Yesterday, Tim MacMahon of ESPN Dallas wrote an interesting piece, where he suggests that the Mavericks need to frame the discussion in choosing between Mark Cuban and Clipper owner Donald Sterling. Read the whole thing, as it's worth your time.
This prompted a day long discussion with the Mavs Moneyball crew and I wanted to share our thoughts with the rest of you. What follows is an edited transcript of our thoughts.
Kirk: I don't know how to feel about the line of reasoning MacMahon suggests. The pessimist in me doesn't care for it; it feels like the Mavericks are placing too much value in Cuban's appeal, if that makes sense.
Jonathan: It seems to me like the front office believes a lot of their own hype.
Lisa: My problem is there's only one line in the entire article about how the front office has gambled and lost the last two seasons. That has to matter.
Andrew: I don't know about you guys, but I get nervous any time Cuban starts tweeting about a new TV show he's working on.
Kirk: There's a difference between hoping Chris Paul can come here and pandering to our fan base. We did this last year with Deron Williams. $20 million extra dollars and a major media market are not things we can just wave our hands at and discount. Those things might matter more than whether Sterling is a terrible person and owner.
Lisa: Would I murder in cold blood to have CP3? No question. Do I think CP3 gives a crap about what a horrible human being Sterling is? As long as he's getting paid and gets to throw lob passes to his big boys, I don't think Paul cares. I think it'll take more than good vs. evil to attract someone as driven and borderline psychotic as CP3.
Kirk: Right, and CP3 can always use the tried and true method of "Well I don't like it here anymore, time to pout till I get traded to a team of my choosing" if Sterling doesn't invest in the Clippers.
Andrew: As someone who often studies faith, stepping outside of faith, whether towards a deity or a front office, is often too world shattering and fraught to be attempted. Even the mind shies away.
Tim: I do agree in a sort of tangential sense that if we have even a marginal hope of CP3, our best pitch is Cuban. Independent of good versus evil stuff, Cuban has a better historical track record than Sterling. Of course, the last few years that hasn't been true at all, but if Cuban is as good a salesman as he seems to think he is, that won't matter.
But I'm sure in the middle of negotiations he'll run off to film Shark Tank again, so whatever.
Kirk: It's one thing to point out that we are a possible destination for CP3 or Howard. Its another entirely to make the leap from "because we are a destination, we actually have a shot".
Andrew: Things happen all the time that make me wish there were an NBA PhD program somewhere. If there were, there would be five studies, at least, on whether entrepreneurial owners do better than old money owners like Jim Dolan or owners who made their money on a product like Larry Ellison. Sometimes I feel all of Cuban's faults as an owner have to do with how much he loves deal-making---you know, if we had signed some FAs that WEREN'T deals last year, we probably wouldn't have sucked as much, though he could still turn out to be right in the long run.
Of course, it's hard not to feel like Cubes is secretly the GM, which I suspect we'll ever know the truth of.
PS: If you're wondering when the obligatory "Texas has no income tax so FAs will want to sign there" argument, that has never once worked on a marquee free agent, ever, would crop up, Mr. MacMahon covered it Sunday here.
Josh: I mean, it's still a decent advantage the Mavs have. Cuban does carry a lot of weight within the league. Whether or not we care about that doesn't matter. Remember, players aren't always the best evaluators (Deron choosing Joe Johnson instead of Dirk, for instance).
Also, Paul will be driven by dollars, but winning is going to factor in more since he's not a young pup anymore. He just turned 28. This next deal will be for the rest of his MVP-level prime. This is essentially his last chance at picking a place where he wants to win. That will factor in a smidgen.
There's also a clear disconnect between Blake and Paul. There's been a lot of stories detailing how Griffin just wants to lob city and make Kia commercials while Paul just wants to win and it's pissing each one of them off.
Jonathan: Bill Simmons called it the "worst kept secret in the NBA" in one of his columns.
I actually think Blake would be a better player without Paul. He's a really good passer, but he needs the ball in his hands to do that and that's not going to happen with CP3 boss-hogging it. He was flirting with triple-doubles when Paul was out.
Kirk: It's probably just a language thing with me here, but I think these sorts of stories are creating a misperception.
Dallas *should* be a prime free agent destination. It is not, though, by virtue of history.
Josh: We don't know if Dallas is a prime destination for free agents because they've only had one summer with cap space where they tried to sign one star. And should it be noted, his hometown, which historically, stars don't do.
If Dallas fails to sign guys for the next couple of summers, then we can say it isn't a destination.
Kirk: That's a fair point and probably true. I just can't shake the feeling that we talk ourselves first into why it's possible and the leap from possible to likely isn't far when you're dealing with this kind of hope. I would prefer to be wrong here. I'd really rather have to write an apology for not believing in the front office. That would be much more bearable than dealing with another season of slow decline.