decision to rebuild after their lone championship in 2011. Yet first I’d like to mention that in my opinion it was a smart move by Dwight as the Rockets in 2013-2014 will likely be better than the Lakers and going forward will surely be better than them unless Howard was convinced the Lakers next offseason were going to convince LeBron to join him and Kobe in Hollywood. It’s an interesting idea as I’ve said quite a few times that the best team of the past +20 years would be created if LeBron and Dwight teamed up as both impact a game in so many ways other than scoring, yet it’s simply a fantasy and one that has for all intents and purposes been squashed forever with Howard’s signing with Houston. By joining up with James Harden Dwight proves my point that the Mavericks have been going about “star chasing” the wrong way these past few years. Last year I wrote this article (https://dfwprosports.wordpress.com/2012/08/01/the-fork-in-the-road-9/) which is worth a second read as when last offseason the Rockets traded for James Harden it proved my thesis, “Whether it’s Chris Paul to the Clippers, Carmelo Anthony to the Knicks, or Deron Williams to the Nets almost all of the teams the past few years who have acquired a top level talent have done it via trade. In each of those trades the pieces were future 1st round picks and young talent which makes it likely that the Rockets will be the next franchise able to acquire a young All-Star.” Darryl Morey and company chose to stockpile young talent and 1st round draft picks while the Mavs chose to sign veterans to 1 year deals and trade away draft picks. In the end Morey was able to trade for a quality young talent like Harden last offseason and then use him as an incentive to sign away a superstar in Dwight Howard this offseason. Both moves were the result of Morey not going all in on free agency, as they fielded a competitive team last year (lost 4-2 vs. the Thunder in Round 1 while the Mavs missed the playoffs) despite playing a ton of young talent, and keeping his emphasis on acquiring and developing young talent while being financially flexible enough to go after the “big fish” that so many teams have been seeking. The Mavs have for 3 straight seasons considered financial flexibility the most important “asset” in their arsenal and have planned accordingly. In June 2011 the Mavs traded the 26th pick for Rudy Fernandez and in December 2011 the Mavs traded a future 2nd round draft choice so that the Denver Nuggets could take Rudy Fernandez off their hands. In June 2012 they drafted Jared Cunningham and in June 2013 they traded down from #16 to #18 in exchange for the Atlanta Hawks to take Cunningham off their hands. Notice a pattern here? While I’m not saying that Jordan Hamilton (#26 in 2011 that they traded for Rudy Fernandez) or Jared Cunningham are going to set the world on fire, I do think that those 1st round picks are assets and the Mavs have shown a complete disregard for them. It’s rather sickening for a draft fanatic like myself to see this and history shows (as does the Rockets approach kicking their ass this offseason) they are 100% wrong. In 2010 the NBA Draft was considered to be a down year. Kyrie Irving went #1 and has become an All-Star yet little else came out of the Top 10 that year as names like Derrick Williams and Jimmer Fredette were already shown to be busts while picks like Tristan Thompson, Jan Vesely, and Kemba Walker have become one more unproductive season from being labeled as lifelong bench players. Yet look outside the Top 10 and you see a plethora of talent with guys like Klay Thompson, Markieff Morris, Kawhi Leonard, Nikola Vucevic, and Iman Shumpert all being taken between picks 11 and 17. Fast forward to this year’s draft with the Mavs sitting at #13 in what again is being called a down year and they act like they couldn’t care less about their choice trading down not once but twice in exchange for practically nothing. In the end they chose Shane Larkin whom many teams were interested in yet if the last few years are any indication it’s likely that Larkin will rot away on Carlisle’s bench and be waived before fans even get to know him. The Mavs have a major problem with being unwilling to acquire or play young talent and due to this they have no assets that any team is interested in. Just the other day Danny Ainge said as much indicating that the only player the Mavs had on their roster that interested him was Dirk Nowitzki. The Mavs have argued that their lack of success acquiring talent was due to where they drafted each year (aka late) but all it takes is a quick look at Danny Ainge’s recent draft record to see that drafting in the middle or late parts of the 1st round is no excuse for not acquiring talent. He drafted Al Jefferson at #15, Delonte West at #24, Tony Allen at #25, Avery Bradley at #19, and Jared Sullinger at #21. All have been productive players for the Celtics at one point and many ended up being trade fodder to bring in talent during title runs.

The Mavs offseason has only just begun and it can be easily corrected if they can land Andrew Bynum on a injury protected deal. In that scenario they would go into next offseason with Bynum at say $9-11 mil a year and no one else on their salary cap which would give them space to offer 2 full max deals AND re-sign Dirk on a hometown discount yet that’s assuming again that anyone will take their money. At some point Cuban and Donnie Nelson need to look at their flawed plan and realize that prospective free agents don’t want to see a team with just cap space but want to see a team that has legit talent already on it’s roster. The Miami Heat were the exception in how they were built and until Mavericks management realizes that I think they will continue to struggle on their misguided plan for rebuilding a team around Dirk. The Mavericks decision to rebuild after the 2011 championship can clearly be considered a failure as the idea that NBA free agents would flock to the recent champs who now had cap space and still had a talented All-Star in Dirk just never came to fruition. Yet interestingly enough it’s not that Dallas lost out to the high profile cities of New York or LA for free agents but lost out to more talented rosters in Houston (Dwight) and New Jersey (Deron). In back to back offseasons the Mavs had an NBA star interested in coming to them who eventually chose another city due to the talent on the roster already built by that franchise. Last year I made the argument that Deron’s decision to choose Brook Lopez, Joe Johnson, and Gerald Wallace over Dirk Nowtizki, Vince Carter, and Shawn Marion was a sound one. This year I’ve made the same point with Howard choosing Harden, Parsons, Lin, and their plethora of young talent (Omer Asik, Royce White, Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas) over Dirk, Carter, Marion, and Jae Crowder. Hopefully this offseason and next draft the Mavs will improve their roster enough to where I’m not defending another superstar’s decision (Lebron James?) for not picking Dallas over the team they did choose. It’s time the Mavericks acted. Dirk has lost two more seasons of his “prime” and at this point is clearly on the decline. Everyone knows he’s no longer the guy for the #1 role on a team but I made the point a few weeks ago that I actually think he no longer even makes a lot of sense as the #2 role as his deficiencies on defense and his injury prone nature the past two seasons make him a better bet as the #3 player on a team. Thankfully Dirk has the ego, or lack thereof, and offensive game (I continue to believe that for the next 5-7 years he could average +15 pts a game on +48% FG as a PF that floats to open spaces in an offense and knocks down open jumpers) that should allow him to be a quality #3 on a team for a long time. That’s important because it might take a few more years before Cuban can find anyone willing to actually take his money.

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