For two straight summers, Dallas waited patiently for a decision to come from a superstar free agent. For two straight summers, Dallas came up short, settling instead for backup plans, reclamation projects, and discarded veterans. Certainly, one can hope this year's batch of new teammates will prove more fruitful than last year's, and there is reason to believe that may be the case.
However, we shouldn't assume Mark Cuban has completely given up on his quest to pair Dirk Nowitzki with a legitimate, star-quality #2(and if you've convinced yourself that Monta Ellis is that guy, bless you). Cuban always said this was a two year plan. Chances are, it's still a two-year plan, even if Cuban didn't get his prized player.
We can be hopeful about the future of the franchise, but there seems no denying that this has been a strange, murky transition from championship to...whatever exactly Dallas is now. If you sit down and ask yourself who exactly on this team you think can still be productive in five years, the answer might startle you. At least, it should. Frankly, despite what is admittedly a solid if unspectacular core of current-talent, my subjective assessment is that Dallas' future is only as strong as their next move. So what might their next move be?
Well, it's still September, and a long way out from the February trade deadline, but as the offseason winds down, Kevin Pelton has compiled a list of players who may be traded this season. It's another Insider article, so before you roll your eyes at me, I'll share some of the more notable names:
Notice that this list includes five still-productive, starting players who have appeared in at least one All-Star game, and a pair of big men who might one day make one, as well. Notice also that this list contains several names we've heard linked to Dallas in the past. Marcin Gortat was once very nearly a Maverick, Rajon Rondo has been linked to Dallas(among other places) for some time, and Omer Asik and Danny Granger both also make sense for a Dallas team that does have not a longterm answer at the center or small forward position.
I won't run down each name and rank them as "the top ten potential Mavs targets" or something. I'll leave that to another popular sports website. But with the CBA landscape changing the way teams approach asset management, this trade market may be one of the most active in recent memory, and it may start a lot sooner than February. For anyone who thinks it's way too early to start looking at trade possibilities, remember that last year we saw James Harden traded before the season began, and Rudy Gay traded well before the deadline.
Before the front office let Tyson Chandler go, Dallas had a well-balanced team that could close out games thanks to a "finisher" lineup that was productive at all five positions. After the title run, and until recently, the desired blueprint had appeared to be something much different: a top-heavy roster with a pair of superstars leading a group of economically priced role players. Now, it would seem the Mavs are trying to go back to the old model. Put a pair of second-tier, borderline All-Stars -- like, for example, Danny Granger and Marcin Gortat -- next to Dirk and Jose Calderon, and you have a strong playoff squad that's a little easier to envision than a pie-in-the-sky dream of Chris Paul throwing lob passes to Dwight Howard.
Gortat to Dallas makes almost too much sense, in my view. He is owed a very reasonable $7.727 million next year. Phoenix has little use for him with Alex Len in the fold and one of the younger rosters in the NBA surrounding him. There is a well-documented history of interest from the Maverick front office in the player. Assuming Phoenix isn't asking for the moon(or the Sun...s), there don't appear to be too many playoff-caliber teams who would be in competition with Dallas for his services, either.