If the Mavericks had ended up with Dwight David Howard, I was prepared to-happily-eat crow.
But I wouldn't really have meant it. I don't think a 1 in 2 chance, and then a 1 in 5 chance playing out indicates a plan was good.
It's only fair, then, that I take the opposite tack in this instance. The plan is no worse just because it failed.
The Mavericks dreamed big, and had they succeeded, it would have been fantastic. It would have kept them out of the box the Celtics found themselves in a few weeks ago, the one waiting for the Spurs in two years if they don't avoid it, something that had never been tried, a seamless transition from a championship team to the next era.
But it's deeply, deeply disingenuous for anyone to pretend that its ultimate failure had to do with the unforeseeable. It just didn't. The plan was bold, and it had two obvious flaws from the minute they dreamed it up.
1) Because of the contracts of Dirk, and to a lesser extent Marion, in order to trim the roster down to where these pursuits would be economically possible, the Mavs had to eschew high draft picks, supplemental talent, any free agents who weren't willing to sign for a one year deal and generally those with flaws big enough to take less money-though they did do a pretty good job of grabbing guys who were SUPPOSED to be better than their pricetag. They therefore had no assets to trade, no young talent, and no non-Dirk core.
2) Because of the contracts of Dirk, and to a lesser extent Marion, in order to trim the roster down to where these pursuits would be economically possible, they had to etc., etc., such that they had no non-Dirk talent.
To put it frankly, they had to become too bad to be seriously appetizing. Deron Williams thought that Joe Johnson made the Nets a better team than the Mavericks could offer, whether or not he was right about that. And it's probably not even too controversial, that of the five suitors of Dwight, the Mavericks were the fourth best team.
This is, as I've said before, just a problem with free agency in general.
Of the three ways to acquire players, drafting, trading, and signing, two third of those kinds end with the player on your team, with not much say about it. And, despite claims to the contrary, you can get a lot more out of trades than you should be able to. The Nets got Garnett and Pierce for Humphries and Wallace. Somewhere in Golden State's pursuit of Dwight, the Jazz got 20 million dollars in cap space and two first round picks for the number 47 picks in the 2012 draft.
Free agency is the one where you present a guy with the exact same amount of money and years that four other teams do and they choose you because ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Meanwhile, while the Mavericks spent two miserable years to preserve the space they needed for Dwight, the Warriors got there in about 30 minutes after playing the Western Finals Champ down to the wire.
I think it's the case that the Mavs did a great job putting together a competitive team regardless of their free agency ambitions, but it's still amazing the level of talent you suddenly CAN get if you put a 2 or a 3 in front of the "number of years" space in a contract. Which, hopefully, they can do that now.
All that's true is what was true yesterday. Free Agency Money alone is limiting. Someone either takes your check or the same check from someone else. Betting it all on that got them close, really close to 2 of the 3 or 4 top FAs of the last two years, which is not something a lot of teams can say. At the same time, it didn't get them close enough, probably because of the flaws in the plan that were there the whole time.
And all I really hope is that the Mavericks now realize that. Hopefully the front office realizes that it, and the reputation of the Mavericks, are not either so special that they don't have to have more talent in the first place to attract talent. Beyond that, what's done is done. And I'm excited to see what happens next.
The Mavericks still have their cap space, and someone will want it. If they can't get a guy so good he gets five max offers, they can pay a little extra to some guy who won't, which wouldn't be an option if they hadn't gone in this cap-space-only direction.
They have some talent, like Brandan Wright, that they could probably re-sign for not too much, and guys like OJ Mayo who, despite his supposed exit for Milwaukee, is currently still a UFA, and could still take a little leap forward. Maybe.
And I for one think Dirk, getting his first training camp in two years, is primed to reassert himself in a big way. Is Rondo still available? Now that Houston's got Dwight, could the Mavs pry Asik free? There's a lot that could still happen.
And what happens next is all that matters, now.