- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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I emailed Mark Cuban with one question: What am I missing?
It took a while to get to the question. The email started with my take on his Mavericks’ recent moves, or lack thereof: It appears that their logic is that the team’s long-term outlook is better if they attempt to reload next summer instead of bringing a championship team back intact to defend its title. The likely low odds of landing a superstar, given the landscape in the league and contract rules, makes this difficult to understand.
Then again, I didn’t think trading for Tyson Chandler last summer was a last-piece-in-a-championship-puzzle kind of move … so there’s no doubt Cuban and Donnie Nelson have earned benefit of the doubt. Or at least the opportunity to fully explain their decision-making process.
Still, it seemed that with the harsher luxury tax penalties not kicking in for a couple of years, the Mavs could have kept Chandler and sparkplug guard J.J. Barea and tried to maximize at least the next two seasons. What am I missing?
Here is the explanation straight from the keyboard of the Mavs’ owner on the first night he is free to speak again about the team's roster:
If this were the old CBA rules, we probably would have kept everyone together. But the rules changed.
If we were able to sign everyone to two-year deals, that would have possibly changed things as well, but that wasn’t in the cards either.
What you are missing is that it’s not about the luxury tax. It’s about the ability to improve our team going forward.
The reality is that in the new system, cap room will have far more value than it had in the past. I realize that everyone is all freaked out about how and where free agents and future free agents are going, but it’s not just about getting one guy.
We are not saving cap room in hope of that one super special free agent being there. It’s about being in the position to improve every year and possibly add some significant, younger players next year and in future years.
What I don’t think people understand is that once a team hits the tax level the ability to improve our team is reduced dramatically. In addition, your ability to make trades is reduced. So basically, if we made the move to keep everyone together with five-year deals, the team we have today is going to be the team we have for the next five years. If we were a young team it would be one thing. But we are not a young team.
In the past, it was different. If we had a problem, I could fix any mistake by having Donnie find a trade and just taking on more money. That is how we got Jet, the Matrix, JKidd, Tyson. It was always about taking on more money. That trick doesn’t work any more for teams over the tax. So we have to change our approach. By getting back under the cap, we have a ton of flexibility not only for free agent signings but also trades. If we can get the right guy(s) via free agency, great. if we do it via trade, great. We have that much more flexibility to make moves.
Again, I know this is tough for all of us after winning a championship. But we still believe as much as last year we are in a position to compete for a championship.
The difference is that with this approach, we can be in a position to compete for a championship this year and to reload and continue to compete in future years.
By just signing everyone to long-term deals, there is no chance of that happening.
We won last year because we put ourselves in a position to create opportunities that brought us the right players at the right time.
We structured contracts in ways that gave us upside. The rules are different now, and while it makes it tougher this year because of the affection we have for many of the guys that are leaving, if we want the Mavs to be able to compete for championships in future years as well, it’s a hard decision, but I believe the right decision.