I hate to say I told you so, but ...
I have a sneaking suspicion this will be Mavs fans by this time tomorrow ]pic.twitter.com/41T2m0j7mX— Shared Sacrifice (@BRogers789) June 30, 2016
Here we are again, for the fifth straight year. I wish I could say that we didn't see this coming, but let's be honest, we did. The minute we heard that Dallas wasn't offering Chandler Parsons the max, the writing was on the wall. We wrote about it, as did friend of the site Andy Tobolowsky when he made it clear that the Mavs were setting themselves up for failure yet again.
What's that you say? It's easy to predict offseason failure after seeing the same strategy crash and burn for five years straight? Fair point. We have plentiful evidence at this point that Dallas is stubbornly sticking to a losing strategy. But Andy wrote as early as 2012 that this plan was probably not going to work.
On June 29, the Ringer's Jason Gallagher wrote a beautiful piece about Dirk's place in all our hearts, which included this insightful nugget about the offseason strategy:
As for the future, well, that Dirk is even thinking about leaving Dallas shows just how badly owner Mark Cuban and general manager Donnie Nelson have screwed up. Dirk hasn’t just been sinless, he’s been downright sacrificial. After Dallas broke up the championship squad — allowing Jason Kidd and Tyson Chandler to go to the Knicks in free agency — Nowitzki took a huge pay cut in 2014 so that the team could rebuild. But the Mavs repeatedly missed out on free-agent targets like Dwight Howard, Deron Williams, and DeAndre Jordan. And the ones they signed have battled injuries (Wesley Matthews, Chandler Parsons) or have been Charlie Villanueva.
Other teams have gracefully moved on from franchise players. San Antonio has been built around a Big Three of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker for more than a decade. But now, as that core winds down, the Spurs have handed the team over to players they signed or developed, like LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard. When Boston moved on from Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, they made damn sure they got a huge draft haul in return.
The Mavs have no such plan. Every summer they put all their eggs in the free-agency basket and hope that coach Rick Carlisle can make an omelet with whatever they bring back. And that would be OK for some Dallas fans, as long they can watch their favorite athlete continue to perform.But for others, the Mavs’ front-office mistakes are so egregious that, as much as they love Dirk, they think it’s in his best interests to get the hell out of Dallas — taking their support along with him.
Okay, I hear some of you pushing back on me a little. Yes, there are plenty of fans and bloggers and writers who understand the logic in Mark Cuban's plan for building a team under the new CBA. I honestly don't mind giving the Mavs the benefit of the doubt -- Cuban's predictions about the new CBA were as good as anyone's before we started to see how things would go under the new order. What is so damn frustrating is that there is now a half-decade of evidence that this understanding of the CBA was bad and wrong and very very clearly does not work. AND YET THE MAVERICKS INSIST ON STUBBORNLY PULLING THIS BS AGAIN AND AGAIN EVERY OFFSEASON.
We've gotten so used to this yearly failure that Mavs Moneyball has the stages of grief down to a science. Again, we're not the only ones. After Dallas was spurned by all the top free agents yet again, SB Nation posted this history of every Mavs free agency failures since 2011.
Wanna hear the worst part? Things looked like maybe they turned around last year. Last offseason was the closest Dallas came to seeing the plan come together. If DeAndre Jordan had a tiny bit more mental fortitude, this would be such a different story. Regardless, the Mavs were in a good place to finally finish the game plan this offseason ... and then they told Chandler Parsons to go away.
Unlike last offseason, I'm pretty sure this will be the worst free agency period of the era. Here's why: the Mavs almost got Jordan because they had a talented young player on the roster who was charismatic and promising and spent weeks talking Jordan up. That's right! The only time the plan came close to working was when the roster actually consisted of more than just Dirk and cap space.
This offseason played out just like last offseason. Chandler Parsons talked up an extremely sought after free agent who would've fit really well with the Mavs roster as a piece for the future beyond Dirk. Just like last season, both Parsons and this free agent agreed to play together on the same team. (And safe bet is that Mike Conley is more true to his word than Jordan). Unfortunately, that team isn't the Dallas Mavericks. The Memphis Grizzlies took a huge jump in free agency this offseason because they didn't undervalue Chandler Parsons' market value -- if not as a player, then as an asset that could be used to convince another max player to join.
Dallas celebrated Chandler Parsons when the Mavs pried him from Houston. Mark Cuban spent the last two years bonding with Parsons and telling everyone he was the future of the franchise. It was pretty startling when Dallas suddenly decided to kick him to the curb like yesterday's garbage. Instead of keeping around the only asset that made this halfway viable, Dallas went back to the same old schtick. Let's sell two big free agents on an aging Dirk, Rick Carlisle, and basically nothing else. And of course, it worked out perfectly.
So now Parsons and Conley are teaming up with Marc Gasol and Z-Bo to challenge the Clippers as the dark horse candidate to upset the Warriors, Spurs, and Thunder. Meanwhile, the only news from Dallas is a plan to max restricted free agent Harrison Barnes, even though the Warriors will likely match any offer sent his way and the Mavericks will still be empty handed. Not only that, but maxing Barnes goes exactly against the reason Dallas gave for not retaining Chandler Parsons, as told to Tim MacMahon.
Mavs source: "The worst thing we can do is overpay for mediocrity."— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) July 1, 2016
So here we are. Dallas is a laughingstock on basketball twitter. It has become blatantly obvious that not only were the Mavs always going to miss out on the big free agents this offseason, but also those free agents weren't even talking to the Mavs in good faith. They were just using Dallas as leverage to get better contracts from the teams they would inevitably re-sign with. By predictably sticking to a losing strategy every year, Dallas has ensured that free agents can play them -- and the free agents aren't even being subtle about it anymore! This year it was Hassan Whiteside, Nic Batum, and Mike Conley. The most hilarious part is that Conley's meeting happened after Chandler Parsons agreed to a max deal with Memphis and told everyone that he and Conley would be playing together for the foreseeable future.
Seriously, that's where we are right now. Here's a few more tweets to drive home the point.
Mavs Free Agency 2012-2016 pic.twitter.com/O15kWElWgs— Jason Gallagher (@jga41agher) July 1, 2016
A visual timeline of the Mavs at the start of the FA to this afternoon. pic.twitter.com/OrTnCLY7y4— TJ Macias (@NefariousSiren) July 1, 2016
UPDATED PROJECTED MAVS STARTERS— Josh Bowe (@Boweman55) July 1, 2016
PG: literal garbage
SG: wes I guess
SF: used baby diapers
PF: cardboard cutout of Dirk
C: who gives a shit
@HPbasketball cryingmavericks.png pic.twitter.com/agXUJxr0d4— Patrick Gilbreath (@patthinx) July 1, 2016
Yeah. This is fun. And as of this writing, Dallas still hasn't signed anyone.
I wish I could say I have any amount of confidence that this latest and greatest failure will finally force the Mavs to learn a lesson, but well, I just don't. At this point the only question is whether Dirk will stick around despite knowing it won't get better. The future feels as bleak as it ever has since Cuban bought the team.
This is the darkest timeline. I guess we should embrace it?
Hello darkness my old friend.