Inside Skinny: Roster upgrade thoughts

January, 6, 2011
1/06/11
8:41
AM CT
Most Dallas Mavericks fans are focused on some sort of vintage Cuban-era, headline-grabbing trade in the wake of Caron Butler's season-ending knee injury. I guess it's what we've come to expect. In this case, however, I'm not sure it's what makes the most sense.

Ace homie Marc Stein did a nice job of laying out the trade landscape. Unless the Mavericks are acquiring a young stud, I don't see the point in completely changing the dynamic of this team for an older player. While Stephen Jackson remains a seemingly good fit if the price were right -- right being expiring contract, pick and cash -- I wouldn't mess with my chemistry too much if I were the Mavs. And be realistic, they probably don’t have the trade assets to get a young stud who can do what they need anyhow.

What they need is a healthy Roddy Beaubois. Mavs Nation was abuzz Wednesday that Beaubois was actually shooting jumpers. I know that sounds ridiculous to get all excited about the idea that a guy many of us thought would be back by Thanksgiving is just now leaving the floor during casual shooting, but we're starved for what he could deliver. He's the guy to break down a halfcourt defense with his effortless penetration and money jumper.

[+] EnlargeOmri Casspi
Greg Ashman/Icon SMIOmri Casspi is averaging 8.9 points and 3.9 rebounds for the Sacramento Kings this season.
Aside from everyone’s personal feelings for Butler, from a team perspective, it wasn't devastating that Dallas lost its current #2 scoring threat to Dirk (when does he return again?). It was devastating that someone as good as Butler was probably going to be the third scoring option behind Beaubois come May. And JET was the spark off the bench. Put that picture in the frame along with the Mavs' stellar D and Jason Kidd's guidance and you have the makings of a deep playoff run. But without Butler and with the uncertainty of Beaubois' situation and, well, it looks like the Mavs are going to need a bigger boat.

But don't put me in the boat with those that think the Mavs need to immediately start shopping. I like the idea of what Stein is reporting as the most likely plan, which is to try and buy a couple of fancy life rafts. The target team that intrigues me the most is Sacramento. Them boys are bad. Not Run DMC bad. I mean hard to watch bad. It's disappointing really, considering I kind of dug what they were doing last year. But this season has definitely been tough sledding. Stein has mentioned that Omri Casspi and Carl Landry are both movable at the right price. I'd love to get both, if that seems a tad unrealistic, but it's worth work-shopping in this here space.

Acquiring Landry seems easier to pull off. He's in the last year of his $3 million dollar deal and highly unlikely to resign there. What's the point of the Kings keeping him around? Doghouse be damned, he shouldn't be getting any of Jason Thompson's minutes. That dude needs to be a positive for them. And if Thompson is going to get back on the right developmental path, he needs as many minutes as he can get. It makes sense to ship Landry elsewhere. Why for the Mavs? Because he's a solid scoring option. Not in the same ways that Butler was, but he can stick the ball in the basket. He's crafty in the paint and just plain goes hard. If he's soaking up all the power forward minutes that Dirk isn't, then Shawn Marion plays exclusively at small forward for the remainder of the season. That's better for him defensively anyway, even if it doesn't suit his offensive game.

What would get it done? According to the superbeast salary resource ShamSports, the Mavs have a $3 million dollar trade exception from the Eduardo Najera deal that would allow them to take on Landry’s salary without sending another player back. If they send back cash plus a future first-rounder and a future second-rounder then that's a pretty nice financial swing for giving up a player that in no way helps their rebuilding efforts. Is that enough to get it done?

[+] EnlargeCarl Landry
Craig Bennett/Icon SMICarl Landry is averaging 11.8 points this season with Sacramento after averaging 18 points in 28 games after joining the Kings last season.
How about the whole enchilada? Getting Landry and Casspi? You could offer a second deal of another future first-round and second-round pick and seldom used but immensely intriguing former first rounder Alexis Ajinca -- who makes right at the same dough as Casspi. Before I saw Ajinca on a regular basis, I thought he was a total bust of a pick for Charlotte. Now I realize he'd just been Larry Browned there. He's got a nice feathery touch from the outside and he's a solid athlete for his 7-foot frame. I think he may have a future, he just needs playing time to develop. That ain't gonna happen here, son.

So final tally after swapping, Dallas receives Casspi and Landry to address depth at the three and the four, and Sacramento receives Ajinca, a positive plus $5 million dollar swing, and two probably late first-round picks and two second-round picks.

Is that enough for both players? Hard to know what Sacramento is getting offered for Casspi but my instinct says its borderline at best. Most indications are that Sacramento is asking a lot for Casspi. The move that has a better chance to get the deal done would be for the Mavs to send Butler, J.J. Barea and Ajinca (or one of those guys if Sac wants) plus a pick for Landry, Casspi and Beno Udrih -- all three years and plus $20 million dollars of him. While I think it's a fantastic talent grab for Dallas, I think the Mavs would be way against Udrih's contract and even more reluctant to move the extremely well-liked Barea. And as Tyson Chandler pointed out Wednesday on the Ben and Skin Show, Butler is still very much a part of this team and still emotionally invested as a teammate. And seeing the way these guys have fought for one another this year, I think that'd be a tough move for the front-office to make and one that would disappoint "the room."

Not sure if I'd do it or not. I do think the roster would be upgraded. It’s a big expense financially and emotionally, and I'm not sure it’d put them close enough to the top. It's definitely intriguing.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Dirk Nowitzki
PTS AST STL MIN
21.7 2.7 0.9 32.9
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsS. Marion 6.5
AssistsM. Ellis 5.7
StealsM. Ellis 1.7
BlocksB. Wright 0.9