- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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DALLAS -- How much is winning worth to Carmelo Anthony? How much does he value a legitimate chance to chase a championship?
The Mavericks, confident they can provide a title-pursuing opportunity immediately and for the duration of Anthony’s prime, intend to find out.
The Mavs know Dirk Nowitzki, coming off his 12th All-Star appearance, would be the best player to ever be paired with Anthony, whose teams have advanced past the first round only twice during his 11-year NBA career despite his consistently prolific production.
With all due respect to George Karl, the Mavs firmly believe that Rick Carlisle would be Anthony's best coach. The Mavs’ front office will point to the 2011 title run and this season’s seven-game challenge of the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs as recent examples of Carlisle’s brilliance. They’ll surely mention Carlisle’s impact on Monta Ellis, who excelled in the Mavs’ flow offense after arriving in Dallas with a reputation as an inefficient, me-first gunner, harsh labels that often come out of Melo critics’ mouths, too.
The Mavs can make the case that a Monta-Melo-Dirk trio would be the NBA’s most explosive one-two-three offensive punch. They certainly will make the case that adding Anthony to Nowitzki and center Tyson Chandler, his former New York Knicks teammate, would give the Mavs the best frontcourt in the league.
Oh, and that frontcourt could get much better next summer, when the Mavs plan to have the financial flexibility to pursue another big fish in free agency, such as Kevin Love, Marc Gasol or Dallas native LaMarcus Aldridge.
But it’s the Chandler trade that made the Mavs believe they could convince Anthony that Dallas is the best fit for him now.
“My feeling is that I’m a prospective free agent out there, we became a lot more attractive, because I don’t know many front lines that not only have that kind of punch in terms of inside-outside, but also two great guys, great teammates, guys that you love to go to war with, night in and night out,” Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said. “That with the fact that we can accommodate a max salary this year and next makes our future bright in the here and now. It also makes it bright in the future, next year. I think the future is bright here in Dallas.”
Yeah, about that max salary, Melo ...
As Mark Cuban clarified Saturday on 103.3 FM’s “ESPN Dallas GameDay,” the Mavs don’t plan on offering one of the available superstars a deal for the full max. It’s simple math, really. Dallas has about $26 million in cap space and needs to re-sign Nowitzki, whose hometown discount isn’t going to be steep enough to give Anthony a starting salary of $22.5 million.
Theoretically, the Mavs could move Brandan Wright and his $5 million salary in a cost-cutting deal and beg Nowitzki to take a bit less than the Tim Duncan discount to make max room for Melo, but that’s not the plan. The Mavs hope to convince Anthony that they present the best chance to win championships, which is probably pretty valuable to a man who has made more than $135 million but won only three playoff series during his NBA career.
Money aside, are the Mavs the best fit for Melo? It might take a little mud-slinging to convince him, but that shouldn’t be a problem for a shark like Cuban.
The Mavs’ case starts with Carlisle, who is clearly the most offensively creative coach among Anthony’s suitors. Would Kevin McHale, who is still searching for his first playoff series win on the bench, know how to keep James Harden, Dwight Howard and Anthony all happy? Do you trust a rookie head coach in Derek Fisher? Or the uncertainty of the Los Angeles Lakers’ Coach TBD?
Nowitzki is a dream teammate: a floor-spacing star willing and eager to hand over the keys to the franchise after he signs a team-friendly contract. How much is Harden willing to share the ball and spotlight? Will Derrick Rose overcome his unfortunate knee problems to be an All-NBA guard or end up as a max-salary albatross? (Hey, how did that work out with Amar'e Stoudemire?)
If Anthony wants to win now, his safest bet is the Mavs, whose front office also has a solid plan to sustain a contender around him throughout his prime and the recent track record that proves they’re capable of pulling it off.
Isn’t that worth a superstar with a nine-figure net worth sacrificing a few million dollars? Hey, have we mentioned that Texas has no state income tax?
520dMike Mazzeo, ESPNNewYork.com