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ESPN's NBA Future Power Rankings: Dallas checks in at #6

ESPN's annual Future Power Rankings are out, for insiders. Here's what they have to say about Dallas:

6. Dallas Mavericks | Future Power Rating: 697

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban made a huge gamble last summer when he balked at signing veterans such as Tyson Chandler and Caron Butler so he could have a shot this summer at landing either Deron Williams or Dwight Howard. At the time we felt it was a risk worth taking. We may have been wrong.

The Mavs were very close to landing Williams and may still get their hands on Howard next summer, but realistically, their chances of landing a superstar have diminished dramatically. Now they're left with a very good Dirk Nowitzki, several past-their-prime vets and a handful of younger castoffs.

Several Dallas vets, including Jason Terry and Jason Kidd, walked away this summer. A couple of others, such as Lamar Odom and Brendan Haywood, were kicked to the curb. Their replacements are interesting, though. The Mavs landed Elton Brand for next to nothing. The same goes forDarren Collison, who was a starter for much of last season and had the highest playoff player efficiency rating of any Pacer. Then they landed free-agent guard O.J. Mayo on a reasonable two-year deal and picked up veteran big man Chris Kaman on a one-year deal.

Realistically, the Mavericks look like a team that will be fighting for the eighth seed in the Western Conference next season. But down the road, the team is still loaded with flexibility for the future. Cuban has proven he can lure top free agents to Big D and the Mavs should be able to land a max player in the summer of 2013 or several in the summer of 2014 if they need to.

While we understand that the Mavs' future is less than clear, we continue to find it hard to bet against Cuban. Great management, significant financial resources and an inviting market usually lead to great things. Yes, the Mavs were burned this summer, but they continue to be positioned to make a big splash down the road.

Hey, the experts agree: in the era of extreme taxation, financial flexibility is important. And few teams are as flexible as Dallas. If the argument that the Mavs' front office is so smart doesn't move you, that at least should. A star in place, quality management, and cap space is a potent mix. We hope!

For those curious, the Nets check in at #14. Cue outrage in 3...2...1....