First of all, let's not get all lost in the glow of beating up on the Warriors. The Mavericks have proven nothing beyond the fact that they can be inconsistent at this point. My last article I even said the the Mavs were at a crossroads--the Mavs shared their halfway point record with an NBA champion and a team that missed the playoffs. The implication was pretty clear: As a team the Mavs could go in one of two directions and which way was yet to be determined. Well, I'm willing to state right now that they are emphatically heading in one direction, and it isn't the one that ends with a trophy.
So where does that lead us? Well, to my mind it is acceptable for a team to live in one of two positions: Elite or rebuilding. Certainly us fans have lived with the team as Elite for quite some time. The idea of rebuilding is painful, but we can accept it. However, anything in between is just spinning wheels and indefensible. Think of the Los Angeles Clippers or, if that's to noxious, the Indiana Pacers. Up until these last few losses, I was willing to say that the Mavs had a window to being elite. No more. It is time to prepare for rebuilding. So, let's not live under illusions. The Mavs are operating under a new set of rules--the rebuilding rules, not the win at all cost rules.
With this in mind, we need to think of how to rebuild. The Mavericks are actually in decent shape in terms of contracts heading into the really big free agent season that is approaching. That said, the team should also consider trades that make sense. You know those trades that sometimes come by that look good for the future but would hurt us in the short term? The Mavs would pass on those in the past, but let's jump on those now.
I rather like David Lord's recommendation at DallasBasketball.com of trading for Shaquille O'Neal. He fits well with the offense the Mavs have now and would be an incredible complement to Dirk Nowitzki. Losing Josh Howard to get it done at this point isn't even objectionable. This almost fits two categories: It could actually make the Mavs better while securing us extraordinary cap room. David mentions that Josh and Shaq's contracts expire at the same time, but Patricia's contract resource page has Shaq's contract ending after next year and Josh's ending a year later. With Jason Kidd (coming off the books this year), Shaq's contract creates two massive deals coming off the books for a year featuring an extraordinary amount of free agent talent.
Regardless of what happens, something needs to be done. Young players need to be groomed, plans for future dominance put in place over immediate wins. Free agents need to be realistically targeted and trades for high draft picks made. The Mavs organization needs to understand that they are not making a playoff run, they're making a championship run. The only difference is that it's in 2010 or 2011.