I have to hand to the Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson. They've built many a competitive team around Dirk Nowitzki and even brought us a championship. That said, I'm not sure a team has fallen from glory so fast as the Mavericks...championship to lottery in two seasons. Of course, any good Mavericks fans knows the polarizing story and even Cuban has more or less admitted some mistakes recently stating the organization was done with renting players a year at a time. And he's gone on to reveal his two year plan: sign a max player in the 2013 off season and then pick up two more max players in the 2014 off season. On the surface, that sounds like something to get excited about. Three max players in addition to Dirk Nowitzki? they would dominate, right? No so quick...
The finals this year have been extremely interesting. Really, the two most dominate teams in the league proving in alternating games that either has the power to dominate the other. Guess how many max contracts are on the floor? The answer is none. How can that be? Well, any fan of the NBA knows the Miami's story of LeBron, Wade, and Bosh colluding to play together. Technically all three would be earning a max contract anywhere else they played, but that's not the point. These guys wanted to win and thought that taking a pay cut to play together would do it. How about San Antonio, certainly Duncan and Parker are getting paid, right? Nope! Tim Duncan took a massive pay cut in order to keep the team together. Ginibili is actually the largest contract on their team (and it ends this year). Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard who have both been pivotal in keeping the Spurs in the series combined cost just a little over $5 million.
How about last year? Well we had the same scenario with the Heat, and the Thunder have one max contract (Kevin Durant). Year before? One max contract on the Mavericks (Dirk). Year before? We had the three year Lakers run with Kobe the only max player for the first two years and Gasol getting a max contract in their most recent championship year. However, since adding a third max contract (Dwight Howard) they haven't gotten past the second round.
I'm sure you're wondering if I have a point right about now, and here it is. When you focus too much money on a limited set of players, the team depth can suffer and as a result the team is actually less competitive. Despite not technically earning the max, the Heat are probably the closet example to what Cuban wants to build. And while there's no arguing they are an absolute powerhouse when hitting on all cylinders, this year both the Pacers and Spurs have exposed their weakness in a big way. I have no doubt the elite teams in the league will make the necessary adjustments to contain much of their offensive explosiveness. When one of the max stars is sidelined either through injury or defensive match ups and the coach has to look to the bench for production, the only thing that will save a team is excellent scouting of young, unproven talent...something the Mavericks have historically lacked. The rumors are swirling of Dallas trading their first lottery pick in over a decade to clear a little cap to allow the flexibility to sign a max contract. I think that is a huge mistake. My fear is Cuban is trying to buy a championship rather than finding young players willing to earn one.