Imagine you're stuck at a social event somewhere. An office party, wedding, football tailgate, etc.
There's got to be food there right? Of course. If there's no food there, then it's a shitty party. You'll be miserable throughout it and go home hungry and complain to your friend or significant other about the lack of food. I'M SURE EVEN AMISH PEOPLE HAVE FOOD AT THEIR GATHERINGS, you'll cry.
But, most likely, if it's a well-planned event, there will likely be food there. Some of it might be gross and you'll just have to put up with it and then next year you can hope there's better food.
So let's say you're waiting in line for said food. It's always a gamble. You're somewhere in the middle pack of the line, so you're hopeful you can get the good stuff before someone else does. Or course, your dream is to have EVERYTHING but realistically, that's not possible.
Maybe there's a particularly item you're eying. You go through your head, making a contingency plan. "OK, I'm going for the swedish meatballs first. Then the pepperoni rolls. If those are both gone, maybe I'll grab some taquitos and scoop myself a plate of nachos."
As you're waiting in line, your worst fears are realized: the swedish meatballs are gone. You curse the Ikea gods for they have you forsaken you.
Your turn in the line has come up and thankfully, the rest of your backups are there: the pepperoni rolls, taquitos, nachos and even some other different food that you haven't tried but they might turn out OK.
You're still pretty pissed about the swedish meatballs. You wanted their meaty, savory goodness. Now that you're up close in the food line, you realize your backup options just don't look as appetizing. Is that even real pepperoni? Where'd they get that cheese sauce from? I've seen better taquitos at a gas station.
The line is getting testy behind you. It's time to make a decision. What do you do? You take the food that's in front of you, because what else are you going to do? Go hungry and complain to your friends about how there wasn't anything good enough there for you? Or you could grab some of the food, try it out and go back for more. But guess what? It might be gone by the time you go back in line. THEN YOU HAVE NOTHING.
If you haven't noticed, I just used that way-too-lengthy analogy to describe the Mavericks offseason. Because the analysis of it is driving me up a wall.
Was this Mavs offseason a failure? In the grand scheme of things, yes. They didn't get Dwight Howard. But that failure isn't necessarily tied to this off-season, it's tied to the last two. That's another column, another time. I'm talking about this off-season, specifically.
After the Mavericks got denied by Howard, what were their options? It's either sign the guys they signed, sign Andrew Bynum or throw a ton of money at restricted free agents like Jeff Teague, Brandon Jennings and Nikola Pekovic. Or trade Dirk and completely blow it up.
And while all the guys they signed weren't perfect deals, they were the best that was available to them. Especially when you look now and see that those restricted free agents weren't going anywhere.
Is Jose Calderon's 4-year contract perfect? Of course not! But too often, I feel like all of us (basketball twitter, fans, etc) evaluate basketball in a non-existent NBA alternate dimension where everything is the same.
Guess what? It's not. Calderon's 4-years in Dallas isn't the same as Calderon taking a 4-year deal in Detroit or a 4-year deal in Sacramento.
But Calderon fits a gigantic hole at point guard for the Mavericks, a team that needs to win as many games as possible while Dirk Nowitzki is still relevant. Does committing to him for 4-years make sense for rebuilding teams like Detroit and Sacramento? Probably not. But in Dallas, it does.
Especially when you consider that not every good player gets signed to a perfect contract. Sometimes, you have to overpay a good player to make sure he plays on your team. Crazy thought process, I know.
What if Calderon had 3-year offers from other teams? What if increasing the deal to 4 years is what sealed the deal for the Mavericks? It's not like there was a 23-year-old, unrestricted free agent point guard who is a good shooter + defender just sitting there for Dallas to snatch up.
I'd much rather see Calderon on the Mavericks for 4 years then watch him on another team (Detroit, Sacramento, etc.) for 3 years and then watch the Mavericks have another shitty year at point guard. Does Calderon have holes? Yep! So does every player. Calderon is old(ish) and he's a bad defender. But when you consider the alternative is NOTHING, I'll take the something.
It drives me crazy when I see people look at the Calderon deal and hammer it like the NBA exists in a universe where every team is the same and all things are equal.
Want to criticize the Calderon signing because you're worried his defense will be too awful to overcome? I disagree, but that's a fair point that we can argue about. However, this line of thinking that the Mavericks outbid themselves, or could have saved the money for something else, makes me go insane.
For instance, here's Grantland's Zach Lowe on the Mavs off-season:
"After filling the roster with expiring contracts last season, the Mavs handed out pricey multiyear deals to Calderon and Monta Ellis and shorter/cheaper deals to Samuel Dalembert and Devin Harris (whose three-year, $9 million deal had to be canceled earlier this month because of a toe injury, but which will likely be re-signed soon with the same terms).
None of this is terribly damaging long-term. Dallas has $34 million coming off the books after this season in Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, and Vince Carter, and if Nowitzki really is willing to take a giant pay cut, the Mavs could have max-level cap space again next summer once they clear his massive cap hold and re-sign him to a smaller number.
But they could have had almost a completely clean slate had they not committed nearly $16 million combined to Calderon and Ellis - the former a defense-less distributor on the wrong side of 30, the latter a defense-less chucker who undermines his own clever passing skills by jacking up terrible shots. Both will get a bump in efficiency from running pick-and-rolls with Nowitzki, and Dalembert provides the best rim protector Dallas has had since letting Chandler walk."
Lowe acknowledges something most are overlooking -- the Mavs cap is actually WIDE OPEN in 2014, thanks to Dirk, Marion and Carter's contracts all expiring. Marion and Carter's deals will give the Mavs about $12 million in cap space. Dirk is making $22M this year, so it's possible his next deal will only be worth between $9-15M annually, maybe less. Let's say he takes $10M a year. That means the Mavs will have more cap space in 2014 then this summer.
Yet, the Mavs could have had even more cap space if they didn't sign Calderon and Ellis. MOAR CAP SPACE. WE MUST HAVE MOAR. Because that's worked out so well for this team! I kind of like having real players AND cap space instead of no players and MOAR cap space. That's just me.
Mike Prada praised the Calderon signing from the point that Dallas desperately needed a point guard. Yet, the deal gets a C+. Here's why (he mentions Calderon's very shoddy defense and his inability to get to the rim earlier, while also praising Calderon's passing and shooting):
"Those weaknesses are why I think four years and $28 million is a bit ambitious for his services. In a lot of ways, Calderon is just good enough to make you and your team mediocre. His strengths allow you to run a coherent offense, but his weaknesses prevent you from making it more dynamic."
Prada then goes on to note that Calderon is a very, very good fit for Dallas. Then, here's the kicker:
"I just don't love the idea of paying a 35-year-old Calderon over $7 million at the end of his contract when the Mavericks could very well be rebuilding. Ideally, Dallas could have signed Calderon for fewer years at a higher annual salary, but perhaps that wasn't possible."
Also ideally, is the Mavericks trading that $7M expiring contract. That's ideal too. YES, even when he's 35-years-old. Because if this off-season has taught us anything, it's that players are always tradable. Richard Jefferson waves hello.
Ideally, Dallas could have signed Calderon for fewer years, yes. Ideally, I wouldn't get gassy after eating Mexican food. But I'd rather eat very tasty Mexican food. And I'd rather have a really good point guard. Again, sometimes you have to overpay to get good players because, surprise, other teams also want those really good players. Also, sometimes you have to fart a lot if you want to eat good food.
There are other offseason grades that further underline this type of thinking: How dare the Mavs commit that much money when they could have had MOAR CAP SPACE or pay those players for less? Which, again, is insanity for this team.
Ellis criticism, I get. Paying him $8 million a year for three years is risky because he hasn't shown he's a really good player in the last few years. That money could have been spent elsewhere, like on Tony Allen or another '3-and-D' guard to pair with Calderon. Ellis could be great in Dallas, but there's a lot of evidence that shows he could be very disappointing.
But the rest is just mind-boggling. To all the pundits, I'm sorry the Mavericks couldn't sign the best unrestricted point guard in the free agency after Chris Paul to a more reasonable deal. I'm sorry the Mavericks spent about $10 million this season on Brandon Wright, Wayne Ellington, Devin Harris and DeJuan Blair combined. Sorry Samuel Dalembert's contract has only one-year guaranteed. They should have pushed for zero.
Maybe we'll have a better off-season in four years.
Note: I love Zach Lowe and Mike Prada and the other writers mentioned above very, very much. This isn't meant to offend, just an argument I've been stewing over for some time. Feel free to vote in the poll and let's discuss this in the comments, because I think it's a fascinating debate.