Six keys to the Mavericks' 2012 campaign

Dale and Donnie

Credit: WFAA

Dale Hansen shares a laugh with Dallas Mavericks general manager Donnie Nelson. The same scenario will likely play itself out next year -- it's just a matter of whether the laugh is of the happy variety, or a sad 'you're mocking me' model.

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by MIKE MARSHALL

WFAA Sports Blogger

Posted on November 1, 2012 at 4:40 PM

These are the two most significant dates in the last year for the Dallas Mavericks.

 
December 9, 2011
Tyson Chandler signs with the New York Knicks for 4 years and 55.3 million dollars. 
 
We’ll keep talking about this frugal decision until the money saved is spent on another player and we have something tangible to compare him to. Well, probably not. Then we’ll just compare whomever Player X is to Tyson Chandler in our hypothetical moonwalk that neither gets us closer to having Tyson Chandler back nor believing Player X was worth it.
 
I completely understand the path that Donnie/Cubes/Uncle Rick chose. I have very few quarrels with it. With the new stricter CBA approaching they saw the incredible price that Tyson Chandler would cost to keep here long term. I don’t mean the contract because somewhere around 15mil a year is fair market for a player of his caliber. I mean the luxury/repeater tax that will come into play in this next NBA season (the final two of Tyson Chandler’s contract). Mark Cuban decided that the days of a 50 win, 90 million dollar, first round exit roster were past. 
 
Just so this is in (internet) ink and on the record, I believe if you add Tyson Chandler to this current roster last year goes the exact same way and this year’s outlook would replicate the pessimism I feel at this very moment. The Mavericks were too far under water from the Haywood/Marion/Terry/Dirk contracts to offer the kind of deal that Tyson Chandler eventually received. I don’t feel that’s an appropriate excuse but it is the cause. 
 
That’s how the NBA works though. The world of “We overpaid for this, this, and this. What do you want from us?” is the cry of so many 6-7-8 seeds every year. Not anymore. The new CBA is no joke. But the question begs to be asked -- were the Mavericks admitting this whole thing was a fluke? 
 
Would two years at max money have gotten a deal done with Tyson? Should they have offered three years? Would this team be any different with Chandler? Why didn’t the Mavericks try harder to retain him? What am I going to do with this bobble head? Where do chickens go when they die? My biggest problem is the absolute disregard/failure of player development by this organization. If you’re going to circumvent the entire idea of developing your own contributing players then you have to be all in on adding pricey vets and paying whatever it takes to fill out your roster. You can’t sit on your hands and wait for Player X to come around, then just on a whim like your organization enough to leave money and years on the table. Player X was supposed to be Deron Williams...  
 
July 3, 2012
Deron Williams signs with the Nets for five years 98.7 million dollars.....
 
...One more year and 25 million dollars more than the Dallas Mavericks could offer. Blame Shark Tank. I don’t know what to tell you. When you stand around waiting on great things to happen to you sometimes you end up with nothing.
 
 
So now we’re here. 
 
We’re on the eve of starting a season with no backup point guard. A starting point guard that got passed for his starting position at his last post by a player that isn’t even a true point guard. A shooting guard that has fallen from such great heights since being drafter 3rd overall that labeling him as a solid contributor and a legit second scoring option seems almost flattering. A 34-year old starting small forward whose offensive game is based around putbacks of his own misses. 
 
A backup power forward that...actually I have nothing mean to say about Elton Brand. I really like him and think he’s probably the most important player on this team not born in Germany...but the show must go on. A center that can’t stay healthy for one business week. Hey, and just for fun to make me completely question my existence, the Mavs signed Eddy Curry.
 
No, I’m not optimistic about this whole deal. 
 
I’ll give you my predictions and outlook after I address these goals that need to be achieved during this coming season somewhere between the frustration and trolling upcoming free agent articles.  
 
SIX MAVERICKS GOALS AND HOW REALISTIC THEY ARE. 
 
1. FIND A GUARD THAT’S WORTH KEEPING AROUND IN THE CORE OF THIS ROSTER
 
O.J. Mayo has a player option for next year at a low number (4.2m). There’s no guarantee he’ll be here or that the Mavericks will want to pay what it will take to retain him if he opts out. Collison is a restricted free agent at a manageable number (3.3m). Roddy B is in the exact same situation at almost the exact same number (3.2m). These are the main options I see as guards that can last past the ’12-’13 that the Mavericks will have to take action on. I expect either Collison or Beaubois to be back next season as a role player. A touch over 3 million dollars is nothing for a contributing guard. I think Collison is the backup point guard here next season. 
 
CHANCES: LIKELY
 
2. DEVELOP ONE OF THE ROOKIES INTO A LEGIT ROLE PLAYER. 
 
Jae Crowder is going to be a special player here. I hope he gets enough minutes to prove himself. Cunningham won’t be a rotation guy this year. I feel Bernard James will get forced into duty, but his ceiling is very limited. He can be a fringe role player depending on match-ups. Yeah, you just got Bernarded. Crowder is the future here. He can be the third scorer/glue guy that makes the whole thing work for years to come. 
 
CHANCES: LIKELY
 
3. ENTER NEXT SEASON WITH NOBODY ON THE ROSTER OVER 30 YEARS OLD NOT NAMED DIRK....or Elton Brand. I’d like to have him back. 
 
This is very unlikely because you’d have to find somebody to take on the contract of Shawn Marion. The Matrix contract isn’t the worst and it expires next year. But, that doesn’t mean as much as we’ve been lead to believe in past years. Remember that one year everybody wanted expiring deals? Yeah, that was great. Trixie is here next year in some capacity. I have to believe Vince is gone. The idea behind bringing in whatever big name free agent they choose to pursue will not involve keeping 35 year old wingmen that don’t play defense. Get your Kaman jerseys while they last because he won’t be a part of this organization come next season. Either retirement from injury or disinterest in re-signing due to injury will be the culprit.

CHANCES: UNLIKELY
 
4. MAKE THE PLAYOFFS
 
Here are all the teams in the west right now that I believe are better than the Dallas Mavericks: OKC, LAL, SAS, LAC, DEN, MIN (when Kevin Love is healthy but he’s not for 6-8 weeks). I can’t in good faith list Memphis and Utah above the Mavericks until they absolutely prove to me they are. 
 
The schedule maker has been very kind to the Mavericks this season. They have only 16 back-to-backs scheduled, tied for third-fewest in the league. They are only scheduled one run where they’ll play 4 games in 5 nights. Some teams have as many as four. The main reason I believe the Mavericks will make the playoffs is this team will be on another level once Dirk returns. Learning to play without him will be some of the hardest grinding on the offensive end this team has ever faced. When he returns it will be incredible how many passing lanes are open and how much easier two points comes to them. Baptism by fire. They key is to tread water here for roughly 16 games, which is a very manageable stretch of games. The real question for me is “do I want this team to make the playoffs if it’s going to be a 7 or 8 seed?”. The answer is no.   
 
CHANCES: LIKELY 

5. ADD A STAR BEFORE NEXT SEASON
 
This is my definition of a star that is gettable: Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum, Al Jefferson, Josh Smith, Andre Igoudala. Most of these players are unrestricted free agents (Igoudala has an early termination option that he’ll surely activate). The first thing I notice is the depth of the center position. DeMarcus Cousins has a team option for next season that I’m almost certain Sacramento will pick up, but who knows with his strained relationship there. Greg Monroe is in the same boat but he’ll definitely get his team option exercised. Nikola Pekovic is a name to keep an eye on as well. I don’t believe Paul and Howard are leaving Los Angeles. So where do we go from there? 
 
I think Andrew Bynum or Al Jefferson is a Dallas Maverick next season. But I honestly wouldn’t rule out any of these players being in Dallas come 2013. The list of teams that have a superstar, are already a playoff team, and have money to sign a max-out player is incredibly thin. Unless a guy really wants to stay with his current club there really is not going to be a large number of teams standing in line eligible to say “here, please take my money!” 
 
The creativity that the Mavericks front office shows during times of absolute panic and when it’s time to seal the deal has always impressed me. I wouldn’t surprise me if one of these names and maybe a second star player were added in a sign and trade situation. The Mavericks find themselves in a solid position in regards to a sign-and-trade as well, because they could be one of the few teams that would remain under the tax apron (4 million above the tax barrier of 70 million) after the sign-and-trade has occurred. 
 
They also haven’t used their mid-level exception which would make them ineligible. Assuming Shark Tank doesn’t get in the way and all the free agents listed don’t agree it’s totally awesome to all sign with the Jazz (they only have 9m dollars tied up in salary next season. This is an actual fear for me right now) it’s a realistic possibility that at least one max-out free agent is a Dallas Maverick next season. You might be skeptical and think the same thing could have been said last year. Well, not really. Last year was the final off-season that teams could spend like drunken sailors and not have to pay the piper immediately.  

CHANCES: LIKELY    

6. DON’T GET RICK CARLISLE FIRED
 
I don’t think Rick Carlisle can do anything to get fired this season. The organization realizes the pickle they’ve put him in with this roster and will not hold him accountable. I’d be worried about Carlisle’s message not getting through at this point in his tenure because he’s such an intense guy but literally the entire roster is being turned over. 
 
The players that have shown frustration with the situation (Delonte West) have never turned the angst towards Rick. Their frustration is with the organization and how they’re turning and burning through rosters every off-season. The problem isn’t Rick. Very briefly on that subject, DON’T SIGN THE CONTRACT IF YOU’RE NO HAPPY WITH IT. Also, DON’T PICK FIGHTS WITH OJ MAYO THEY’RE GOING TO CHOOSE HIM OVER YOU EVERY SINGLE TIME. 
 
Rick will be a magician if he can keep this collection of expiring contracts from going full Jet. 
 
CHANCES: LIKELY....they won’t get him fired. 
 
 
PREDICTIONS:
 
RECORD: 47-35, 7th seed in the West, eliminated first round by the Lakers. 
 
MVP: Jae Crowder

Writing 2,000 words on the Mavs is the only thing Mike Marshall does better than tweeting about libertarianism, food or the Cowboys' punt-protection schemes. You should probably follow him on Twitter at @machine1310.

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