Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
So, here are you 2012-2013 Mavericks. Finally at full health (more or less), finally playing well together. The playoffs, which at 9 under seemed like a dead dream, are now not so very far away. The Mavs are likely to be locked in a dogfight for the 7th and 8th spots for the rest of the season-they're only 3 games behind Houston, but 5 behind Utah and still 7 behind Denver-it's not hard, right now, to feel like they're significantly better than Minny or Portland.
But just how good have they been? Well, if you do what the Mavericks should do, your Mavericks starting lineup would be Collison, Mayo, Marion, Dirk, Brand. And they've been really, really good.
Over the last 10 games:
Collison: 13.6 points, 5.3 assists, 2.9 rebounds, 1.6 steals, 53% shooting
Mayo: 18 points, 5.1 assists, 4.1 rebounds, 1.5 steals, 45% shooting
Marion: 12.1 points, 8.2 rebounds, 51% shooting
Dirk 16.7 points, 6.4 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 41% shooting
Brand: 10.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.6 blocks, 59% shooting
That is, 71.1 points, 28.3 boards, and roughly 50% shooting. You'd think they could have done better than 5-5, but none of them were terrible games. The Mavs lost the last six games of 2012 by a combined 115 points, but their worst lost in the New Year was a 10-pointer to Miami, arguably the best team in the league.
The four other losses have been by a combined 18 points, and the Mavs held fourth quarter leads in each. It's hard, of course, to feel good about any losses at this point in the season, and moral victories are for teams that don't have the Mavericks aspirations, but it's clear that this is a much better team than the one which left 2012. And it's at least poised to get a lot better, as Dirk rounds into form.
Eye-opening, isn't it?
This may not matter this year. If the Mavericks do make the playoffs, and again, it's looking more and more like they might, they'd still be facing a tough first round series against the Thunder, Spurs or Clippers and the odds, at least, would be against them. But that's not the same thing as saying it doesn't matter at all.
First of all, because enjoying basketball is an end in itself--but second, because the Mavs can bring back as many of those guys listed above as they want. The Mavs can go into next offseason with as little as 34 million on the books, and if you figure it'll take 16-17 million to sign both Mayo and Collison, they would still have around 8 million and various exceptions to spend to improve. Alternately, they could trade Marion to a contender, and have roughly 17 million to spend.
Yes, it would limit the Mavs' pursuit of Dwight Howard and Chris Paul next summer, but since that's not very realistic, it might be the right thing to do. The real prize, after all, would be in the summer of 2014, when Dirk and Marion's salaries come off the books. If you figure Mayo at 10 million, Collison at 6, and Dirk signs a Tim Duncan-like 3 year 30 million deal to finish up his career, you have roughly that nucleus-you could even find room for Brand, who likely will not be that hot a commodity in the offseason, despite his stellar defense and rebounding-for a total of 30 million dollars. Leaving nearly 20 million to spend.
It's not Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, or Deron Williams. But does that sound so bad to you? It doesn't to me, maybe I'm crazy.
The Mavericks big decision this summer will be on OJ Mayo, who could command as much as 12 million dollars. While that's probably too rich for the Mavericks, it's worth noting that Mayo is 4th in scoring among all shooting guards, on significantly fewer shots, 8th in assists, and 11th in rebounds. His numbers in the last 10 games would be 4th in scoring, 2ndin assists (with, believe it or not, significantly fewer TOs per game than James Harden, the guy in front of him), and 7th in rebounds.
Blame it on a thin shooting-guard class, if you will, but it certainly looks like OJ Mayo is poised to be one of the best in the league and is coming into his own as the multi-talented player he was always supposed to be, coming out of high school.And while his decision making still isn't the best, he's had 1 or fewer TOs in 7 of the last 11 games.
Maybe, whiffing on Deron, the Mavs have accidentally stumbled upon the next Mavericks star after all.
What do you think? Should the Mavs try to keep some of this team, or should they keep blowing it up till they get exactly the right guy?