- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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DALLAS – When the Mavs opted not to offer Tyson Chandler and Co. long-term deals, this summer’s free-agency crop was expected to be headlined by a few superstars.
The landscape quickly changed when Chris Paul exercised his player option for next season after being traded to the Los Angeles Clippers. It changed for the worse again when Dwight Howard surprisingly committed not to opt out of the final season of his contract with the Orlando Magic just before the trade deadline.
That leaves Deron Williams as the lone big fish. What happens if the Mavs don’t convince The Colony native to come home?
“You’ve got to have your A, B, C, D and E and so on, but you also understand that this is a global plate tectonic,” president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said. “Things are moving and situations are fluid. You go into it with eyes wide open and hopefully you can come out of it with what you want.”
The Mavs want a player who can create offense on his own, a necessity to take pressure off of Dirk Nowitzki.
A reunion with Steve Nash is a possibility. The Mavs declined to pay what it took to keep him in Dallas eight seasons ago because of concerns about durability, but he’s coming off a season in which he led the Western Conference in assists (10.7 per game) and shot a career-best 53.2 percent from the floor.
Everyone knows the chemistry with old pal Nowitzki would click. However, the Mavs would probably take a major step back defensively by adding a 38-year-old point guard who has always been considered a liability on that end of the floor.
Houston’s Goran Dragic, who made himself a ton of money as the fill-in starter for Kyle Lowry in the second half of the season, is a much younger option. Dragic, 26, Nash’s former backup, averaged 18.0 points and 8.4 assists while shooting 49.0 percent from the floor in 28 games as a starter this season.
Some other proven shot creators in the market: New Orleans’ Eric Gordon (restricted), Memphis’ O.J. Mayo (restricted), Minnesota’s Michael Beasley (restricted and off-court issues) and Boston’s Ray Allen (turns 37 in July).
The market for big men, which will be a big need if the Mavs use the amnesty clause on Brendan Haywood, is headlined by Indiana’s Roy Hibbert (restricted), Denver’s JaVale McGee (restricted), Brooklyn’s Brook Lopez (restricted), New Orleans’ Chris Kaman, Houston’s Marcus Camby, Philadelphia’s Spencer Hawes and Chicago’s Omer Asik. The Mavs might also explore taking a minimum-salary flyer on Greg Oden in hopes of resuscitating the former No. 1 overall pick’s career after it has been derailed by knee injuries.
“There’s a lot of good players out there,” Nelson said. “Whether it’s A, B, C, D, E, F, or keep the powder dry, which is always an option. Just because we have it doesn’t mean we have to spend it.”
Is putting a subpar supporting cast around Nowitzki for another year of the twilight of his prime really an option? Isn’t there a sense of urgency to maximize the chances of winning another championship while the best player in franchise history is still a superstar?
“Listen, how many years have we made it in the playoffs in a row?” Nelson said. “We don’t plan on putting out anything less than a championship-caliber team. That’s me and Mark’s history and that’s our commitment to our fans and this city.”
They’ve got their work cut out for them this summer, especially if they swing and miss on Williams.