NBA reporter Marc Stein held a Greenroom on Friday night, and I got the chance to speak. Earlier he had mentioned how Mavericks fans were very frustrated and he wasn’t really sure why, so I used my time to try and explain it. I talked about how the Mavericks seem to overrate themselves, how they ignore the draft, how they can never land the free agents they want, how they’re arrogant and seem to think they’re smarter than everyone else.
And then Marc asked me what particular move they should have made, and to be honest, I didn’t have a good answer. There is no one move I can point to that they should have made this offseason that would make me feel better.
So I started thinking about it. Why am I so frustrated? It’s not just me either. If you check out Mavs twitter, (which is generally a terrible idea), you’ll see a lot of anger. A lot of people complaining about the same old Mavs failing at free agency. You’ll also see different people coming out left and right to scold us. Calling us entitled fans, telling us the team knows better, that we’re a bunch of idiots and that Mark Cuban is a deity. So what’s the truth? Probably somewhere in the middle.
This was a bad free agency class. There weren’t a lot of names available that really moved the needle. And I actually liked what Dallas did for the most part. Re-signing Tim Hardaway Jr. is a good move. He can be frustrating but he can also absolutely go off and take over games in a way that’s not easy to replicate. He seems to have found his niche here and wants to be a Maverick, reportedly turning down more money elsewhere.
I really like the Reggie Bullock signing. He’s the kind of veteran 3-and-D guy this team desperately needs. He will help. I also think Sterling Brown is a good fit as another 3-and-D wing, although I don’t expect a huge impact from him. I don’t mind bringing back Boban Marjanovic, assuming it’s at the vet minimum. He’s one of Luka’s best friends on the team, he’s great for the team culture and he’s not the worst player in the world to roll out in certain situations, as long as that situation isn’t starting in a playoff series. Hell, in a vacuum, I’m even cool with picking up the option on Willie Cauley-Stein. Willie can be frustrating, but he’s one of the most athletic bigs in the league and is capable of really contributing. Oh and they also traded Josh Richardson and got back Moses Brown and a trade exception. Alright, works for me.
The other topic of discussion for the Mavericks has been Goran Dragic. Add me to the list of people who really want him on the team. He’s a tough veteran guy who can serve as a secondary ball handler, as well as a mentor to Luka Doncic. But, I’m not even mad about refusing to overpay in a trade to get him. The Mavericks are very low on young developmental players. Giving up Josh Green and/or Tyrell Terry to bring in a 35 year old guard on a $19 million deal is bad business, especially if there’s even a small chance he’ll be bought out and end up here later, like Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report seems to think is the case.
“So Clint, if you don’t really disagree with anything they did, what’s the problem?” you may be asking.
Well reader, thanks for asking! The problem is that for the third year in a row, we’re going to see basically the same group out there. While I may not be smart enough to tell you exactly how to upgrade the roster, I’m smart enough to know that continuing to trot out almost exactly the same group again is not the answer.
The Mavericks seem to think that since Luka is so good they can afford to have a lesser roster around him and rely on his genius to carry them. Last year’s team almost beat the Los Angeles Clippers, who probably would have at least made the NBA Finals if not for Kawhi getting hurt. The Mavericks had an extremely short rotation that series because their depth is non-existent. There just aren’t enough guys on the team who can be impactful.
They seem to view this as being so close that they don’t really need to make drastic improvement and that they’re right on the edge of competing for a title. But this is the wrong approach. A subpar roster almost beat one of the best teams in the league due to Luka’s greatness. So why not do everything you can to upgrade the roster and go for it now?
I’m not even talking about bringing in another star. The Mavericks already made their big move when they traded for Kristaps Porzingis. That hasn’t worked out like we all wanted so far but it was a move they were correct to make. I think there’s been too much concern about Luka having another star with him anyway. I think you can argue that how close they have gotten to being competitive makes the opposite argument.
Forget chasing stars. Focus on loading the roster with guys who can help. Bullock and Brown are a great start. Get more of those kind of guys and fill the team up with them, instead of focusing on a big fish and then mostly standing pat when you strike out on them.
My worry is they’re going to wait until the situation gets to a breaking point before trying to go all-in. Milwaukee waited until there was real concern about Giannis leaving before doing everything they could to make him happy. It worked out for them of course, but there’s no guarantee it will work for us, so why not get started now and try to avoid it?
Sidebar: An example of the kind of thing that really drives me crazy about the Mavericks is letting Rick Carlisle go to the Pacers without pushing for any compensation. This just feels like Mark Cuban thinks he’s smarter than everyone else, that he’s playing the long game and some day his human decency will be rewarded. This is stupid. Any other team in the league would have insisted on at least a draft pick coming back. A draft pick would be a nice thing to have in case you want to, oh I don’t know, trade for Goran Dragic maybe.
Also, a confession. Part of why the lack of moves is so frustrating is that it’s just not fun. I, like many of you reading this, am a Twitter junkie. I don’t tweet all that much, but I can obsessively refresh with the best of them. Follow me if you’re interested. The dopamine rush you get when you see a tweet from Woj, Shams, Stein or Chris Haynes about your team is one of life’s great joys. I treat the beginning of NBA free agency like a holiday, so it’s very disappointing when the team you love is inactive.
Anyway, the Mavericks drive me crazy, but I have to continually remind myself that I’m not actually part of the team, and I can’t do anything about it no matter how much I stress. I’m just a fan who occasionally writes about them (Editor’s note: write about them more, Clint).
For my own mental health, I’m going to step away now for a period of intense reflection. A long, long break will be very good for me. Some time to work on myself and what really matters. I will travel to Tibet to study at the feet of a great yogi. I will study Transcendental Meditation with David Lynch. I will seek the wisdom of nature. Perhaps I’ll build a cabin and record an album there like Bon Iver, or write the next great American novel.
I don’t know exactly how long I’ll be gone, and I know you’ll miss me but it may be a while. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if you don’t hear from me again until the Mavericks play their first Summer League game this afternoon. Until we meet again...
We discuss the end of free agency for the Dallas Mavericks here. If you want to listen to the podcast in your favorite app, go search Mavs Moneyball Podcast and subscribe. Again, here’s the direct link and you can also click on the embedded player below.