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What is the Next Move for the Dallas Mavericks?

Dirk Nowitzki missed his fifth consecutive game due to a sprained knee as the Dallas Mavericks began a three-game homestand against the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday Night. The tougher injury pill to swallow for the Mavericks was the loss of Caron Butler.  The forward ruptured the right patellar tendon in his knee over the weekend against the Milwaukee Bucks and he was operated on by team physician Dr. T.O. Souryal at Texas Sports Medicine on Tuesday.  The injury will force Butler to miss the remainder of the season.  In 29 games this season, Butler averaged 15.0 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.6 assists and 29.9 minutes.

"It's so tough.  I was hoping and praying that it wasn't as bad as it was," Tyson Chandler said after the game against Portland when describing his thoughts on Butler's injury.  "I was hoping he didn't need surgery.  It's just so tough when you go to battle with someone, especially a warrior like him, and he gives you everything he has.  You're in here one moment laughing and joking, the next moment he gets hurt and the next day, he's having surgery.  With us, it hits a little deeper because we're all family; we're here everyday and we see each other more than we see our families."

“It was sad, because to me, he’s like my brother,” Stevenson added on Butler’s injury. “I’ve been with him for like five years, so to see that happen was pretty bad."

It's an unfortunate situation for Butler and the Mavericks on multiple levels.  It appeared that the forward had really began to found his groove in the flow offense and the numbers supported that idea.  As the forward recovered from an early season back injury, Butler's shooting numbers were improving as each month in the season went by. The Mavericks have been searching for a capable running mate to go with Dirk Nowitzki and Butler was primed to make an attempt to fill that role.  This year also marked a contract year for Butler, he was in the final year of his contract and a severe knee injury could derail the possibility of him signing his last big NBA contract. 

The injury bug outbreak has been something that has relatively stayed away from the Mavericks over previous season but it's become a major issue over the past week.  The Mavericks have to decide what to do with the situation. 

Signs point to the Mavericks wanting to give the current roster an opportunity to respond to the loss of Butler before looking at more drastic moves.  The Mavericks will look internally to fill the void.  Shawn Marion could emerge as a starter to replace Butler in the lineup.  Rookie Dominique Jones could find himself a permanent resident on the Mavericks roster, ending his stint with the Texas Legends.  Also, the Mavericks are awaiting the return of Roddy Beaubois.  The French guard is still rehabilitating from his foot injury but continues to be improving.  It is believed that Roddy is at least a month away from being back in the lineup.  The trading deadline is on the last Thursday of February, the 24th, so they'll have roughly seven weeks to assess the situation.

If the Mavericks decide that they need to make a substantial move, the usual suspects as well as some new faces will emerge as potential trade targets: Andre Iguodala, Gerald Wallace, Stephen Jackson, Kevin Martin, Corey Maggette, OJ Mayo, Antawn Jamison, Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince. 

Credit to Erica L for digging up the stats, but here are the breakdowns for some of the above-mentioned potential options when they're compared to Butler's numbers:

Caron Butler's numbers
Effective Field Goal Percentage of 49.0%
3pt shooting 43%
Pass rating 2.7
rebounding rating 14.4


Tayshaun Prince
Effective Field Goal Percentage of 50.7% (+1.7%)
3pt shooting 44% (+1%)
Pass rating 3.4 (+0.7)
reb rating 16.3 (+1.9)

Andre Iguodala
Effective Field Goal Percentage of 47.6% (-1.4%)
3pt shooting 35% (-8%)
Pass rating 8.0 (+5.3)
rebounding rating 16.7 (+2.3)

Kevin Martin
Effective Field Goal Percentage of 52.9% (+3.9%)
3pt shooting 42% (-1%)
Pass rating 3.1 (+0.4)
rebounding rating 9.6 (-4.8)

Stephen Jackson
Effective Field Goal Percentage of 48.2% (-0.8%)
3pt shooting 42% (-7%)
Pass rating 5.9 (+3.2)
rebounding rating 12.6 (-1.8)

Borris Diaw
Effective Field Goal Percentage of 56.0% (+7%)
3pt shooting 34% (-8%)
Pass rating 4.2 (+1.5)
rebounding rating 15.6 (+1.2)

Antawn Jamison
Effective Field Goal Percentage of 47.5% (+1.5%)
3pt shooting 34% (-9%)
Pass rating 1.6 (-1.1)
rebounding rating 21.8 (+7.4)

OJ Mayo
Effective Field Goal Percentage of 48.9% (-0.1%)
3pt shooting 38% (-5%)
Pass rating 1.8 (-0.9)
rebounding rating 9.3 (-5.1)

From a trading perspective, it's not in Dallas' best interest to make a deal right now as they would be dealing from a position of weakness.  Teams would try to unload bad contracts onto the Mavericks and ask for pieces like Roddy Beaubois, DeShawn Stevenson or Dominique Jones.  It's all in the timing, things are likely to open up as the deadline comes closer and if the Mavericks want to make a deal, the days leading up to the deadline will be their best opportunities to strike on a deal.

The trade-off with waiting is clearly losing time on rebuilding team chemistry.  The chemistry on this team was incredibly high and a big reason for the early season success.  Adding one or more players into the rotation will take time, we've seen that over previous seasons for Dallas.  If that issue becomes a major deterrent based on what is available on the trade market, that could potentially lead to the team standing pat and using the power of positivity and self-confidence, believing that the team can adapt to the new situation on the fly.  Dallas could either look at that route or go with a smaller move to go back to supplying the team with the quality depth it had before the injuries mounted.  If that's the route they take, it probably wouldn't be a player that was mentioned above.

With Mark Cuban as the owner, it's a given that the Mavericks will do whatever they can to keep the title hopes alive for the team this year.  When speaking to the media prior to the game against Portland, Cuban said that the team will be "opportunistic," when it came to the trade market in the coming weeks.  Despite the loss of Butler, Cuban still likes the team and put things into perspective.  "We're a much better team with Caron, obviously, but we're still a better team than we were last year, even without Caron," said Cuban.  "And other than the Spurs, it's not like the other teams aren't having their issues, too."

With the uncertainty of the new collective-bargaining agreement, the belief is that many teams will be hesitant to take on additional salary, the Mavericks owner will not be one of those owners.  Cuban stated that the mysteries surrounding the new CBA will not affect the decision-making process if a deal comes along.  Then, the challenge does become maximizing Butler's expiring contract in spite of the fact the forward is done for the year.  It's essentially just trading away the contract at a discounted rate.  Dallas will have to find a team that is in rebuilding mode or willing to concede to moving into rebuilding mode and that team might be willing to move a top tier player on their team to add ping-pong balls to their lottery chances and reduce the payroll.

Before some people start reaching and trying to be creative, I am here to burst your bubble.  If you trust the google machine, there was the potential for implementing an outside the box theory for additional trading chips.  Depending on the websites you look at, Tim Thomas and Greg Buckner are still "on the books."  Back in September, there were reports that the Mavericks were working on a buyout on Thomas' contract.  Last season, the google machine churned out the theory of the "Buck-Shot" as a piece to work into a trade.  When I spoke to Cuban about the potential of those two being used in a deal he replied that, "neither are on the payroll."  So you can officially cross that off your list.

With Caron Butler being done for the year, this initial version of the 2010-2011 Dallas Mavericks is now in a state of limbo.  At one point, the thought was that they had too many bodies for not enough minutes. For now, that problem is gone in some aspects. Again, the Mavericks will give the current roster a fair shot before grabbing their trading shopping cart and seeing what is out there on the market.  There will clearly be a shopping list, it's just a matter what's actually on the list.


UPDATE: The Dallas Mavericks announced today that they have requested waivers on forward Steve Novak.

Novak (6-10, 230) signed with Dallas as a free agent on September 24 and saw action in seven games for the Mavericks this season. A native of Brown Deer, Wisconsin, Novak held averages of 1.6 points and 0.7 rebounds in 2.6 minutes per game.  

Teams can sign players to 10-day contracts starting on Monday and that means the Mavericks could look to add a player from the NBA Development League or elsewhere.

The Mavericks roster now stands at 14 players.