The Mavs, it seems, could have been rolling out Andre Iguodala alongside Dirk this year. It's hard to know whether the 4 year, 48 million dollar deal the Warriors gave him would have been in the Mavericks' best interest--Iggy, 29, has obvious strengths and weaknesses, and may actually not be as good for a team that will struggle to score as Monta Ellis, despite the fact that he's a superior player--but it would have been the Mavericks' biggest free agent splash, well...let's just say in a long time. They lost out on him, he says, because they were too stuck on Dwight. So it goes.
Regardless of what you think of Monta Ellis, or the length of Calderon's deal, or whatever, the fact of the matter is the Mavericks have significantly upgraded at at least two positions this year (PG, SG) and probably three (C). Although some have argued otherwies, it's not exactly a mystery why the Mavericks were ale to get guys like Calderon, Ellis, Harris and Dalembert this year, instead of the Mayos, Collisons and Kamans of last year. It's because they were trying.
We can argue this back and forth all day, but I think it's pretty objectively true that there's a pretty big difference between trying to get the best players you can while leaving room to make a big FA splash and trying to get the best players you can. The Mavs, over the last couple years, have gotten a bunch of discounts, Lamar Odom for a trade exception, Mayo for less than he seemed to be worth at the time, Collison (and Dahntay Jones) for little used C Ian Mahinmi, only to find out that, as with so many discounts, there were pretty good reasons.
The smarter front offices, and the Mavs have generally shown that they're one of these despite what I think was a pretty serious misapprehension of the favorability of the odds of The Plan, have shown that undervalued players are THE market inefficiency. But there's undervalued and then there's supsiciously undervalued, and you definitely can't make a living on the latter.
Obviously, we all know that the harsh reality is that there will be a time period After Dirk and that it's not too far away. It's only sensible to look to the future. And it's obvious, too, that targeting specific free agents who can help you reload after a team year run, rather than help keep the fires lit for a few more years is, if successful, the best possible alternative. If 2nd or 3rd or fourth place mattered, the Mavericks did well. There isn't another team in the league that can say it came in in the top 4 for the both of the last big time FAs and ended up on Iggy's and CP3's lists, too.
It's not nothing, it just turned out to be nothing. But here the Mavericks can see, clear as day, what's true about NBA free agency. If you use it to try to get good pieces, you absolutely can. If you use it to try to get centerpieces, you probably can't. And, most importantly, if you use it to try to get good pieces, but you tie one hand behind your back so you can keep what you need to get centerpieces, you probably won't get either.
All things in life are about balance, and there are a couple different ways this insight could take the team. I think, however, that it's an important one, and I think the team has learned it. Next year, when the Mavs go into free agency, they'll have money to spend and hopefully very specific holes to fill rather than, as at the end of last season, "basically everything". It's good news.