Credit: NBAE/Getty Images
Dirk will be back. The pieces around him? That's the subject of many more questions. (Copyright 2013 NBAE/Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images)
Thursday, Dec 5 at 1:32 PM
With the NBA Playoffs driving forward, the Texas Rangers maintaining their championship aspirations, and the Dallas Cowboys Theater as strong as ever, the postseason-absent Dallas Mavericks suddenly find themselves in the exact state a franchise seeks to avoid at all costs.
Missing out on postseason play for just the first time since 2001 in a city where mediocrity makes you virtually non-existent to the casual fan, the Mavericks find themselves in unfamiliar territory. Most of the Dirk Nowitzki-era Mavs teams entered the offseason looking for ways to tweak their roster in order to compete for a championship the next season. This time around, Mark Cuban, Donnie Nelson and Co. need to make the right moves just to crawl back into relevance.
Still, despite the failures on the court in 2013, there is opportunity on the horizon. If you’re a sucker for things like drafts, free agency and trade deadlines like myself, then you see the Mavericks have an an opportunity to really establish a foothold for the future. If we don't include the three players on rookie deals, only Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion and Vince Carter will have guaranteed contracts going into the 2013-14 season.
The season after that? The Mavs will owe guaranteed money to exactly zero players.
It sounds daunting, but that is the flexibility this team wanted after failing to lure top free agents to Dallas the last few offseasons. Which, by the way, is again Dallas’ Plan A for THIS offseason. Two things are assured for the Mavericks as they head into the summer - and one of those is that they will aggressively chase superstar free agents Chris Paul and/or Dwight Howard.
If that plan reeks of enough familiarity to induce eye rolls and disgust, hey - that's warranted. No judgment. We've heard the same ol' story before. The Mavs’ front office doesn’t even blame you, which is why they will take a slightly different approach this time around. After swinging and missing at high quality free agents the last two summers, the Mavs took the unpopular “dry powder” approach.
If you’re unfamiliar, the dry powder strategy required the Mavs signing players to just one-year or club-favorable deals in order to stay flexible for the NEXT offseason, opening up another shot at a big prize in free agency. Despite the many financial reasons, salary cap flexibility, and other merits to this system, the plan led to the dismissal of most of the pieces from the 2011 championship team and made it basically impossible to build any long-term team chemistry. Fair or not, fans don’t want to hear about cap flexibility or “dry powder”; they want results. And now the Mavericks’ front office has made it clear that they will seek longer-term commitments to players, even if they whiff for a third time in the quest to pair another star with Dirk Nowitzki as he enters the twilight of his career.
Secondly, whether through the draft, free agency or both, the Mavs will find a starting caliber point guard for this team. Remember way back to 2008 when we were all debating the trade that brought in aging Jason Kidd and shipped young, promising speedster Devin Harris off to New Jersey? That argument has cobwebs now as it has been long proven the Mavericks made the right move, but one of the main reasons they pulled the trigger was because Kidd had the elite, underrated skill to get the ball to the Mavs’ best player (Nowitzki), in the best position to succeed.
Letting Kidd move on during the offseason was the right decision, but not replacing his role - the crucial entry-passing point guard - created a massive hole in the offense, especially in the last five minutes of close games. There are countless things the Mavericks need to fix this offseason, but being able to get the ball to Nowitzki when needed it and living with that result will be of high priority. Going forward in the coming weeks and months, we’ll examine some of the options the Mavericks have in filling that hole.
They’re not chasing a championship this summer, but this offseason certainly will not be a boring one. Winds of change, they’re a comin’ to Dallas.
Kevin Brolan is a contributor to DallasBasketball.com and HoopsAddict.com. Follow him for mind numbing thoughts on basketball, most sports, and general nonsense at @kevinbrolan.