What are the Mavs Doing Up There? I Never Know What They're Doing.

There are two ways of looking at all kinds of things. Politics. Philosophy. Those drawings that are either two women’s faces or a cup.

This is also true in basketball.

After all, signing Brandan Wright, Sean Williams and Yi Jianlian made all kinds of sense for the Mavs after Tyson Chandler’s departure. And keeping Roddy Beaubois and Dominique Jones but not Corey Brewer or Jerome Randle also follows along the lines of a lot of what we’ve seen from the Mavs in terms of personnel decision.

On the other hand, one can’t help but notice that weeks after they were deemed to have no young talent to offer in any kind of trade, the Mavs suddenly have what could, if you squint real hard, be called a wealth of it.

That is to say that they have managed to acquire, on the cheap, a couple of young lottery picks (Yi Jianlian, 24, 7th pick, Wright, 24, 8th pick) and a near-lottery pick (Sean Williams, 17th pick), along with Roddy, always a lottery talent, and Dom who they seem to see something in though that something is not yet clear.

So: are they grabbing talent that they plan to use on the court? Or are they grabbing talent so they have something to trade should the opportunity arrive?

I initially began thinking about this problem after the Mavs seem to have prioritized signing Yi Jianlian—a stand-out talent who hasn’t done anything—over Kyrylo Fesenko, who is not an exciting pickup but is a genuine NBA center, a good defender and a decent rebounder. They still might sign Fesenko, but they’d now need to drop somebody. So why Yi first?

I personally am not quite as enamoured of Donnie Nelson and Mark Cuban, in terms of their decision-making, as others around here are. I think they’re very good, I don’t think they’re as good as, say, the Rangers front office which, in recent years, grabbed Cliff Lee, traded for Josh Hamilton with nothing, restocked the farm system, grabbed Mike Napoli and Adrian Beltre, and so on.

The Mavs have also been very good for a long time, so full credit there, but it should always have been obvious, for example, that a great offensive PF who needs some help on the defensive side deserved better than Erick Dampier, Shawn Bradley, Raef LaFrentz, and so on and so on and their drafting record is just horrible.

Because of that fact, the Mavs currently have exactly one guy they acquired on draft day actually playing regularly for them (Dirk, of course) and another one presumably in line for some playing time (Roddy). Oh yeah, and they drafted Jason Kidd, but one, not Donnie, and two, you know, come on.Of course, the Mavs haven't had a good draft pick in a long time.

But come on.

In addition, the Mavericks quest to have tradeable young talent has another severe restriction in that they are absolutely against either spending money or having anyone on the roster for more than the next year. Even Corey Brewer, himself a young lottery pick, presumably doomed himself by having TWO years left on his contract instead of one. They have a third restriction, which is that unlike, say the New Jersey Nets,any draft picks they might trade are also unlikely (we hope) to be good ones.

So, you're the Mavs. You know that your free agent summer dream is on some level a castle in the sand, in that if Dwight gets traded before the season ends--likely enough--and that team can also sign Deron--likely enough--you end up throwing your scrupulously-saved FA money at what turns out to be NOT the Next Generation of Mavericks Stars. But you don't have young guys to trade away and you don't have draft picks to make up the difference. And you can't get either without cutting in to that FA money which, already, would only be enough to sign Dwight AND Deron if you also got somebody to take Shawn Marion's salary, which seems a bit unlikely.

Bottom line: The only thing they COULD do, if they wanted to stockpile assets, is to find unwanted assets that still have value. They should be young guys, who still have time to turn it around, and they should be guys whose skills remain highly thought of in some quarters. They should especially be guys willing to take a one-year contract.

Yi Jianlian. Brandan Wright. Sean Williams. Then Roddy and Dom on top of that.

I mean you and I should be real about this. Literally no one is burning up the phones for those guys. There’s a reason they fit the bill of who the Mavs could get. Sean Williams, especially, was probably much more about need than trade opportunities. Wright, too. This is not an appealing package.

More than that, it’s hard to convince anybody that your guys are worth trading if they don’t get any playing time. I went to the Thunder game (the win), yesterday, and I was pretty perplexed as to why Sean Williams didn’t play even at the end of the game when they were playing the young guns and Brendan Haywood.

The odds of Yi improving enough in a year to be a contributor by playoff time are not very good. The odds of Wright making it past a suddenly surging Ian Mahimni or Lamar Odom at the 4 to see some floor time in games that are not blowouts (or even in blowouts, as he was not even active yesterday against the Thunder) are also not good.

However, if the Mavs were going to try to MacGuyver their way into having appealing young talent, given the restrictions mentioned above it seems to me impossible to say that this is, first, not exactly how they would have to do it, and two, that they’ve actually done a pretty good job, considering.

It doesn’t exactly get the Mavs close to being able to make a compelling package for Dwight Howard—who continues to look likely to be traded before the season ends—but it’s more or less all they can do.

If that’s what they’re doing.

So I turn it over to you.

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