Continuing the trip down memory lane...
The Dallas Mavericks do not have what many would call a "storied history"; having joined the NBA in 1980 they remain one of the younger franchises in professional basketball, and so a list such as this may not require going too far in the Wayback machine. However, through the years the Mavericks have been one of the league's most active teams on the trade market, a tradition Mark Cuban has proudly continued, if not brought to crescendo. Some trades have been dubious, others hilarious, but these are the five we are calling "the best", under whatever arbitrary criteria so followed.
Find what checks in at #4 after The Jump:
July 13th, 2010: The Dallas Mavericks trade Erick Dampier, Matt Carroll, Eduardo Najera and cash to the Charlotte Bobcats for Tyson Chandler and Alexis Ajinca.
Ok, this trade you might remember.
The summer of 2010 was, for web-tuned Mavs fans, the summer of "The Dust Chip", the term given to Erick Dampier's $13 million nonguaranteed contract, which allowed for a team to cut him immediately, tax-free. This was supposed to make Dampier a powerful tool for GM Donnie Nelson and owner Mark Cuban to aggressively pursue a superstar, and at the time you may recall there were a few prominent names on the free agent market, like a certain Mr. James, Wade and Bosh.
Naturally, that was all comically unlikely right from the start, no matter how much fans wished for its providence or how many words Mike Fisher and his team used to hype it to earth-shattering levels. The Three Amigos assembled in South Beach, and by the time NBA business opened on July 10th there was nothing much more than scraps for the Dust Chip to fetch.
Knowing this, history must forgive us if our initial reactions to the Dust Chip bely its ingenuity.
I will be the first admit, myself, that I was not overwhelmed by the transaction when it was announced. I knew of Chandler's talent, of course, having personally witnessed he and Chris Paul dismantle Dallas in the first round of the playoffs a few years prior. However, the time since had not been too kind to Mr. Chandler. Frequent trips to the doctor provided reasonable cause for concern as to his health, as did his failing a physical that ended up negating a proposed trade to the Oklahoma City Thunder. And most advanced statistics and comprehensive metrics indicated these bumps and bruises had indeed eroded some of the skills and physical gifts which had made Chandler so much money to that point.
So, I was skeptical. Even if I could never fully buy into the idea that the Dust Chip could bring back a player the caliber of LeBron, the broken body of a formerly good big man was hardly the return I expected. At the time, with newly paid center Brendan Haywood seemingly entrenched at center, it seemed Dallas had ended up having to sell off the vaunted Dust Chip for an overpaid backup, not the Super-Sidekick who could help Dirk carry the Mavericks to the promised land.
Or not. If by some chance you're reading this and you don't know what happened next, Tyson Chandler would immediately seize the starting center job, and revitalize an aging Mavs' squad, providing energetic defense and an infectious optimism that many, included coach Rick Carlise and Dirk Nowitzki himself, would credit to helping change the culture of the team, on the court and in the locker room, culminating in a shocking title run and validation for one of the most unfairly maligned superstars in basketball history. Tyson Chandler was far from the only reason Dallas captured its first championship, but its next to impossible to imagine them duplicating the feat with most any other player in his stead.
Of course, for good measure, thanks to the always reliable ineptitude of the Charlotte Bobcats, the trade also allowed Dallas to shed a couple of bad contracts with Eduardo Najera and Matt Carroll. With Chandler and Ajinca both with just a year left on their contracts, Dallas was also able to get under the salary cap for the first time in what seemed like eons, and if Cuban ever gets his wish and is able to lure a free agent superstar to Texas, we will have yet another reason to laud this deal.
The championship is what really matters, of course. What makes it so interesting is how close it was to not happening. After the failed trade to OKC, Charlotte had another proposed move on the table with Toronto that would have swapped Chandler for Jose Calderon. That deal also fell through, as did a trade for Dallas that would have sent Dampier and his Dust Chip to Utah for Al Jefferson. Sometimes success and failure really is separated by the slimmest of margins. Thankfully, Mavs fans don't have to think about what might have been had Chandler ended up somewhere else for the 2010-'11 season.