Dallas Mavericks: Countdown

Countdown: No. 1 Dirk Nowitzki

June, 1, 2012
6/01/12
12:01
AM CT
Last in a 15-part series ranking the Mavericks' 2011-12 roster in importance of bringing back next season.

OK, so there just can't be any suspense as to who finishes No. 1 in the Countdown. No way, no how. The Dallas Mavericks would love to create some suspense for when I do this exercise after next season.

Know how they can?

Land a superstar in a month with all that first-time cap space to join forces with Dirk Nowitzki for the final two years of his contract and perhaps a few years beyond that.

After all, it's what Dirk needs and, frankly, what he expects. Remember when Nowitzki signed that four-year, $80 million deal two summers ago, right before leading the franchise to its first championship? Yeah, well, the 7-foot German could have really stuck it to owner Mark Cuban and demanded the maximum allowed under the old collective bargaining agreement of $96 million.

But that's not how Nowitzki is wired. He gave the old hometown discount to the only team he's ever known because he kept an open mind that the money he leaves on the table might go to someone who could help the Mavs remain a contender in the Western Conference into Dirk's twilight years.

"You have cap space," Nowitzki said, "so you can actually sign somebody decent."

That somebody is the local kid himself, perennial All-Star point guard Deron Williams, who is set to become a free agent July 1 and who certainly hasn't given any signs that's he's high on returning to the Nets, even as they begin a new (and possibly exciting) era in Brooklyn. Dirk wasn't thrilled that Cuban dismantled the title team, but he understood, at least he said so publicly, the business reasons behind it.

So now he's looking for a little ROI on his undervalued contract.

Dirk and Deron are no strangers. D-Will grew up in The Colony and he clearly didn't feel like a stranger at the AAC as he hung around the Mavs at times during the 2011 championship run.

"I know D-Will very well," Nowitzki said during a recent appearance on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM's "Galloway & Co." "In July I’m sure I can call him. He’s from here which obviously is a huge help and he loves golfing, so we have a lot of great golf courses around here. I think we’ve got a lot of stuff going for us. But like I said, Jersey (Brooklyn) is probably going to offer him a lot of things and so are some other teams that are out there with cap room.

"But, this should be an exciting time for the Mavericks."

And so the Countdown comes to an end with the one and only No. 1 ...

DIRK NOWITZKI
Pos.: PF
Ht./Wt.: 7-foot, 245
Experience: 14 years
Age: 33 (June 19, 1978)
2011-12 stats: 21.6 ppg (45.7 FG%), 6.7 rpg
Contract status: Signed through 2013-14
2011-12 salary: $19.1 million
2012-13 salary: $20.9 million

[+] EnlargeDirk Nowitzki
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezDirk Nowitzki is the greatest Mavs player ever and No. 19 on the NBA's all-time scoring list.
His story: Is there a franchise record that Nowitzki doesn't hold? Scanning, scanning, scanning ... Dirk is the greatest Mavericks player ever and as much as Cuban is credited for the turnaround of this franchise, it's Nowitzki who has served as the rock through 12 consecutive playoff appearances, two NBA Finals appearances, a championship and now the next phase. He enters the coming season No. 19 on the NBA's all-time scoring list and with the return of a full 82-game season, he will move into the top 15 with a chance to get as high as 13th, roaring past such luminaries as No. 17 Allen Iverson, No. 15 Jerry West and No. 14 Reggie Miller. In the final year of his contract, Nowitzki will easily move into the top 10, passing No. 10 Oscar Robertson, No. 9 Hakeem Olajuwon and, with good health, he will close in on No. 6 Shaquille O'Neal. How high Dirk can ultimately go will depend on how long he decides to play. How long he decides to play could ultimately depend on who he is playing with when his contract expires.

His outlook: Nowitzki has two years left on his contract, but it's hard to envision him not signing on for two or three more seasons as long as his body is capable. And with his dedication to nutrition and fitness (yes, even with last season's little hiccup), physical limitations wouldn't seem to be an issue if he decides to call it a career after 16 seasons. What then would convince him to retire when his current contract expires after the 2013-14 season? Most likely whether he's having fun will be a factor, and the fun factor starts where we started, with the Mavs landing Williams and then continuing to build a contender around Dirk and D-Will. If Williams heads elsewhere, this will become a very interesting team-building project for Cuban and Donnie Nelson that could be a bumpy road over the next two seasons. Nowitzki has repeatedly said he doesn't see himself playing in another uniform or a different city. So what happens in the summer of 2014 if the Mavs are a middling team and his contract is up? Hey, can we get through the summer of 2012 first?

Thanks for following the Countdown!

No. 15 Lamar Odom
No. 14 Brian Cardinal
No. 13 Yi Jianlian
No. 12 Dominique Jones
No. 11 Brendan Haywood
No. 10 Kelenna Azubuike
No. 9 Ian Mahinmi
No. 8 Vince Carter
No. 7 Rodrigue Beaubois
No. 6 Brandan Wright
No. 5 Jason Terry
No. 4 Delonte West
No. 3 Jason Kidd
No. 2 Shawn Marion
No. 1 Dirk Nowitzki

Countdown: No. 2 Shawn Marion

May, 31, 2012
5/31/12
12:01
AM CT
Fourteenth in a 15-part series ranking the Mavericks' 2011-12 roster in importance of bringing back next season.

By garnering enough votes from the media to finish eighth for Defensive Player of the Year and enough votes from the 29 other league coaches to finish among the "others receiving votes" for the NBA's two all-defensive teams, Shawn Marion ranks among the greatest Dallas Mavericks defenders in team history.

Tyson Chandler set the bar for frontcourt players last season when he finished third in DPOY voting (he won it this season with the New York Knicks) and made the all-defensive second team. The only other Mavs player ever to make an all-defensive team was Derek Harper (twice) more than 20 years ago.

There's plenty of folks within the Mavs organization that believe Marion should have made an all-defensive team for his work this season that for a good stretch included defending some of the game's top point guards. Marion's all-around value last season (he led the Mavs in rebounding at 7.4 a game) can't be overstated, and it's a run that really started last season and through the championship when he played MVP-type defense on Kobe Bryant, then Kevin Durant and then LeBron James.

It's been an interesting three seasons for the Matrix in Dallas. After the first season, which ended with the disappointing first-round exit to the San Antonio Spurs, Marion seemed more like a short-timer here, an aging forward whose better days were behind him and whose long and relatively expensive contract would surely serve only as an albatross.

Now it would seem counterproductive -- and even more unjust -- if the Mavs were to depart with their versatile small forward either by way of the amnesty clause or a trade to create additional cap space.

"I don't know, this is a business. It's a business first," Marion said after the season. "I look at it like that, that's what it is. I know that. I've adjusted to that throughout my career. That's what you have got to take it as first, everything else comes second. It's a business first, it means you've got to have that mindset going into, you know that, that's what you've got to take it as."

If Marion becomes another veteran cast aside in this summer of cap space designed to rebuild quickly around Dirk Nowitzki, the Mavs will have a difficult time replacing the qualities the Matrix delivers on a nightly basis on and off the floor.

The Countdown nears its end at No. 2 ...

SHAWN MARION
Pos.: SF/PF
Ht./Wt.: 6-foot-7, 228
Experience: 13 years
Age: 34 (May 7, 1978)
2011-12 stats: 10.6 ppg (44.6 FG%), 7.4 rpg,
Contract status: Signed through 2013-14
2011-12 salary: $8.0 million
2012-13 salary: $8.65 million

[+] EnlargeShawn Marion
Jerome Miron/US PresswireShawn Marion became a defensive stalwart for the Mavs this season, often taking on the opposition's best player.
His story: In his three seasons with the Mavs, Marion has really re-cast his career like few would have believed he could. He made his name with the run-and-gun Suns, rightly or wrongly portrayed as something of a third wheel behind Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire. Once he left Phoenix after eight-and-a-half seasons -- and some near-misses at playing in the NBA Finals -- as part of the deal to Miami that sent Shaquille O'Neal to the desert, Marion's career flattened out. Miami traded Marion to Toronto and then in a convoluted four-team trade, the Mavs acquired Marion on July 9, 2009. In Dallas, he's sacrificed scoring and 3-point shooting (he averaged 18.4 points and more than 230 3-pointers a season in Phoenix) to become more of a post-up player who mostly scores on slashing to the basket and cleaning up around it, and specializes in defense.

His outlook: His chances of remaining in Dallas next season certainly seem much better now than earlier in the season when Marion figured to be the logical choice to be waived via the amnesty clause. After all, as valued as Marion is, it's still harder to go out and get a big body to patrol the paint than to find another small forward. But Brendan Haywood took a significant downturn as the season wore on and he lost favor with the home fans with his mostly non-existent play in the first round against the Thunder. If Mavs management needs to go to the route of the amnesty -- and they will if Deron Williams is going to sign -- then they'll have a lot of explaining to do to the fan base if they amnesty Marion over Haywood. Now, there also is the possibility that Marion could be moved as part of a package deal if it means the Mavs are able to get young impact players in return.

No. 15 Lamar Odom
No. 14 Brian Cardinal
No. 13 Yi Jianlian
No. 12 Dominique Jones
No. 11 Brendan Haywood
No. 10 Kelenna Azubuike
No. 9 Ian Mahinmi
No. 8 Vince Carter
No. 7 Rodrigue Beaubois
No. 6 Brandan Wright
No. 5 Jason Terry
No. 4 Delonte West
No. 3 Jason Kidd
No. 2 Shawn Marion
No. 1 Coming Friday

Countdown: No. 3 Jason Kidd

May, 30, 2012
5/30/12
12:01
AM CT
Thirteenth in a 15-part series ranking the Mavericks' 2011-12 roster in importance of bringing back next season.

For many, even after his out-of-this-world performance in the 2011 postseason, Jason Kidd would not be a consideration to bring back next season. After all, he'll turn 40 in March and he's coming off a season in which he struggled through three injuries, missed 18 of 66 games and finished with the worst statistics of his career.

In fact, there will be some of you who can't believe Kidd wasn't on this list a week ago.

Everyone by now should know that Kidd's value is not measured by statistics alone. And in regards to next season, his value can only be measured in Dirk Nowitzki's happiness. Remember, Nowitzki is the one that really pushed for the 2008 trade for Kidd, persevered with Kidd through the rough times when it didn't look like a championship was in the stars and then ultimately won a title with Kidd -- a long-awaited first for both.

And now Nowitzki wants him back. Nowitzki believes Kidd can still play the game at a high level and make offense easier for the rest of the team, as Nowitzki has often said. But there's another variable at work here. Nowitzki, one might surmise, wants Kidd back to help ease the transition with the possibility of a large-scale roster revamp on the way. And that revamp could possibly include the club's future point guard, whether it's Kidd's friend Deron Williams or someone else.

Nowitzki needs another familiar face, another familiar voice, a veteran, old-school, respected presence to set the ground rules and help bring a new cast of players together as quickly as possible. Kidd, loved by all in the NBA, would be integral in getting that done.

Just listen to Nowitzki talk about his pal:

"I’d love to have him back," Nowitzki said. "I was very fortunate in my career to play with two of the best passing point guards there ever were with Nashie (Steve Nash) and him. He’s been great. He's been a warrior, just one of probably the fiercest competitors I’ve ever been around. That’s why he was able to stick around a long time, because he still has it. He can make big shots, he can compete on defense, he doesn’t care about stats and he’s been a great friend off the floor, too; great guy, Hall of Fame player. We wish to have him back, but if he decides, hey, there’s a good team I can come off the bench and give them something and he leaves, then I can’t be mad at him."

But would Dirk be mad if the Mavs didn't go the extra mile to re-sign Kidd if dollars gap isn't ridiculously wide?

This will be interesting.

The Countdown roars along at No. 3 ...

JASON KIDD
Pos.: PG
Ht./Wt.: 6-foot-4, 210
Experience: 18 years
Age: 39 (March 23, 1973)
2011-12 stats: 6.2 ppg, 5.5 apg, 4.1 rpg, 48 G
Contract status: Unrestricted free agent
2011-12 salary: $10.1 million
2012-13 salary: TBD

[+] EnlargeJason Kidd, Dirk Nowitzki
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireCount Dirk Nowitzki amond those that want to see Jason Kidd back with the Mavs next season.
His story: A decade ago Kidd guided the Nets to back-to-back NBA Finals appearances, proving that the step-child franchise can win in the shadow of the Big Apple. And that was back when the shadow extended to the Jersey swamps and didn't have a Russian billionaire owner promising to pay whatever it takes to field a championship club. The question is whether J-Kidd is showering any advice on the younger Williams, like how great it might be to revive that franchise in a beautiful new building in Brooklyn. Or perhaps Kidd is telling Williams how great Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson treat their players and how they'll always give the franchise a chance to compete no matter how difficult it appears (and this is one of those times). Kidd has made no secret that he would happily accept a backup role to Williams and very few others -- here or even possibly up there. Kidd has said he'd like to return to Dallas, while at the same time leaving the door for change wide open.

His outlook: Kidd has also said he wants to play two more years to take him through 20 seasons and age 41. But can he be an effective everyday player at his age? Will a return to the full 82-game schedule, with its month-long buildup to the regular season and the normal days off between games help him stay healthy and be more effective than he was during this rushed and compacted season? And how much will he command on the open market? Does Kidd see himself as a full mid-level guy? And which teams that he might find attractive will be open to pay him? When the season ended, Kidd predicted that his future will be settled very quickly once the July 1 free agency period opens. Is that because he assumes that D-Will's future will be sealed quickly? The intrigue builds.

No. 15 Lamar Odom
No. 14 Brian Cardinal
No. 13 Yi Jianlian
No. 12 Dominique Jones
No. 11 Brendan Haywood
No. 10 Kelenna Azubuike
No. 9 Ian Mahinmi
No. 8 Vince Carter
No. 7 Rodrigue Beaubois
No. 6 Brandan Wright
No. 5 Jason Terry
No. 4 Delonte West
No. 3 Jason Kidd
No. 2 Coming Thursday

Countdown: No. 4 Delonte West

May, 29, 2012
5/29/12
12:01
AM CT
Twelfth in a 15-part series ranking the Mavericks' 2011-12 roster in importance of bringing back next season.

Judging by the pictures Delonte West is tweeting from his home in Maryland of some delectable-looking feasts for his friends and family -- mostly recently a fresh batch of clams and then a pot full of crabs -- he might be the next contestant one of those food star-chef challenge reality TV shows.

Nah, West is all about hoops and the only regret he said he has about last season is that the finger he mutilated trying to make a steal in mid-February and sidelined him for six weeks prevented him from showing the Dallas fans how complete of a player he really is.

The question now is, was West one-and-done in Big D or is one of the game's -- not to mention one of Twitter's (@CharleeRedz13) -- more colorful personalities going to be back? There are plenty of arguments to be made that suggest West, one of the few productive Mavs this season whose age started with a 2 and not a 3, is an important piece to keep on the roster. One is his defensive chops -- although it wasn't so apparent in his brief playoff stint -- in a backcourt that otherwise lacks punch on that end of things.

The Countdown rolls on at No. 4 ...

DELONTE WEST
Pos.: PG/SG
Ht./Wt.: 6-foot-3, 180
Experience: 8 years
Age: 28 (July 26, 1983)
2011-12 stats: 9.6 ppg, 3.2 apg, 24.1 mpg, 44 G
Contract status: Unrestricted free agent
2011-12 salary: $854,389
2012-13 salary: TBD

[+] EnlargeDelonte West
Jerome Miron/US PresswireDelonte West has been injury prone, but the Mavs liked what they saw when he was healthy.
His story: We know this much: After two seasons of playing on one-year, veteran-minimum contracts, West is hopeful that he's proven himself valuable enough on the court and trustworthy enough off it to earn a multi-year deal somewhere this summer. Much like with Jason Terry, the market price for West combined with Dallas' own success rate in free agency (i.e. Deron Williams) will greatly determine what the Mavs can do in terms of signing ancillary pieces. And say this for West: He instantly ingratiated himself to all the right people. Mark Cuban, Rick Carlisle, Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd all fell in love with the kid, who came to Dallas after some hard times (an unfortunate 2009 arrest) and with much to prove because injuries have dogged him the past few seasons. He showed his value when he was healthy, subbing at point guard for an injured Kidd, starting at shooting guard and giving Dallas a tenacious two-way player, something of a combination of J.J. Barea and DeShawn Stevenson.

His outlook: One can argue that West should be back until their face turns blue, but if Williams indeed joins the Mavs, then West's return is not likely. If Williams signs elsewhere, West's odds of being back obviously go up. And if West gets a good offer quickly, he'll likely jump on it. That's just the nature of the business under tighter salary cap restrictions. While West was a solid contributor when on the floor, just staying on the floor has been a struggle. Various injuries have limited him to no more than 61 games in a season going back to 2007-08. Teams will certainly take that into consideration when it comes to longer-term deals, but there does seem to be agreement that West will find his multi-year deal. There's little doubt the Mavs would love to keep him for his versatility and tenacity. They just don't know if they will be able to.

No. 15 Lamar Odom
No. 14 Brian Cardinal
No. 13 Yi Jianlian
No. 12 Dominique Jones
No. 11 Brendan Haywood
No. 10 Kelenna Azubuike
No. 9 Ian Mahinmi
No. 8 Vince Carter
No. 7 Rodrigue Beaubois
No. 6 Brandan Wright
No. 5 Jason Terry
No. 4 Delonte West
No. 3 Coming Wednesday

Countdown: No. 5 Jason Terry

May, 28, 2012
5/28/12
12:01
AM CT
Eleventh in a 15-part series ranking the Mavericks' 2011-12 roster in importance of bringing back next season.

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What an eight-year ride it's been for Jason Eugene Terry with the Dallas Mavericks.

And, dare we say, it's now coming to an end?

Hours before the coming finality of Game 4 in the first-round sweep to the Oklahoma City Thunder, Terry made a statement that now also seems appropriate for his situation as he stares into the uncertainty of unrestricted free agency for the first time in his 13-year career.

"Life is not always going to go the way you want it to," Terry said. "And so in that instance you have to make the adjustments and ride it out and see what happens."

And that's what he'll do. It's all he can do. He doesn't want to leave the team with which he built a brand name and won a championship, but he will if he must.

It seems his best chance of returning to the Mavs for a ninth season would, ironically, be a worst-case situation for Dallas, meaning whiffing on Deron Williams in July. If Williams joins his hometown Mavericks on a max deal, then there simply won't be room to squeeze in Terry and a price he'll command.

No Williams, however, and Dallas will have loads of cap space and a wide-open roster to fill.

Terry will turn 35 before he reports to someone's training camp in October. How much is the Jet, a career 38-percent 3-point shooter (and fourth in league history in 3-pointers made) and one of the game's most fearless fourth-quarter scorers worth on the open market? How many years is a team willing to go?

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If the Mavs don't bring back the franchise's sixth-leading scorer, they will truly be letting go of Dirk Nowitzki's (mostly) trusted sidekick, the position they've seemingly tried to fill with a superstar for years and will try again this offseason.

Terry never made any All-Star teams or All-NBA squads -- only a Sixth Man of the Year trophy to his name -- but for four consecutive seasons and five times in his eight seasons in Dallas, Terry has finished as the Mavs' second-leading scorer. He's poured in 9,953 points wearing a Mavs uniform and another 1,466 in the postseason -- none more important or gratifying than the 27 he threw down the throats of the Miami Heat in Game 6 of the NBA Finals.

So if the Mavs are truly prepared to enter the 2012-13 season without the familiar Jet on the runway, they will be losing a piece of the fabric of the most successful era in Mavs history -- and leaving Nowitzki as the last piece standing.

The Countdown goes emotional with No. 5 ...

[+] EnlargeJason Terry
Jerome Miron/US PresswireIronically, Jason Terry's best chance of returning to the Mavs may be a worst-case situation for Dallas, in which the team misses out on Deron Williams in July.
JASON TERRY
Pos.: SG
Ht./Wt.: 6-foot-2, 185
Experience: 13 years
Age: 34 (Sept. 15, 1977)
2011-12 stats: 15.1 ppg (43.0 FG%, 37.8 3FG%), 3.6 apg, 31.7 mpg
Contract status: Unrestricted free agent
2011-12 salary: $11.2 million
2012-13 salary: TBD

His story: If the Jet is on his way out, he certainly didn't go out quietly. Always a quality interview for his often funny, brash, silly or even ridiculous commentary, Terry spent the season talking about "ctc" as in "cut the check" on his next contract. He talked about being on a job interview every time he stepped on the floor, and he topped it all by saying he'd love to help the hated Miami Heat next season. Once the Mavs were swept out of the playoffs, Terry reiterated statements from early on that management's decision to break up the title team meant they were all along looking beyond a chance to repeat for a chance to land a big free agent this summer. "Yeah, he (owner Mark Cuban) knows it, the city knows, we all know it as players."

His outlook: Little more can be said. Whether he returns to Dallas next season or not, Terry still hopes his No. 31 will one day be raised to the American Airlines Center rafters.

No. 15 Lamar Odom
No. 14 Brian Cardinal
No. 13 Yi Jianlian
No. 12 Dominique Jones
No. 11 Brendan Haywood
No. 10 Kelenna Azubuike
No. 9 Ian Mahinmi
No. 8 Vince Carter
No. 7 Rodrigue Beaubois
No. 6 Brandan Wright
No. 5 Jason Terry
No. 4 Coming Tuesday

Countdown: No. 6 Brandan Wright

May, 24, 2012
5/24/12
11:35
PM CT
Tenth in a 15-part series ranking the Mavericks' 2011-12 roster in importance of bringing back next season.

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ESPN's Stephen A. Smith chimes in on the Dallas Mavericks' season, their free agency plans and more.

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Brandan Wright is easily the most athletic big man the Dallas Mavericks have put on the floor since ... well, Tyson Chandler. Wright, the Human Pogo Stick or the Human Exclamation Point as a certain colleague of mine dubbed him this season, brought a high level of energy and excitement -- and a higher level of two-handed alley-oop slams -- as he earned more and more playing time.

The former lottery pick of the Golden State Warriors provided two areas that the Mavs' sorely lacked and will look to gain more of this offseasaon -- youth, he's only 24, and athleticism. He's a high-motor big man who can run the floor. He has soft hands and is an impeccable finisher around the rim with a nice array of moves -- he boasted a team-best 61.8 shooting percentage.

The biggest issue with Wright is where he fits. His natural position is power forward, but coach Rick Carslisle converted him to center because Dallas obviously has Dirk Nowitzki entrenched there and at the time they believed Lamar Odom would fill the bill when Nowitzki sat. At center, Wright started out on the depth chart behind Brendan Haywood and Ian Mahinmi, but as the season wore on the spindly-framed Wright at times logged more minutes than the others.

Until the playoffs.

And that's the conundrum with Wright. He hasn't developed a mid-range game to be able to play power forward effectively in Dallas' offense and he's not physically strong enough to consistently defend the center position. When he got his brief chance to play in the first round against Oklahoma City he had a serious case of butterfingers and the moment, the first playoff action of his career, seemed a bit too big. He played a total of 26 minutes in the series with a high of eight in the Game 3 blowout.

But at less than $1 million last season and next (assuming the Mavs pick up the team option), Wright is cheap, cheap labor and a talent worth trying to develop for the long run. In fact, he could be a talent the Mavs must develop for significant minutes next season because the center position at the moment is in total chaos.

Haywood is a prime candidate for the amnesty provision and Mahinmi is a free agent with no guarantee that he'll be back. Dallas won't dare go into the regular season with Wright as its primary man to patrol the paint, but he could certainly be relied upon to become a prime player.

The Countdown winds down a second week with No. 6...

BRANDAN WRIGHT
Pos.: C/PF
Ht./Wt.: 6-foot-10, 210
Experience: 4 years
Age: 24 (Oct. 5, 1987)
2011-12 stats: 6.9 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 16.1 mpg, 49 G
Contract status: Team option for next season
2011-12 salary: $915,852
2012-13 salary: $947,907

[+] EnlargeBrandon Wright
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezBrandan Wright brought needed energy to the Mavs. The challenge now is finding a spot for him.
His story: Perseverance has Wright on the right track to remove his name from the long list of lottery busts and onto a more flattering one of productive rotation players. Drafted eighth overall in 2007 by Charlotte and traded to Golden State for Jason Richardson, Wright was buried on Don Nelson's bench and then injured his shoulder during an October 2009 practice. Surgery sidelined him the entire season and the next year the Warriors traded Wright to the New Jersey Nets. In his first three seasons, Wright played in 114 games so the 49 he got in this season was something of a landmark, a career-high he hopes to build upon. He's already been busy back in the gym, proving it by tweeting pictures. "I worked really hard to get back where I am," Wright said at the end of the season. "I'm blessed to have the opportunity to heal up from those injuries. This is a process and you’ve got to stick with it. When you start thinking like that (negatively), it's easy to start slacking off with rehab or getting back to where you want to be."

His outlook: Wright has to feel good that the Mavs will pick up his option (it would certainly seem to be a no-brainer). The real question is whether Carlisle will continue to try to mold him into a center or if power forward can be an option now that Odom is out of the picture and Shawn Marion (if he returns) might seem better off exclusively, or close to exclusively, at small forward. Wright believes he can develop a consistent mid-range jumper that could force defenses to extend out, providing the spacing the Mavs need to operate their halfcourt sets. He also needs to add muscle to his 210-pound frame (for a bit of reference, 6-5 guard Dominique Jones weighs 215 pounds) so he can hold his ground defensively at either the 4 or 5. If he can do that and sharpen his jumper, combined with his vertical jump and ability to finish at the rim, Wright could eventually live up to his lottery-pick status.

No. 15 Lamar Odom
No. 14 Brian Cardinal
No. 13 Yi Jianlian
No. 12 Dominique Jones
No. 11 Brendan Haywood
No. 10 Kelenna Azubuike
No. 9 Ian Mahinmi
No. 8 Vince Carter
No. 7 Rodrigue Beaubois
No. 6 Brandan Wright
No. 5 Coming Monday

Countdown: No. 7 Rodrigue Beaubois

May, 24, 2012
5/24/12
12:01
AM CT

Ninth in a 15-part series ranking the Mavericks' 2011-12 roster in importance of bringing back next season.

Surely one can look around the NBA and field a lineup of unfulfilled careers. With the Dallas Mavericks that search stops with Rodrigue Beaubois, the highly-talented guard whose career appeared headed toward the stars until the unfortunate day when the fifth metatarsal in his left foot snapped.

Nothing's been the same since. And everything's been a struggle.

Beaubois is heading into the most important summer of his young NBA career and he knows it.

"I cannot tell you what is going to happen, but obviously I know that this summer is going to be big for me," Beaubois said. "I have to work out a lot and make sure that I am ready because if they give me space (more playing time) I will have to be ready for that."

For the first time in three summers, Beaubois is healthy and able to train. He broke his foot in early August 2010 training with the French national team and underwent surgery soon after. He missed two-thirds of the following season because he re-injured the foot and then hurt it again in the final game of the regular season, forcing him out of the entire championship run and back into the operating room.

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Few inroads were made this season and so here we are at a crossroads. Beaubois is effectively entering the final year of his contract. The Mavs can make a qualifying offer next summer or they can say goodbye.

The Countdown ticks down to No. 7...

RODRIGUE BEAUBOIS
Pos.: G
Ht./Wt.: 6-foot-2, 180
Experience: 3 years
Age: 24 (Feb. 24, 1988)
2011-12 stats: 8.9 ppg (42.2 FG, 28.8 3FG, 2.9 apg)
Contract status: Signed through 2012-13
2011-12 salary: $1.2 million
2012-13 salary: $2.2 million

[+] EnlargeBeaubois
Jerome Miron/US PresswireAny number of backcourt variables that emerge after July 1 could open up playing time for Rodrigue Beaubois or again leave him buried behind a veteran crew.
His story: The second surgery ruined another summer of work and development with the lockout adding another layer of frustration because it prevented Beaubois from working, or even visiting, with Rick Carlisle and the coaching staff. Once again, Beaubois' role this season is in total limbo because that's also where the Mavs' roster is. Will they sign Deron Williams and re-sign Jason Kidd to back him up at point guard? Will Delonte West and/or Jason Terry return along with Vince Carter to fortify the shooting guard position? And then there's the whole issue of whether he's a point guard -- which he mostly played to varying degrees of success this season -- or a shooting guard, or does it even matter? Or will that be determined simply by where there is room for him?

His outlook: Any number of backcourt variables that emerge after July 1 could open up playing time for Beaubois or again leave him buried behind a veteran crew. Or, in yet another scenario, Beaubois could get caught up in a trade to create additional cap space. Beaubois was essentially out of the rotation in the playoffs, leaving him with still virtually no postseason experience in three trips. Will the 2012-13 season be something of a rebirth for Beaubois in Dallas or the beginning of the end?

No. 15 Lamar Odom
No. 14 Brian Cardinal
No. 13 Yi Jianlian
No. 12 Dominique Jones
No. 11 Brendan Haywood
No. 10 Kelenna Azubuike
No. 9 Ian Mahinmi
No. 8 Vince Carter
No. 7 Rodrigue Beaubois
No. 6 Coming Friday

Countdown: No. 8 Vince Carter

May, 23, 2012
5/23/12
12:01
AM CT
Eighth in a 15-part series ranking the Mavericks' 2011-12 roster in importance of bringing back next season.

Bringing in Vince Carter last season, even at a buyer-friendly price, felt like a reach for a team with an already aging roster. Anyone who'd seen him play the previous two seasons with Orlando and Phoenix could only surmise that Carter was postponing the inevitable.

And then he got to town and Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle almost instantly, and rather shrewdly, started talking up the eight-time All-Star and former slam dunk champ as a sure-fire Hall of Famer whose basketball IQ soared as high as his dunks used to.

"Guys who are eight-time All-Stars are Hall of Famers. And there's a reason," Carlisle said shortly after the delayed start to the season in late December. "He's been a great player and he knows how to play. He's going to fit in great with what we're doing just because he's a hell of a basketball player."

It's hard to say that Carlisle wasn't right, to an extent.

Carter got off to a strong start, burying 3-pointers at a team-best clip, flashing a nice post-up game and scrapping on defense all the while giving the Mavs the versatility to play him at shooting guard or small forward. But after the All-Star break Carter started to slow down, and other than a brief hot streak, the swoon carried into the playoffs where he shot just 29.3 percent from the floor and 30.0 percent from beyond the arc.

All-in-all, Carter started 40 of the 61 games he played, when at this point in his career he's probably most effective as a scorer off the bench where he can take advantage of smaller and less talented reserves.

Carter will turn 36 in January, and the odds are that he will celebrate his birthday in a Mavs uniform.

The Countdown rolls on at No. 8 ...

[+] EnlargeVince Carter
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezVince Carter got off to a strong start but slowed down after the All-Star break after his minutes were bumped up because of injuries.
VINCE CARTER
Pos.: SG/SF
Ht./Wt.: 6-foot-6, 220
Experience: 14 years
Age: 35 (Jan. 26, 1977)
2011-12 stats: 5.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 18.7 mpg
Contract status: Signed through 2013-14
2011-12 salary: $3 million
2012-13 salary: $3.1 million (partially guaranteed)

His story: Billed as half-man, half-amazing, Carter proved to be half-mortal in his first season with the Mavs. It can certainly be argued that injuries, particularly the broken finger that sidelined Delonte West for six weeks, played a part in Carter's decline. Carter was at his most effective when limited to about 25 minutes or less, but Carlisle had no choice but to keep him on the floor more through West's injury. Plus, Jason Kidd missed 18 games, mostly due to three separate injuries. Through the first 25 games, Carter logged 25 minutes or fewer 14 times, compared to 15 times in the final 36 games. Perhaps a better comparison though is the fact that he played 30 minutes or more just twice in those first 25 games, and 10 times in the final 36. It makes it difficult to argue that wear-and-tear didn't play a role in Carter's downturn or that playing fewer minutes consistently next season could serve him and the Mavs well.

His outlook: Carter is signed for the next two seasons at little more than $3 million for each, however his contract is not fully guaranteed. It is guaranteed enough for next season that, barring a major trade that would sweep him up, the odds are high that Carter will stick around here for at least one more season. One has to wonder though if the Mavs wouldn't be better off allotting Carter's minutes to younger players such as Rodrigue Beaubois (assuming he remains on the team), who the Mavs must get a full, healthy season out of to evaluate in what is essentially the final year of his deal, or to a player like Kelenna Azubuike. At this point, Carter would seem to be more of a last-piece-to-the-puzzle type that could bolster a contender's bench. But hey, who knows, depending on what transpires in free agency, the Mavs might or might not become such a squad.

No. 15 Lamar Odom
No. 14 Brian Cardinal
No. 13 Yi Jianlian
No. 12 Dominique Jones
No. 11 Brendan Haywood
No. 10 Kelenna Azubuike
No. 9 Ian Mahinmi
No. 8 Vince Carter
No. 7 Coming Thursday

Countdown: No. 9 Ian Mahinmi

May, 22, 2012
5/22/12
12:01
AM CT
Seventh in a 15-part series ranking the Mavericks' 2011-12 roster in importance of bringing back next season.

Ian Mahinmi recorded career-best statistics across the board in his second season with the Dallas Mavericks -- his fourth in the league and first as a true backup center.

Even in a lockout-shortened schedule, he played a career-high 61 games this season and average 5.8 points and 4.8 rebounds, also career bests. The 18.7 minutes a game he averaged were 10 full minutes more than he averaged during his career-high last season as the Mavs' third-string center.

So where is Mahinmi's ceiling?

How much is an improving, yet still semi-raw big man worth? How many years is a team willing to give him? Is he starting material or is he destined to be a career backup? Can he become a low-post scoring threat? Can he become a better rebounder? Can he hold his ground better defensively? Can he stop fouling on the perimeter?

All these questions will determine the fashionable Frenchman's worth and whether he'll be back in Dallas or continuing to grow his career with a third team in his fifth season.

The Countdown rolls on at No. 9 ...

IAN MAHINMI
Pos.: C
Ht./Wt.: 6-foot-11, 230
Experience: 4 years
Age: 25 (Nov. 5, 1986)
2011-12 stats: 5.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 18.7 mpg
Contract status: Unrestricted free agent
2011-12 salary: $915,852
2012-13 salary: TBD

[+] EnlargeIan Mahinmi
AP Photo/Jim MoneIan Mahinmi put of career-best numbers across the board last season, but will the free agent continue his development in Dallas or elsewhere?
His story: He got his initial lessons in American basketball with the fundamentally sound San Antonio Spurs for two seasons in which he barely got off the bench. The Mavs afforded him an opportunity and he's made considerable strides. He got off to such an impressive start to this season that it seemed he might be making a run at Brendan Haywood's starting job. But as Brandan Wright got more playing time, Mahinmi saw his minutes dwindle, as well as his production. In his first 24 games, Mahinmi averaged 20.2 minutes a game, 7.5 points and 5.3 rebounds. Then came the 25th game and a curious DNP-coach's decision on Feb. 4 at Cleveland. In his final 37 games, his numbers dipped to 17.6 minutes, 4.5 points and 4.1 rebounds... His greatest weakness is his penchant for picking up needless fouls that send him to the bench. Of the Mavs' three centers this season, Mahinmi is the most promising and well-rounded offensively, able to maneuver around the basket and finish while also being able to step out and hit the mid-range jumper at the free throw line and along the baseline.

His outlook: As stated above, where is Mahinmi's ceiling, and how far will a team go to sign him in free agency? If one takes a leap, it would likely mean he'll say goodbye to Dallas. The Mavs, though, have an interesting dilemma potentially brewing. If they use the amnesty clause on Haywood, they will be in need of a starting center. Do they believe Mahinmi can fill that space? Not likely if the goal is to be a top team in the West. Wright, as was seen all season, isn't a true center and doesn't have the body to battle down low for extended minutes. As with everything else tied to the Mavs' roster as the summer approaches, what transpires in free agency (i.e. landing a "big fish") will determine the direction the club takes with Mahinmi and a number of players.

No. 15 Lamar Odom
No. 14 Brian Cardinal
No. 13 Yi Jianlian
No. 12 Dominique Jones
No. 11 Brendan Haywood
No. 10 Kelenna Azubuike
No. 9 Ian Mahinmi
No. 8 Coming Wednesday

Countdown: No. 10 Kelenna Azubuike

May, 21, 2012
5/21/12
12:01
AM CT
Sixth in a 15-part series ranking the Mavericks' 2011-12 roster in importance of bringing back next season.

The curious case of Kelenna Azubuike as a member of the Dallas Mavericks started March 22 when the club released athletic big man Sean Williams, who had spent most of the season with the D-League Texas Legends.

A week earlier, the San Antonio Spurs had traded for Stephen Jackson and were closing in on signing Boris Diaw to bolster their roster for a deep playoff run. What were the defending champion Mavericks up to in releasing Williams and opening a spot on the 15-man roster? Who was on their radar that could provide an immediate jolt one month from the true start of their title defense?

Last year, Dalllas signed veteran sharpshooter Peja Stojakovic and the move paid off handsomely. At this point in the season, they could use someone like him. Three-point shooting -- heck, shooting in general --- had taken a significant dip throughout the truncated schedule and the Mavs would need firepower down the stretch and into the playoffs.

Could 3-point specialist Jason Kapono, recently released by the Lakers, be on his way? Maybe the 6-foot-7 Andres Nocioni? Sure, he was down on his luck, but still he was a 37.3 percent 3-point shooter throughout his career.

Turns out Kapono wasn't coming and neither was Nociono.

Who'd the Mavs have up their sleeve?

Azubuike, an intriguing shooting guard, oh, about three seasons ago before a torn patellar tendon put his career on indefinite hold.

And the Countdown ticks down to No. 10 ...

KELENNA AZUBUIKE
Pos: SG
Ht/Wt: 6-5, 215
Experience: 5 years
Age: 28 (Dec. 16, 1983)
2011-12 stats: Played total of 18 minutes in three games
Contract status: Team option for next season
2011-12 salary: $280,192
2012-13 salary: $992,680

[+] EnlargeKelenna Azubuike
Jerome Miron/US PresswireThe Mavs acquired Kelenna Azubuike on March 23, 2012, but he played just 18 minutes for Dallas last season.
His story: The Mavs signed the 6-foot-5 London native March 23. This was not a shot-in-the-arm acquisition like the S-Jax trade or the Diaw signing the Spurs pulled off (and are now reaping the benefits). Azubuike was starting to make a name for himself in 2008-09 with the Golden State Warriors when the formerly undrafted free agent averaged 14.4 points and 5.0 rebounds and knocked down 3-pointers at a 44.8-percent clip. He was a heck of an athlete built for an up-and-down game. Then came the devastating patellar tendon injury nine games into the 2009-10 season. The impatient Warriors traded him to the New York Knicks, who waived him Feb. 28, 2011. On March 23, 2012, Azubuike got another chance in the NBA, thanks to the Mavs, who knew he wouldn't be helping them to defend the title. So what were the Mavs' hopes in signing him? An inexpensive option with hopeful upside at shooting guard and/or small forward for next season? Perhaps. After all, Jason Terry will likely be moving on and so could be Shawn Marion, maybe even Rodrigue Beaubois and Vince Carter, too, depending on various factors in Dallas' venture into free agency. Interestingly, Azubuike, after playing just three regular-season games with Dallas, was on the active roster in the first round against Oklahoma City, taking the spot of second-year guard and 2010 first-round draft pick Dominique Jones.

His outlook: The Mavs believe they have the best head athletic trainer in the game today in Casey Smith and an elite orthopedic crew headed by team doc T.O. Souryal. Azubuike will be three years removed from the horrific knee injury that put his burgeoning career in jeopardy and one that remains terribly difficult to watch on YouTube. But here's the hope for Azubuike: A second surgery in March 2011 was performed to fix the first surgery that wasn't done properly. Azubuike confirmed that fact on Twitter in March 2011, saying: "The 1st surgery in '09 wasn’t done right. Gettin it done right this time!” The Mavs' medical and training staffs have a track record with patellar tendon injuries after Caron Butler's awful injury on Jan. 1, 2011, in Milwaukee, which happens to be where Azubuike also blew up his knee. There's no guarantee that the the former Kentucky Wildcat will ever regain his explosiveness, but watching Butler this season with the Los Angeles Clippers has to be encouraging that he can at least be a productive player. At less than $1 million next season, Azubuike is low-risk and if he turns out to be high-reward, the Mavs will have made a shrewd move at a time when many were scratching their heads at the timing of the signing.

No. 15 Lamar Odom
No. 14 Brian Cardinal
No. 13 Yi Jianlian
No. 12 Dominique Jones
No. 11 Brendan Haywood
No. 10 Kelenna Azubuike
No. 9 Coming Tuesday

Countdown: No. 11 Brendan Haywood

May, 18, 2012
5/18/12
12:01
AM CT
Fifth in a 15-part series ranking the Mavericks' 2011-12 roster in importance of bringing back next season.

Every athlete should have it as good as Brendan Haywood. Eleven seasons into a serviceable, yet hardly spectacular career, the 7-footer out of North Carolina has already pocketed some $44 million in career earnings. At a time when some 32-year-old vets are wondering if they've got another payday coming, Haywood is locked into a generous deal afforded by owner Mark Cuban for three more seasons that will take his career earnings north of $72 million.

It's a good living if you can get it.

Yet, for that kind of dough the Dallas Mavericks might have expected more than 3.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 15.3 minutes -- with perhaps a hard foul thrown in along the way -- during four playoff losses to the Oklahoma City Thunder. The irony is that the Thunder were considered the favored first-round opponent over the massive front line of the Los Angeles Lakers that would pit Haywood on Andrew Bynum.

Haywood couldn't stay on the floor against OKC's Kendrick Perkins, who scored 13 points in Game 2 and averaged 7.7 rebounds in 27.3 minutes a game before leaving early in Game 4 with a hip injury. In those first three games, Haywood played a total of 36 minutes, shot 3-of-11 from the floor and had nine rebounds.

Go back to the series before that, yes, the NBA Finals. Haywood injured his hip in Game 2 and didn't play the rest of the way as Dallas secured the title in six games.

Haywood twisted an ankle and sprained a knee late this season and maybe those ailments had something to do with his ineffective play. Perkins even suggested prior to Game 4 that something must be bothering the Mavs' big man.

Since his arrival in February 2010 when Haywood started on a double-double roll, invoking praise by some as "best center in Mavs history," to OKC's first-round rough-up, his popularity among fans has hit an all-time low.

And now, thanks to the amnesty clause negotiated into the new collective bargaining agreement, Haywood's future in Dallas is certainly in doubt.

The Countdown rolls on at No. 11 ...

BRENDAN HAYWOOD
Pos: C
Ht/Wt: 7-0, 263
Experience: 11 years
Age: 32 (Nov. 27, 1979)
2011-12 stats: 5.2 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 21.2 mpg
Contract status: Signed through 2014-15
2011-12 salary: $7.6 million
2012-13 salary: $8.3 million

[+] EnlargeBrendan Haywood
Richard A. Rowe/US PresswireBrendan Haywood averaged just 3.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 15.3 minutes in the Mavericks' four straight playoff losses to Oklahoma City.
His story: In hindsight, the handsome, five-year contract (the sixth year is non-guaranteed) the Mavs handed Haywood following the 2009-10 season doesn't look so great. Of course, when Dallas did the deal it didn't know that a few weeks later Tyson Chandler would land in its lap via a trade with the Charlotte Bobcats. Haywood took Rick Carlisle's early offseason promise that he would take over as the starting center with Erick Dampier on his way out. Except Dampier's expiring contract turned into a resurgent Chandler, who came off a successful Team USA stint and instantly changed those starting plans. The Mavs will point to their defensive statistics this season as proof that Chandler wasn't missed as some would have thought. Others will point to athleticism, attitude, leadership and a stretch from March 2 through May 5 in which Haywood managed one double-digit scoring game and averaged 4.2 rebounds as proof that the Mavs took a significant dip at the center position.

His outlook: This is where things get interesting. If the Mavs are to sign Deron Williams in July, they will have to amnesty a player to help create the appropriate cap space to offer a max deal. There are two amnesty candidates, Shawn Marion and Haywood, but Marion figured to be the leading candidate if only because it is so difficult to find a 7-foot center to plug into the starting lineup. But, as the season wore on and as Haywood's floor time dwindled in the playoffs, plus with Marion having a fine season -- particularly as a defensive stopper -- speculation raged that Haywood has taken the amnesty lead. Haywood even said during an appearance on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM's Ben & Skin Show that he would not be offended if the team does cut ties. And why should he? The Mavs will still owe him the $28 million remaining on his contract and he'll pad it a bit more from whichever team should get him next.

The Countdown
No. 15 Lamar Odom
No. 14 Brian Cardinal
No. 13 Yi Jianlian
No. 12 Dominique Jones
No. 11 Brendan Haywood
No. 10 Coming Monday

Countdown: No. 12 Dominique Jones

May, 17, 2012
5/17/12
12:00
AM CT
Fourth in a 15-part series ranking the Mavericks' 2011-12 roster in importance of bringing back next season.

Will the lasting impression of Dominique Jones as a Dallas Maverick be the "2011" neck tattoo with the Larry O'Brien Trophy serving as the first "1"? Jones had the striking image inked after the title run, one in which the then-rookie did not play one second.

Placing Jones in the 12-hole could be considered gracious considering the second-year shooting guard from South Florida was not active for any of the playoff games in the sweep against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Who took Jones' roster spot? Kelenna Azubuike, a player the Mavs acquired in late March and who had not played in an NBA game since early 2009 because of a patella tendon injury.

That's gotta hurt, and I'm talking about Jones' pride, not Azubuike's now-rehabilitated knee.

To suggest that Jones could be swept out in a trade, perhaps as early as the June draft, is not a stretch. Jones is a likable kid, but if anyone thought he was making any progress over these two seasons, coach Rick Carlisle's playoff roster seemed to tell the real story.

The Countdown continues at No. 12...

DOMINIQUE JONES
Pos: SG
Ht/Wt: 6-5, 215
Experience: 2 years
Age: 23 (Oct. 15, 1988)
2011-12 stats: 2.7 ppg (39.7 FG%), 33 G
Contract status: Signed through 2012-13
2011-12 salary: $1.19 million
2012-13 salary: $1.27 million

[+] EnlargeJones
Dennis Wierzbicki/US PresswireDominique Jones has proven to be too one-dimensional at this point of his career to play extended minutes.
His story: Without a first-round draft pick in June 2010, Mavs owner Mark Cuban paid the Memphis Grizzlies $3 million for their 25th overall pick. Intrigued by Jones' parade to the free-throw line via driving to the rack in the rugged Big East Conference, the Mavs took the combo guard, who in Dallas has yet to distinguish himself as either a competent shooting guard or a point guard. Part of the problem is his shooting. He's an awful 3-point shooter (1-of-12 in his career) and doesn't have much touch for a mid-range game either (36.4 percent career shooting). He's adept at plowing into the lane, but without any threat of a shot to go with it he becomes far too one-dimensional to play any kind of extended minutes in this league.

His outlook: To be fair to Jones, for two seasons he's been bumped down the bench by a veteran core of guards that gave him no shot at court time. Without playing, how much can a guy be expected to improve? It's not easy popping in every now and then in garbage time or filling in during an injury as he did some this last season. As for Jones not dressing in the playoffs, it could have just been a numbers game in that the Mavs were so filled up at the guard positions that Rodrigue Beaubois was cut out of the rotation. With Shawn Marion having to play some power forward after Lamar Odom was sent home, Vince Carter was the only other option at small forward, so Carlisle might have felt he needed Azubuike in uniform in case of emergency. If Jones remains on the team next season it's because he's a cheap means to fill out the roster. If he has a role that requires solid minutes off the bench, the Mavs probably will not have had a very good offseason.

The Countdown
No. 15 Lamar Odom
No. 14 Brian Cardinal
No. 13 Yi Jianlian
No. 12 Dominique Jones
No. 11 Coming Friday

Countdown: No. 13 Yi Jianlian

May, 16, 2012
5/16/12
12:01
AM CT
Third in a 15-part series ranking the Mavericks' 2011-12 roster in importance of bringing back next season.

From the day Yi Jianlian stepped foot in the Dallas Mavericks' locker room, the 7-footer had his own Chinese media contingent following him at every home game and some road games, too. That's right, a small crew consisting of a couple of reporters and a videographer, all quite polite, courteous and friendly, were there to get Yi's perspective, and that was mostly from his spot on the bench.

It can't be an easy job to do day after day. After all, after Yi signed with the Mavs on Jan. 6, he played in just 30 games and averaged 6.8 minutes in those games. You try coming up with questions after every game when a guy doesn't take off his sweat suit.

The problem with Yi is that he doesn't play the game to his size. He's a perimeter shooter who doesn't shoot all that great (37.8 percent this season, 40.4 percent for his career) and he doesn't get dirty much defensively or on the boards. There's just not going to be many minutes for a guy like that behind Dirk Nowitzki, or really with most teams. It's obviously one of the reasons why Yi has played for four teams in five seasons.

And why he's probably headed for a fifth in six.

And so we roll on with the Countdown at No. 13 ...

YI JIANLIAN
Pos: PF
Ht/Wt: 7-0, 250
Experience: 5 years
Age: 24 (Oct. 27, 1987)
2011-12 stats: 2.6 ppg (37.8 FG%), 1.6 rpg
Contract status: Free agent
2011-12 salary: $771,706
2012-13 salary: TBD

His story: The benchmark for Yi is the 2009-10 season when he averaged 12.0 points and 7.2 rebounds in 31.8 minutes a game for the New Jersey Nets. That was his last of two seasons with the Nets. He spent the next season with the Washington Wizards, averaging 5.6 points and 3.9 rebounds in 17.7 minutes over 63 games. The Wizards then said no thanks. A knee injury while playing in China over the summer kept Yi on the market into January when the Mavs signed him to a one-year deal. He might have helped himself if he could have played center on this team, but at this point in his career he is purely a perimeter player.

His outlook: The Mavs seem to like Yi's potential so there's always a chance he could be back. He'll come cheap, which is important in this summer of roster upheaval and superstar pursuit, and Yi also has another thing going for him -- he doesn't turn 25 until October. Dallas could view him as a developmental player because 7-footers just don't fall off trees. It's just difficult to get excited about the prospect of Yi having much impact on a re-tooled roster next season.

The Countdown
No. 15 Lamar Odom
No. 14 Brian Cardinal
No. 13 Yi Jianlian
No. 12 Coming Thursday

Countdown: No. 14 Brian Cardinal

May, 15, 2012
5/15/12
12:03
AM CT
Second in a 15-part series ranking the Mavericks' 2011-12 roster in importance of bringing back next season.

Look, these rankings might seem easy to put together, but it takes hours of hair-splitting internal debate. So believe me when I say there's a certain starting center that flirted with this early position in the Countdown until reality set in that big-bodied centers are just too hard to find (not that Dallas won't decide to amnesty this certain starting center anyway) to toss one, as disappointing as he might have been, into the trash bin at No. 14.

Such is the case even when talking about a hustle guy like The Custodian, the quintessential locker-room guy, a guy the coach knows is always ready, the guy who will always make the smart play and come through in a pinch and always, always works his tail off.

That described Brian Cardinal a year ago during the Mavs' championship run. This year? Eh, not so much, minus the work-his-tail-off part.

At 35, if Cardinal can't be counted on to get in the game and knock down a corner 3-pointer to go along with a jarring drawn charge, then he becomes expendable. Therefore, and it is with a touch of sadness, Cardinal's two-year stop in Dallas, as entertaining and as joyous (mostly) as it was, has come to a close.

At No. 14 in the Countdown is ...

BRIAN CARDINAL
Pos: PF
Ht/Wt: 6-8, 240
Experience: 12 years
Age: 35 (May 2, 1977)
2011-12 stats: 1.0 ppg (20.4 3FG%), 0.8 rpg
Contract status: Free agent
2011-12 salary: $854,389
2012-13 salary: TBD

[+] EnlargeBrian Cardinal
Jerome Miron/US PresswireBrian Cardinal didn't see much playing time this season even after the departure of Lamar Odom.
His story: Consider this about Cardinal: During last season's playoff run, he knocked down 3-of-4 shots from beyond the arc. He made 10 overall this season, which is especially tough to swallow considering the 3-ball accounted for 89.1 percent of his total shot attempts. Cardinal dropped 42-of-87 (48.3 percent) from beyond the arc in 56 games during the 2010-11 season. The addition of Lamar Odom obviously pushed Cardinal deeper on the bench, but even after Odom's dismissal in early April, Cardinal didn't see much time. Cardinal will draw a charge or make a steal, but he's got to be able to spread the floor while he's on it.

His outlook: During the Mavs' exit interviews, Cardinal made it clear that he wants to play at least one more season. It's highly doubtful that it will be in Dallas, but surely there's a team out there that can use a steady veteran presence for spot minutes. Who knows, maybe the Mavs will have a last roster vacancy as free agency toils into August and beyond and they'll bring him back on another veteran's minimum deal. Remember, when Cardinal first arrived at training camp in 2010, he was on a make-good contract with Steve Novak. Cardinal made good, Novak did not.

The Countdown
No. 15 Lamar Odom
No. 14 Brian Cardinal
No. 13 Coming Wednesday

Countdown: No. 15 Lamar Odom

May, 14, 2012
5/14/12
12:01
AM CT
First in a 15-part series ranking the Mavericks' 2011-12 roster in importance of bringing back next season.

The offseason certainly arrived much sooner than anyone could have predicted, just like Lamar Odom's premature exit from the Dallas Mavericks.

The 6-foot-10 forward kicks off our offseason blog series that ranks the 2011-12 Mavericks roster in order of importance for the front office to bring back. Four of last season's six free agents found new homes with the exception of Peja Stojakovic, who called it a career after winning his first championship, and Brian Cardinal, who re-signed but made virtually no impact on the season.

Eleven months ago, the title team proved difficult to rank in importance and I started the Countdown with DeShawn Stevenson as the least important. It drew quite a few raised eyebrows from those wondering how I could possibly consider the defensive bulldog and surprisingly valuable 3-point shooter the least important member of the title team to bring back.

In retrospect, the choice probably violated the spirit of this series. I chose Stevenson not because I didn't think he was an asset and worthy of returning for a chance to repeat, but because the Mavs traded for shooting guard Rudy Fernandez, a move that, to me, signaled that Stevenson wouldn't be back. Who would have figured that neither Stevenson nor Fernandez would start the season with the Mavs?

This time around the lead-off man in these rankings is a no-brainer. Odom's career-worst season has to go down as the most disappointing season in the league and one of the more frustrating ones for a franchise in recent memory.

With that, on with the series:

LAMAR ODOM
Pos: SF/PF
Ht/Wt: 6-10, 230
Experience: 13 years
Age: 32 (Nov. 6, 1979)
2011-12 stats: 6.6 ppg (35.2 FG%), 4.2 rpg
Contract status: Signed through 2012-2013
2011-12 salary: $8.9 million
2012-13 salary: $8.2 million ($2.4 million guaranteed)

[+] EnlargeLamar Odom
AP Photo/Brandon WadeLamar Odom was a flop with the Mavs after they acquired him from the Lakers.
His story: There's a certain reality TV show on a certain entertainment channel starring a certain Kardashian sister and her basketball-playing husband that can provide the background of what went wrong in Odom's four short months with the Mavs. What didn't go wrong? Dallas thought it was getting a versatile forward who would help ease the pain of losing Tyson Chandler by supplying his unique skills that had helped the Lakers win back-to-back titles. Owner Mark Cuban says he'd make the trade all over again that brought the emotionally bogged-down Odom to Dallas for a draft pick and a trade exception. And hey, when the stunning trade went down Dec. 11, most thought the Mavs had just pulled off a coup and wondered why in the world the Lakers would seemingly just hand over last season's Sixth Man of the Year to the team that swept them out of the playoffs. Now we know.

His outlook: Odom is actually under consideration for a spot on Team USA for the London Games because of the rash of injuries that have taken out star players like Derrick Rose and Dwight Howard. Cuban actually said he'd love to see it, but only because he has such disdain for Olympic basketball, so he figures the two were meant to be together. Where Odom lands next season will be a far more intriguing story to follow. For starters, Dallas will try everything it can to dump him off on a team with loads of salary cap space such as Toronto or Sacramento and throw in $3 million to offset the $2.4 million guaranteed on Odom's deal next season. If the Mavs can't dump him in a trade, they'll waive him and be responsible for the $2.4 million, which will eat into their cap space this summer. Such a result will not please Cuban. No matter what, Odom will be long gone from this organization. A return to the Lakers is not likely since they can't add him to the roster for a full year after the date he was traded, Dec. 11. Could he land with the Miami Heat, one of his former teams that obviously will be a contender for years to come? Well, if he wants to sign for a fraction of his actual 2012-13 salary, then it's possible. Of course, no team might risk much more than a couple million anyway. How about the team with which he started his career, the Los Angeles Clippers? Possible. Caron Butler is signed for two more years at small forward, but Kenyon Martin and Reggie Evans are free agents.

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No. 15 Lamar Odom
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Dirk Nowitzki
PTS AST STL MIN
21.7 2.7 0.9 32.9
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsD. Nowitzki 6.2
AssistsM. Ellis 5.7
StealsM. Ellis 1.7
BlocksB. Wright 0.9