Let’s start with the bad news, shall we?
Despite the Mavs’ truly heroic efforts this offseason, they remain very much a long shot to build a super team.
My logic for this comes from a lot of places, but primarily from this: The Mavs are betting heavily on free agency, and I think that free agency probably just is not the best way to build a team.
I understand completely why it is super reasonable to think having money equals getting players, but being reasonable doesn’t mean it’s correct.
As it happens, the only free agent you could directly blame for a title in the last decade or so is Shaq, to the Lakers (not to the Heat where, of course, he was traded), and that’s actually a major reason why free agency isn’t a great place to build a team. After the Magic lost Shaq for nothing, teams around the league resolved never to allow that to happen to them. That’s why superstars have been successful in forcing trades these last few years---no one wants a Shaqenstance.
Everybody else? Trades and draft picks. Dirk draft pick, Tyson Chandler, Jason Terry, Jason Kidd, trades. Lakers, Kobe draft pick, Gasol, Odom, trades, Bynum draft pick. Celtics, Pierce draft pick, Allen, Garnett trades. Spurs, Duncan, Ginobili, Parker draft picks. I could go on. Even the Pistons drafted Tayshaun and traded for Rip, Ben and Rasheed Wallace, though they did sign Chauncey.
There’s a reason for this. When you trade or free agent, you get your guy. When you enter the free agent market, everybody gets a shot. I know that I am arguing against the moon here, and that the idea that having cap space doesn’t often mean superior results is in some way a deeply unreasonable way to feel. But look, the Mavs figured they had the cap space with Erick Dampier’s contract to make a big move last year, they traded it for Tyson Chandler ONLY because (and this is easy to forget now) doing so meant they could take another swing at free agency this year, but things transpired, happily another way.
And then Dampier’s contract went to Charlotte where it not only didn’t do anything, it STILL hasn’t done anything. Granted, Charlotte isn’t Dallas, which will remain an appealing destination as long as Dirk is still effective. Still.
Now, there’s an obvious argument against this point, which is that it is deeply incomplete because of the Miami Heat. They were built, entirely through free agency; they are very likely to win a championship in the near future and so on.
Here’s where we’ll disagree, if we’re going to disagree.
As Mike Fisher has written quite a lot about, over at DB.com, Cuban and Donny have made the -calculated risk-assumption that to compete in the new NBA future, the Mavs need a superteam. They’re following the paradigm laid down by the Heat.
I argue that the Heat is not an appropriate paradigm to be followed because this was not an all-things-being-equal free agent bonanza; it was three best friends wanting to have a slumber party and breaking several NBA collusion rules to do so. It is not clear whether the results of that experiment can be replicated in a neutral setting.
A more reasonable paradigm is that Boston team, which was able to trade for both Ray Allen and KG, or even the Knicks, who signed Amar’e, traded for Carmelo, and were able to half-heartedly dabble in trading for Paul. But cap space and young talent are BOTH deeply exhaustible quantities. It’s much easier to get two all-stars, to supplement your original all-star, when they’re past their prime, or to get two-thirds of a super team + Tyson Chandler (pouring some out), then it is to hit that three star bonanza, as Chris Paul and Dwight are both finding out right now.
That may be what we'll get, a bunch of teams with two stars and some extra talent (a relatively naturally occurring phenomenon, see, Durant + Westbrook). And that actually is something the Mavs can compete with, without hittng a home run the next offseason.
So, yes. The Mavs trade yesterday insures that, for the third year in a row, the only young talent the Mavs have that is currently enticing is Roddy Beaubois. They don't have anything to offer anybody but money. So they can't trade, they can only sign.
They may be wrong about that choice.
The good news is, we may be wrong about the superteam era, because it may indeed take all the squirrelyness of the Superfriends to get one, and that may actually not be possible for anyone else. If Dwight or Deron realize that before next year, that might be very good news for the Mavs. Moreover, the league actually seems to have taken steps (not altogether fairly) to prevent superteams from forming (see: the Agony of Chris Paul).
LBJ, Wade and Bosh took 2.5 mil less than they could have made, 14.5 mil down from 17, and It's bad news that the Mavs, with all they let go, and if they amnesty Haywood, could have something like 25 million to spend next year---not enough for Deron and Dwight both unless they took much larger discounts.
This, however, could be good news in disguise. The Heat had to do some terrible, depraved things to get enough under their cap to sign three great players in the offseason before the price on such players was raised. It's fairly unlikely anyone will be able to do that again--Which could mean, that no one could do Dwight AND Deron without putting together a putrid team around them. Which could mean that it IS after all possible to sign one or the other alone.
And now the unqualified good news:
Yes, okay, this offseason has occasionally felt like a constant, counterintuitive war against ourselves, occasionally punctuated by deep, celebratory Lamars. I think it’s also true, however, that what the Mavericks brain trust have achieved in this offseason may never have been done before, may never be done again.
Namely, they have positioned themselves to be huge players in the free agent market next year—whatever that might mean--WHILE still remaining perfectly capable of defending their title this year. That’s super hard to do.
Yes, they went wholly down the FA route, but this is NOT a firesale. We love Tyson. We’ll miss Tyson. But Tyson + Barea + Brewer does not equal firesale, especially when you add Lamar Odom, Vince Carter and Delonte West. I mean, come on, right?
This team rolls two deep in a serious way at every position but C.
The other good news is that Haywood is not nearly as bad as he’s being currently portrayed. The Mavs signed him to be their starter, and were willing to go with him as their starter until Tyson Chandler showed up. Chandler is a better player than Haywood, but Haywood is a much better player than Erick Dampier, who was better than Shawn Bradley, who was at least roughly equivalent to Raef LaFrentz and so forth.
The season Hay was traded to the Mavs, he averaged a double-double for the Wiz, for 49 games. Tyson Chandler’s done that exactly twice in his career, and neither was last year. No, Hay’s not as athletic, as passionate, and he certainly doesn’t necessarily get better when the game is on the line. But he’s more than serviceable.
And, yes, both Deron and Dwight really like Dallas. I don’t know how likely one or both of those guys is, and given that Deron already plays in one of the places they both like, in Brooklyn, NY, Dallas seems less likely to me, though not out of it.
We hear tell that the Nets offered a crazy offer for Dwight (Brook Lopez and FIVE first round picks) and that the Magic turned them down. So if that’s what the Magic need to trade Dwight, Dwight’s not getting traded.
Here, though, is the really good news.
It may seem like the Mavs have gambled a lot on a possibility that isn’t particularly likely to happen, but I don’t think that’s accurate. In fact, apart from Tyson Chandler, they have gambled fairly little. And though we have spent this offseason saying goodbye to friends, we need to remember that the considerations which led to that occurrence this year will NOT be in place next year regardless of what happens.
The Mavs won’t get nothing, if they don’t get Dwight or Deron. Lamar Odom, for example, was picked up because the price was right and because he can be bought out next year for three million dollars. You know what else, though? He could not be bought out at all.
Jason Terry could be let go, or he could be given an extension.
With cap money, if it turns out that Delonte West or Vince Carter make a huge impact, they can be given cash too.
And there will be cash left over, for somebody.
I know, I know it’s not sexy.
But if, instead of the big fish, the Mavs in 2012, no longer gambling on the mega-free agents, just sign the guys who did them good and add some more complementary talent, they could be competing, really competing, for a good while, still.
In this ever-turning NBA, you can’t ask for much more than that.
Stay tuned for more stuff about what you might see on the court from this new group.