Take a look around the NBA landscape for just a second. Hell, just take a look at the Western Conference.
This has been a fun season, even an overachieving one. Despite any optimism you might have had before the opener against the Phoenix Suns, there's not a great chance many expected the Mavs to be within earshot of the fifth seed after the trade deadline. Yet thanks to a wonky season from some supposed West challengers and a surprising Mavs team with chemistry levels off the charts, here the Mavericks are. They're a fun little team.
That's OK! There's no shame in that. Sure, the decisions that led to that mindset (the bungling of draft picks, the failed free agent summers, the horrendous Rondo trade) make my blood boil but considering all the Mavericks have been through (mostly self-inflicted, it must be noted) it feels kind of nice to not be swept up in the drama. The Mavericks aren't great. They aren't really even that good. They're fine -- and that's OK.
Realistically, no plausible trade would have pushed the Mavericks into the West's top four. Dwight Howard or Al Horford wouldn't have mattered much this season, especially considering how gutted the Mavericks roster would have been to accommodate such a trade. Almost every big Mavs target will be available this summer in free agency regardless, so why empty the roster for a minor upgrade when you could potentially get that same upgrade but keep young and promising players like Justin Anderson and Dwight Powell.
There just wasn't much of a point. Powell and Anderson represent the best young players the Mavs have had in what feels like decades. After the Rondo horror story and the growing Monta moodiness, it feels fun to watch a team that seems to enjoy playing the game as we do watching it. No sense in throwing that all away for what? A better shot at the fourth seed? A better first-round series result against the Clippers?
Sure, there were some smaller moves that made sense. Acquiring a young talent that has fallen out of favor like Ben McLemore made sense, but there's no telling what the Kings wanted in return. The rumors floating around that the Mavs had first round pick offers for Dwight Powell and Justin Anderson sounded enticing, especially for Powell, but we don't really know if that were the case and both Powell and Anderson look like they have the talent the Mavs would get in what is supposed to be a pretty weak draft class in 2016.
Even a trade to upgrade the bench can seem questionable when you consider the Mavs could get a similar caliber player during the buyout season before March 1. The Mavs could get some of that bench scoring they desperately need from a J.J. Hickson, Kevin Martin or David Lee without wasting assets on a Lou Williams or Brandon Bass. Again, not earth-shattering sexy moves but after Rondo from last year, I don't need sexy.
That's part of the point of contention, I suppose. The fact that we've reached this level of complacency is another problem altogether. With so many big targets floating around the deadline this year, it was a shame the Mavericks shot off their trade ammo last season for Rondo. You can't help but wonder if Jameer Nelson, Brandan Wright, Jae Crowder and a first-rounder this season couldn't have netted a Dwight or Horford or hell, a Kevin Love. That's what makes you sick to your stomach.
At least, at the very least, the Mavericks are still relevant somehow. Things could always be worse -- they could actually be performing to those national predictions and be sucking on the tailpipe of the West standings. I guess it's just the optimist in me that's looking on the bright side of things. The Mavs are competitive. They're fine.
Considering where they were six months ago, I'll take it.