Boweman and I have decided to divvy up approaches to the Mavs free agent approach so far. Stay tuned for his column later today.
The theme of my column is this: If the Mavericks are planning to let their free agents go because they want to reload next summer, they’re making a mistake we’ll all have decades to regret.
The reason the Mavs are making a huge mistake is a pretty straightforward one, and one I've argued before. No one ever wins a championship, they can't be bought, borrowed or stolen, and passing up a chance to go for another for the vain hope of reloading on the fly is not only a horrible idea, it's a demonstrably horrible idea.
Maybe we need not to know that so we can be fans. But it's not statistically possible to win an NBA championship.
I'm serious. Since the union of the ABA and NBA, 11 different franchises have won the championship. Without doing the math, I think it’s extremely unlikely that there’s another major sport in which that small a percentage of its members meet with ultimate success.
Moreover, if you disregard the first three years of the league, in which the Trail Blazers, Bullets and Sonics won, and never won again, you’re down to eight franchises in the entire HISTORY of the combined leagues.
And I’m not going to do the math but for the record, besides the Rochester Royals in ’50-’51, the Syracuse Nationals in ’54-’55, the St. Louis Hawks in ’57-58, the Milwaukee Bucks in ’70-’81, it turns out everyone else who won from NINETEEN FORTY-FIVE TO NINETEEN SEVENTY-SIX, THE YEAR OF THE NBA-ABA UNION WAS EITHER A LAKER, A CELTIC, A TEAM FROM PHILADELPHIA, OR A KNICK.
That’s bloody it. Literally. We’re talking seventy years.
The Lakers of the 80s won their last championship in ‘87-‘88. The Pistons of the 80s won their last championship in ’89-’90. The Jordan Bulls won their last championship in ’97-’98.
The Lakers won again 12 seasons later. The Pistons won again 14 years later. The Bulls are still waiting.
Once again, that’s of the teams that ever DID win And of those, the number of teams that ever won again is much smaller. On the other side, The Hakeem Rockets managed to squeeze out two championships. It’s not exactly a coincidence that they were in a row, or that they coincided with Jordan’s absence.
Hopefully, you will not now feel as if I’m being coy, or beating around the bush, when I state my point this way: A championship is a rare flower that you gather when ye may. You don’t get back to it by rebuilding and making smart moves. You get it by having the unbelievable luck to draft Dirk Nowitzki and, after ten years, have assembled he right talent to win one or two.
Roughly two-thirds of the league has never been that lucky even once.
That's decades of GMs, free-agents, trading, each year looking for that thing that'll finally make it happen and always, always failing. A zillion careers that ended ringless. Think of all that futile calling and paperwork.
The point is, that there's no way to do it. You don’t draft your way into it. You don’t free-agent cap space your way into it. You don’t smart-personnel decision your way into it.
How do you win a championship? You get Dirk, then you get luckier. You get exactly the right complement to him in T-Chan, not because you were looking for him but because you wanted the chance to take a free agent swipe, he was going to give you tradable cap space, and because he didn’t end up on the Thunder.
You get DeShawn Stevenson, a throw-in with an albatross of a contract, to perform amazingly well.
You get Jason Terry to outperform Lebron James.
If you're not the Mavs, you draft Kobe out of high school before people were scouted much in high school, to pair with Shaq. You draft Tim Duncan because David Robinson went down for a whole year.
Don't believe me? Think about this. What Cleveland learned is that it's not enough to draft LeBron James. And believe you me, all that nonsense about them not building a team around is based on the insane idea that is also behind the Mavs current insane idea, which is that you can just sign the right guys, that's a possible thing, and the Cavs failed to do that. Actually, it's impossible to do that, and even the Mavs only did it by accident, after eleven years.
The Jazz learned that drafting Deron Williams wasn't enough. The Magic are about to learn that drafting Dwight Howard wasn't enough, and the Hornets that drafting Chris Paul wasn't enough. You don't think it's amazing that none of those guys will have won a championship with the team that lucked into them? That the only truly great player drafted in the last seven or so years who did so is Dwayne Wade when, again, he was playing with Shaq?
Fans hate to hear this. GMs must really hate to hear this. You cannot do anything to win a championship and you won’t ever win a championship.
That’s why the Mavericks are making a huge mistake.
You can see what seems like sense in what they seem to be doing, which is only going after their own free agents in a financially responsible way so they can reload in a couple of years when Dirk needs help.
No one reloads. It’s not possible to do. The Lakers did it, after they lost Shaq, because Chris Wallace handed them Pau Gasol. You want to count on that?
Yes, theoretically it would be possible to sign Deron Williams or Dwight Howard at this time next year, if they had cap space. You want to count on that?
It’d be a dumb thing to count on even if it weren’t one hundred percent the case that neither would ever be willing to sign to a team that had only one star, then in his mid-thirties, and no Tyson Chandler, and no Caron Butler. Even if our new young stars don’t want to be the centerpieces in places like Dallas, they want to be moguls, entrepreneurs, which means New York (Chris Paul, Deron Williams) or LA (Dwight Howard).
It’d be a dumb thing to count on because you don’t count on anything. Every single available piece of evidence, every metric, every narrative, every sniff test, stat test or geology test shows the same thing:
You NEVER win a championship. You don’t reload your way into a championship. You don’t free-agent sign your way into a championship. You don’t draft your way into a championship unless you’re drafting Kobe, Dirk, Duncan or Shaq. And that never happens.
The Mavericks won a championship. That means that they HAVE THE PERSONNEL TO WIN A CHAMPIONSHIP. No one ever gets that. You know what you do when that happens?
You commit everything you have to keeping that together as long as possible and you embrace sucking for the next fifteen years, because I have news for you:
Every team, after it loses its championship core, sucks for the next 15 years. No matter how they draft, trade or sign.
The worst part is, the Mavs will know this pretty shortly. Once they whiff on Deron, Dwight and Paul next year, they’ll know that for sure, because there won’t be anyone on the horizon to replace Dirk.
They’ll be stuck staring at their cap space, which will only ever get them the likes of John Salmons, scratching their heads, knowing they made the smart math move, knowing that everyone was talking sense, and knowing that they are completely screwed.
Let DeShawn and Barea go. At some point, you have to see what Beaubois, Brewer, Rudy and Dom can do.
Re-sign Tyson Chandler, no matter what it takes. And re-sign Caron. Sure, the Mavs didn’t NEED Caron Butler, the Caron Butler Mavs of the early part of the season were AMAZING. Basketball isn’t standardized testing, they didn’t sweep the Lakers because they have the answer now, because they’re better than the Lakers in a dominant way. Maybe they will need Caron next year. He’s a great player, and they already have him. Re-sign him n T-Chan.
Or re-sign nobody and embrace the prevailing, immensely easily debunkable myth, that smart business decisions will make ultimate success sustainable.
That never has been true, it’s not going to be true now, for the first time ever, and the Mavs are making an enormous mistake.
They are screwed in three years regardless, because that’s how basketball works. I say embrace it, and try to win one or two more.
Stop worrying. Love the bomb. Pay the men. It's the only hope, Luke.