The Dallas Mavericks don’t need to hit a home run this offseason. Last offseason provided the clearest of distinctions between what Mark Cuban, Donnie Nelson, and the Mavs front office does well and what they don’t do quite so well (or perhaps are prevented from doing well, given how the league is set up). They spent a lot of time helping other free agents strengthen their bargaining position for the teams they’d eventually sign with and ultimately were left out of the top tier of free agency altogether.
Then, after the dust settled, they scrambled once again and filled spots with quality mid-level guys, including handing out arguably one of the two or three best bargain non-rookie contracts in the league to Seth Curry. Injuries ultimately derailed any chance of fighting for a playoff seed once the regular season began, but then at the trade deadline, Dallas shrewdly pulled off one of the best trades of Cuban’s tenure as owner, nabbing Nerlens Noel for basically very little.
It has been written before, but it bears repeating: these are the sort of moves Dallas does really well. Despite the common perception of Cuban as a man boiling over with eagerness and urgency, desperate to win now at all costs, the Mavs are at their best when they are patient and opportunistic in their approach to roster building. While the circumstances that gave rise to the Noel trade aren’t the sort that come very often, this strategy is going to be the franchise’s secret weapon in propping up the next era of Mavericks basketball, which as of now looks like it will feature Harris Barnes as *a* key piece, though perhaps not *the* key piece.
To this point it would seem clear that the Dallas front office was right to prefer Harrison Barnes over Chandler Parsons, and that statement requires some personal crow-eating on my part. From March of last year up until basically the last week in June, almost every indication from reliable reporting pointed to Dallas being willing to pay Parsons, and I wrongly took that—coupled with the fact that Portland and Memphis actually offered big deals—to mean that concerns over Chandler’s injury issues were not major. Whoops.
It’s possible, I suppose, that Parsons could bounce back next season, just as it’s possible that Barnes could regress, but as a Mavericks fan you have to like your odds against such a scenario. Personally, I hope Parsons does rebound into his January 2016 form, because that was a fun player to watch and it would be sad for his career to go off the rails because of injuries. Either way, however, the Mavericks clearly made the right move from a rebuilding perspective.
Barnes’ true upside, and how he fits on a version of Dallas that can contend, rather than one that won its fewest games in almost two decades and genuinely needed Barnes to heave up shots like never before, is still undefined. Winning teams have to have at least one elite player, and those guys tend to be almost exclusively taken via drafting. The Dallas draft record of late is not inspiring, and at least a small portion of that could honestly be attributed to bad luck, but with a top-10 pick coming, the Mavs’ chances of adding a high-quality piece aren’t terrible. They might not get a superstar, but that’s okay. As Dirk Nowitzki himself recently said, the team is going to probably need years (plural) to get back to contender status.
So, don’t worry if the ball doesn’t leave the park. Dallas doesn’t need a home run. They’ll be just fine hitting more singles and doubles.