Shortly after Dwight chose Houston, you began to see an idea percolating through the Mavs blogosphere that you heard here the day before, the months before-in fact, two years ago, when Plan Powder was first conceived: Of the three ways to get talent, draft, trade, sign, signing free agents is by far the least useful. And that actual assets, in the form of draft picks or contracts or players, are much, much preferable. This has been more scientifically confirmed in this article.
That's the Mavs Moneyball difference. We're not as plugged in, as the guys with Cuban's cell phone number. But precisely because we're a little farther way, and spend just as much time thinking about the Mavs, we give it to you straight. We were the ones, for example, who suggested that Vince Carter might be just as valuable to the Mavericks as Lamar Odom-and that Peja Stojakovic might be a little more than an end of the bench shooter.
We do what we do.
The Jose Calderon deal is exactly what the Mavericks do well.
That's, of course, part of what made the Mavericks' plan so bad. They are godawful at the big move. Since the day they traded up in the draft to get a young Dirk Werner Nowitzki and, later, a slightly older Steve Werner Nash, they haven't made one.
But singles and doubles? Turning Antoine Walker into Jason Terry? Devin Harris into Jason Kidd? An end-of-the-line Josh Howard into Haywood and Butler? Dampier into Tyson Chandler (which, admittedly, turned OUT to be a homerun, though who'd have known it at the time). Plucking Shawn Marion, Peja Stojakovic, and Vince Carter off the scrap heap?
THAT is what the Mavs do. They are one of the absolute best teams in the league at correctly assessing value, at least as far as established players are concerned. For two years, we've seen the dark side of that, as the Mavs sacrificed everything for futile pursuits---it's the kind of thing you have to worry about with them because they know that Goran Dragic is not Deron Williams.
What you DON'T have to worry about is that they're going to throw a lot of money at Monta Ellis, or Josh Smith. Or Charlie Villanueva, or whatever. And, if you look around the NBA, that's a really, really nice thing. So yes, it's true that the Mavericks front office, because of their weaknesses, were never successful in putting a second star next to Dirk and bid fair to never do so.
But it's equally true that almost no teams in the league could have won 50 games for ten years without a second star. Without even a Tyson Chandler, for all but one of those years. It's an impressive, impressive feat. Now, one hopes, with Calderon--who said no to Sacramento because he didn't want to rebuild--they're sending a different kind of signal.
The Mavs wanted to rebuild on the fly, and Deron Williams or Dwight Howard would have probably done that. But failing that, the signal sent by the Calderon signing is that they're not blowing it up--they're switching from "fly" to "jog."
In Calderon, the Mavs have an excellent point guard. Playing out of the spotlight, this may be news to a lot of even fairly dedicated fans, but they really, really do. Last year, split between two awful teams Calderon averaged 7 assists to only 1.7 turnovers, and had an assist to turnover ratio that was behind on Chris Paul's-and nearly a full assist ahead of the nearest competitor. Last year, he trailed only Rondo, Nash and Paul in total assists (8.8 per game), and absolutely smoked everyone in assist to turnover ratio. 4.5, .12 ahead of Chris Paul and 1.3 ahead of anyone else.
Meanwhile he shot 46% from three and 90% from the line. 47% from the floor. And that was on Toronto and Detroit.
In 2008-2009, he set the all-time mark for free throw percentage, shooting 98%.
Okay, he's not a good defender. He's going to be pretty old for a PG at the end of his contract, if they keep him that long. Why don't the Mavericks just go out and get a Rajon Rondo who can shoot the three, you know? And why don't they pay that guy 5 million dollars.
The Mavs have a piece who will make their offense a lot better, whoever turns out to be the offense. That's exactly how you spend that money. If they do the same on defense, grabbing an effective center, they'll have a core.
Sometimes, when you get lost, it's tempting to keep trying to take shortcuts to get back to where you need to be, without going all the way back. But pretty often you end up having to backtrack anyway, and you might as well get started.
The Mavericks need assets. If they're keeping Dirk-and they'd better keep Dirk, and they're going to keep Dirk-they need to stop waiting to spend cash and starting to build a team that can play together for the next three or four years.
And they need to put themselves in a position to do not what they do spectacularly poorly-making big FA or trade splashes-but what they do really well, little moves that add up to a lot. No, Calderon and Dirk and, say, Asik, or Bynum, isn't going to win a championship next year. But blowing it up isn't going to win a championship either. You win some games, you play some enjoyable basketball, and you put yourself in a position to where you need a couple small moves instead of enormous ones to succeed.
This is a great first step, and it's right in their wheelhouse. Calderon and Dirk is a slower way than Dirk and Dwight--but it's not giving up, it's getting back to business.