Dallas Mavericks: Tyson Chandler
Breaking up a championship team wasn't a popular decision by the Dallas front office at the time, to put it politely. And the Mavs brass’ CBA forecast is still easy fodder for critics more than two years later, with Dirk Nowitzki still the lone All-Star on the roster.
But Mark Cuban and Co. were absolutely right about one thing: Keeping that roster intact would have only guaranteed a large luxury-tax bill. All due respect to Tyson Chandler, who the Mavs will see Monday night at Madison Square Garden, but it’s delusional to believe that Dallas was denied a potential dynasty.
Peja Stojakovic, Jason Kidd and Brian Cardinal have retired. Rodrigue Beaubois and Dominique Jones can’t get NBA jobs. Brendan Haywood, an amnesty clause casualty in Dallas, is collecting checks in Charlotte while sitting out the season following foot surgery. Nowitzki and Shawn Marion -- who combine to make $32 million this season -- are the only 2011 champions who remain on the Mavs’ roster.
Here’s a look at what’s happened to the rest of the title team:
Dallas departure: signed four-year, $55.4 million deal with the New York Knicks
Chandler was the finishing piece of the Mavs’ championship puzzle, but he’s an outstanding role player, not a star capable of being a centerpiece of a title contender. That’s evident by the fact that the Knicks, who feature a legitimate superstar in Carmelo Anthony, have won only one playoff series since signing Chandler in December 2011 and are a long shot to make the playoffs this season. Injuries have limited Chandler to 32 games this season, and he is averaging 8.7 points and 9.3 rebounds, numbers that certainly don’t justify a $14 million salary.
The Mavs declined to make Chandler a multiyear offer after the lockout, much less match the Knicks’ deal. That will always leave the Mavs’ front office open to a couple of second-guess hypotheticals: Could the Mavs have done a respectable job defending their title with Chandler anchoring the 2011-12 Dallas defense? By dangling Chandler, could Dallas have pulled off a blockbuster deal to land Dwight Howard instead of helplessly watching the Los Angeles Lakers use Andrew Bynum to get the league’s best big man in the summer of 2012?
Dallas departure: signed three-year, $15.7 million deal with the Boston Celtics
Jet is a journeyman now, having been traded twice over the last eight months. His brief tenure with the Brooklyn Nets was an unmitigated failure, as the 36-year-old Terry averaged only 4.5 points on 36.2 percent shooting before being shipped to the NBA equivalent of Siberia. He’ll sit out the rest of the season instead of reporting to the Sacramento Kings. The hope is that focusing on rehabbing his left knee -- he apparently never fully recovered from summer surgery -- will allow Terry to contribute again next season. However, it’s painfully clear that Jet’s days as an elite bench scorer are over.
Dallas departure: signed four-year, $18 million contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves
Barea is a quality backup point guard, but that’s a steep price to pay for that type of player. Barea’s stats have dipped this season (8.7 PPG, 3.6 APG), but his contract is the primary reason Barea’s name was floated in trade rumors before the deadline.
Dallas departure: signed three-year, $24 million deal with the Los Angeles Clippers
This was a crazy contract to give a then-31-year-old who was coming off a serious knee injury that ended his 2010-11 season on New Year’s Eve. Butler is a high-character guy, but he’s a low-efficiency offensive player at this point of his career. The Clippers insisted on including him in the three-team deal that sent Eric Bledsoe to the Phoenix Suns and Jared Dudley and J.J. Redick to the Clippers. The Bucks are stuck with an expensive part-time starter who is shooting less than 40 percent from the floor for the NBA’s worst team.
Dallas departure: traded to the Denver Nuggets along with Rudy Fernandez for a future second-round pick
The Mavs dumping Brewer’s reasonable salary before the 2011-12 season made little sense, considering Dallas needed all the energy and athleticism it could find on the cheap. The Mavs made creating salary-cap space their priority, but they could have easily found takers for Brewer the next summer if need be. However, the Dallas front office didn’t see a role for Brewer after signing Vince Carter. After a couple of quality seasons coming off the Nuggets’ bench, Brewer signed a three-year, $14.1 million deal to become the Minnesota Timberwolves’ starting small forward.
Dallas departure: signed four-year, $16 million deal with Indiana Pacers
If the Pacers were confident in Mahinmi, they wouldn’t have rolled the dice on Bynum. Mahinimi is averaging 3.2 points and 3.3 rebounds and making $4 million this season.
The 2011 Mavs, who remain the only team to beat LeBron James’ Heat in a playoff series, might have delayed a Miami dynasty. Or maybe Miami doesn’t win the last two titles unless the Mavs’ upset forced the so-called superteam to address its flaws and improve its game.
“That was a very humbling experience for all of us,” Spoelstra said after the Heat’s Tuesday morning shootaround. “We had to reinvent ourselves. We had to be honest with ourselves that we had to improve, that the game that we were playing was not good enough. That might not have happened if we would have had success that first year, but we came back more committed to doing things differently.”
That started with James, the scapegoat of those finals after the Mavs made him look like a mere mortal, holding him to 17.8 points on 47.8 percent shooting during the six-game series. The Mavs executed a genius defensive game plan, with Shawn Marion and DeShawn Stevenson doing outstanding individual jobs guarding James, who was turned into a passive facilitator for much of those Finals.
No player in NBA history has been as heavily criticized during an offseason, which happened to be extra long due to the lockout. James took advantage of that time to fix a hole in his game the Mavs exploited.
But the standard is far from the norm. In the last four games, Samuel Dalembert has approached Chandler’s standard. For most of the season, he’s met the norm for Mavs centers.
From the Dept. of Damning With Faint Praise: A strong argument can be made that Dalembert is actually the best bargain among the Mavs’ starting big men during Dirk Nowitzki’s career. The Mavs obviously got their money’s worth from Chandler’s eight-figure salary, but that makes him the bang-for-buck exception.
Other than DeSagana Diop, who wasn’t overpaid by the Mavs until a few years after his part-time starting stint, Dalembert is by far the cheapest starting center the Mavs have had next to Nowitzki. And Dalembert’s numbers stack up pretty well to his predecessors’.
The list of big men who have played with Nowitzki sticks out like a sore thumb (showing their seasons as the Dirk era Mavs’ primary starting center):
1998-99: 8.6 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 3.2 bpg, .480 FG ($6.75 million)
1999-00: 8.4 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 2.5 bpg, .479 FG ($7.56 million)
2000-01: 7.1 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 2.8 bpg, .490 FG ($8.37 million)
Mavs memories: The 7-foot-6 Bradley blocked a bunch of shots, but you’ll find many more examples of him ending up on the wrong end of at-the-rim highlights on YouTube. He’s best remembered for being posterized and a lot of painfully awkward offensive possessions.
2001-02: 12.9 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 0.5 bpg, .462 FG ($18.75 million)
Mavs memories: He was only a center in the wacky world of Nellie, and even then only for a little more than half of the season before he got shipped to Denver as part of a massive deadline deal. Pairing a young Dirk with Howard proved that Nellie really didn’t care a lick about interior defense.
2002-03: 9.3 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.3 bpg, .518 FG ($7.27 million)
Mavs memories: It took a little more than a year for Nellie to go from envisioning LaFrentz as the key to competing with the Lakers to realizing he was a bad contract Dallas needed to dump. The Mavs actually got some value when they got rid of him, taking Antoine Walker off the Celtics’ hands and flipping him for Jason Terry a year later.
2004-05: 9.2 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 1.4 bpg, .550 FG ($7.7 million)
2006-07: 7.1 ppg, 7.4 ppg, 1.1 bpg, .626 FG ($9.63 million)
2007-08: 6.1 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 1.5 bpg, .643 FG ($10.59 million)
2008-09: 5.7 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 1.2 bpg, .650 FG ($11.55 million)
2009-10: 6.0 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 1.4 bpg, .624 FG ($12.12 million)
Mavs memories: They let Steve Nash go so they could sign this stiff?! Dampier was a more expensive, much less intense version of Kendrick Perkins. At least his contract included a goodbye gift, as the Mavs parlayed his fully nonguaranteed final year into Chandler.
2005-06: 2.3 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 1.4 bpg, .470 FG ($1.85 million)
Mavs memories: Did you forget that Diop started more games than Dampier during the Mavs’ first Finals season? The Mavs’ mistake with Diop occurred a couple of summers later, when they gave him a five-year deal for the full midlevel, somehow suckering Charlotte into trading for him after a couple of months of huffing and puffing.
2010-11: 10.1 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 1.1 bpg, .654 FG ($12.6 million)
Mavs memories: He didn’t stay long, but he’ll always be loved in Dallas. Chandler was the final piece to the Mavs’ championship puzzle.
2011-12: 5.2 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 1.0 bpg, .518 FG ($7.62 million)
Mavs memories: Haywood played a key role as a backup during the Mavs’ march through the West playoff bracket in 2011. But he was so underwhelming as Chandler’s replacement that the Mavs used the amnesty clause on him so they could sign Chris Kaman. Dallas is paying Haywood more than Dalembert this season.
2012-13: 10.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 0.8 bpg, .507 FG ($8 million)
Mavs memories: He had the ugliest .500 beard, and his poor defense was a major reason those whiskers grew so long. Kaman and coach Rick Carlisle don’t exchange Christmas cards.
2013-14: 6.4 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 1.1 bpg, .590 FG ($3.7 million)
Mavs memories: If he keeps showing up like he has during the Mavs’ winning streak, his oversleeping incidents will be forgotten. He doesn’t seem so bad compared to most of the other big men in recent Mavs history.
They’re on pace to win 47 or 48 games and positioned to claim one of the Western Conference’s last couple of playoff spots. It’s not satisfying for a franchise that had become accustomed to 50-win campaigns, but it’s a significant step forward from last season.
The question the Mavs front office, and to a certain extent coaches, work on answering every day is how they can take another big step forward and become a legitimate contender again. Not coincidentally, most of your questions are along the same lines.
Let’s get to them ...
@electriclight41 on Twitter: If Andrew Bynum becomes available, do you think the Mavs would risk taking a chance on him?
The Mavs kicked the tires on Bynum this summer and didn’t like what they saw with his knees or head. At the time, I thought he was worth a fairly low risk, but the Mavs have been proven right by Bynum’s act that basically got him banished from Cleveland.
The combination of bad knees and a worse attitude certainly doesn’t make Bynum, who averaged 8.4 points and 5.3 rebounds while shooting only 42 percent from the floor in 24 games this season, appealing enough to give up any assets in a trade. It’s debatable whether it’d even be worth experimenting with the Mavs’ chemistry to add him on a minimum contract if he’s released.
Roughly about the same as the odds of the Mavs signing Lamar Odom. As far as I know, Chandler isn’t available. If the Knicks do decide to shop him, they’ll get a ton of offers for a big man who has proven he can be the finishing piece of a championship puzzle. Chandler has only one more season remaining on his deal, so it’s not like he’s locked into a contract that would scare away trade suitors.
@IAmClements on Twitter: What will Devin Harris's role be in his return, and whose minutes does this affect?
The plan is for Harris, who hopes to be ready to play at some point in January, to back up both guard spots. This will drastically reduce the minutes of rookies Shane Larkin and Gal Mekel. Ideally, it’d also allow Rick Carlisle to trim the minutes of Monta Ellis (team-high 36.9 per game) and Jose Calderon (31.4 per game).
Not coincidentally, Chandler is the one starting center employed by the Mavericks over that span who displayed a consistent level of energy and intensity.
Saturday night’s performance in Portland certainly wasn’t encouraging. Coming off the bench behind DeJuan Blair for the second straight game, Dalembert contributed so little in 12 minutes (two rebounds, one block, minus-7) that Carlisle decided to give the rest of the backup minutes to Bernard James.
Maybe that delivered a message to Dalembert. James played 11 frenetic minutes, scoring five points, grabbing six rebounds, blocking a shot and helping the Mavs outscore the Trail Blazers by three during his time on the floor. Carlisle can honestly tell Dalembert -- or let him figure it out on his own -- that he isn’t guaranteed minutes unless he performs.
That doesn’t mean it will have a positive effect on Dalembert. It didn’t on Haywood, who muttered “I just work here” over and over and moped the rest of the season when Erick Dampier came back from an injury and reclaimed the starting job weeks after the Mavs acquired Haywood from Washington. It didn’t on Kaman, who also took a passive-aggressive approach about Carlisle’s playing-time decisions during his time in Dallas and openly complained about the coach’s “mind games” when he came through town with the Los Angeles Lakers earlier this season.
Then again, maybe those guys just aren’t starting-caliber big men. Haywood was so uninspiring as the Mavs’ starter in 2011-12 that the Mavs waived him via the amnesty clause the following summer. He was a backup for the Charlotte Bobcats last season. For all of Kaman’s complaints about Carlisle, he’s averaging fewer minutes this season and is coming off the bench for the Lakers.
And maybe there’s a reason Dalembert is playing for his fifth team in five years. His numbers (7.2 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.3 blocks) are pretty close to his career averages, but the Mavs are demanding more from Dalembert defensively.
If Dalembert doesn’t deliver, he might not play many minutes. That’s especially true with Brandan Wright days away from making his season debut.
The Mavs signed Dalembert to be their starting center, but he might end up being the odd big man out.
Can the Mavericks trump that?
First of all, it’s about as flimsy of a $24 million deal as you’ll ever see in the NBA. The second season is a team option. The first season is incentive-laden, protecting the Cavs if Bynum spends a second consecutive season as a millionaire spectator due to his bad knees.
Nevertheless, at the moment, the Mavs can’t come close to offering $12 million per season, no matter how much of it is guaranteed. They can, however, make the case that it’s in Bynum’s best long-term interests to spend this season in Dallas.
How much is world-class medical care worth to an injury-prone NBA center? Ask Tyson Chandler, who arrived in Dallas as damaged goods and left as an NBA champion with a four-year, $55.4 million contract. That's pretty good cash for a big man who flunked a physical to void a trade that would have sent him to Oklahoma City.
The Mavs, who are meeting with Bynum today, proudly consider their medical staff to be the best in the NBA. The Phoenix Suns are certainly in that conversation, but Dallas’ staff led Team USA athletic trainer Casey Smith is certainly among the league’s elite.
If Bynum wants to make as much cash as possible this season, he probably won’t end up in Dallas. The Mavs have approximately $8.2 million of salary-cap space right now, a figure that can get six-figure boosts if they waive players with nonguaranteed contracts (Josh Akognon and Bernard James) or renounce the Early Bird rights of Brandan Wright, whom the Mavs would prefer to return in a backup role.
The only way for the Mavs to match the dollar figures offered by Cleveland is to create more cap space by dealing Shawn Marion or Vince Carter to a team with cap space. That’d be filling one big hole while creating another.
If Bynum wants to maximize his chance to sign a big contract in the future, he’d be wise to consider the Mavs even if they don’t come with the highest bid.
Mavs fans don’t want to hear about risk-reward ratio or financial flexibility. Not right now. Probably not ever.
Folks who pay for tickets don’t want to be reminded that, at the time Mark Cuban opted to offer only one-year deals to Tyson Chandler and free-agent other championship pieces, the Mavs had reason to believe that Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Dwight Howard would all be on the market last summer and looking to move.
Fans don’t care how much the circumstances changed with Paul getting traded from the franchise formerly known as the Hornets to the Clippers, Howard opting to return to Orlando before forcing his way to L.A. and the Nets making splashy moves to convince Williams how much better life would be in Brooklyn.
The NBA is a bottom-line business. The bottom line is that Cuban’s grand plan, as smart as the risk may have been, can fairly be judged as a failure now that all the big fish are gone.
Not that Cuban, fresh off losing a recruiting battle to the I-45 rival Rockets, is willing to concede that point.
“We haven't played a game yet,” Cuban replied to ESPNDallas.com via email. “Look back at the big deal that won last summer and ask how it’s working for everyone now.”
Yep, that’s an indirect shot at the Los Angeles Lakers, who won the summer of 2012 by pulling off a four-way blockbuster deal that brought Howard to Hollywood to follow in the footsteps of Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O’Neal.
Never mind winning multiple championships. Howard didn’t even win a single playoff game while wearing purple and gold.
The deal didn’t exactly work out well for the Denver Nuggets or Philadelphia 76ers, either. Andre Iguodala was one-and-done in Denver before going to the Golden State Warriors in free agency. Bynum’s destination is to be determined -- and Dallas is a possibility -- but he definitely isn’t returning to Philly after being a $17 million spectator last season. The Orlando Magic stand as the big winner in that deal -- yet had the NBA’s worst record (20-62).
Oh, and it’s hard to laugh too heartily at the Lakers for their Dwightmare hours after he turned you down to head to Houston.
This is without question the most heartbreaking July day in Dallas basketball history. This is worse than D-Will’s decision, simply because a healthy Howard is on a different tier of superstardom. And it’s a lot worse than The Decision, because the Mavs weren’t even one of the handful of teams to get a sit-down meeting with LeBron James.
Yeah, there was a lot of pre-free agency discussion around these parts about convincing King James to join Dirk and using Erick Dampier’s instantly expiring contract in a sign-and-trade deal with Cleveland. But that hope never got past the point of pure speculation.
Plus, the Mavs ended up with a pretty darn good consolation prize, although nobody knew at the time that the injury-prone big man who arrived in Dallas as a Charlotte salary dump would be the final piece to a championship puzzle.
It now pains Mavs fans that the big man didn’t stay more than one season, that Chandler never got a chance to defend a championship in Dallas.
We'll spare you the talk about how the new CBA and an aging roster forced Cuban’s hands. You don’t want to hear it.
You don’t want to hear about how hard it was going to be for the Mavs to keep contending with that core. You don’t care that Jason Kidd is now Williams’ head coach in Brooklyn or that Jason Terry was dealt to the Nets as a salary-dump throw-in with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.
But Boston pulled that trigger on that blockbuster deal because the Celtics had become what Cuban feared the Mavs would be: an old team with a bloated payroll and no real chance to contend or opportunity to upgrade the roster.
Cuban has vowed to never let the Mavs get stuck in NBA purgatory, a place he calls the “mediocrity treadmill.”
Well, how else to describe the Mavs’ place in the basketball world at the moment? The painful past two years have confirmed that Dirk Nowitzki is no longer capable of being the lone star on a contender. Their last playoff win was Game 6 in Miami more than two years ago. They’re coming off a 41-41 season in which they missed the playoffs for the first time in a dozen years.
The Mavs have a lot of money to spend but no great options to give it to. They have a lot of potential trade targets but no great assets to give up.
The Mavs, and Cuban in particular, have a PR mess. The only way to clean it up is with basketball success.
It’s going to take a brilliant plan for that to happen. And a bunch of breaks. Even a great plan isn’t guaranteed to work, as the Mavs know all too well.
Sources told ESPN.com’s Marc Stein that Al Jefferson has agreed to terms with the Charlotte Bobcats on a three-year, $41 million deal. Restricted free agent Tiago Splitter, another potential Dallas target if the Mavs didn’t win the Dwight derby, committed earlier this week to stay in San Antonio for $36 million over four years.
|ESPN's Marc Stein joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the latest news on the Mavericks' meeting with Dwight Howard.
There had been indications from Jefferson’s camp that he planned to wait until Howard made his decision before picking a team because he wanted Dallas and Atlanta to be able to get in on the bidding if they didn’t hook the biggest fish in free agency. However, it’s extremely unlikely that the Mavs would have been willing to make a bid in the ballpark of the Bobcats’ offer. And that’s putting it conservatively.
The Mavs were intrigued with the possibility of pairing an outstanding post scorer with Dirk Nowitzki, but they had major concerns about that duo defensively. There was also a fear that the 6-foot-10, 289-pound Jefferson’s physique would continue to fill out as he aged, causing a bad defender to become even worse.
Those are the same concerns, along with Jefferson’s high salary, that led the Mavs to look elsewhere instead of pulling the trigger on a 2010 summer trade with the Timberwolves that would have sent Jefferson to Dallas in exchange for Erick Dampier’s instantly vanishing contract and picks.
The Mavs ended up sending the Dampier contract to Charlotte for an injury-prone, highly paid center named Tyson Chandler, with Dallas somehow dumping the contracts of Matt Carroll and Eduardo Najera in the trade. It was a terrible trade for Michael Jordan’s Bobcats because it was a salary dump that didn’t save Charlotte money over the long haul.
It was a terrific trade for the Mavs because a healthy, hungry Chandler was the final piece to their championship puzzle.
The Mavs can only hope the center they find this summer works out nearly that well, whether it’s the one they really want or one of the fallback plans.
A call to the agent for center Andrew Bynum was among the flurry of phone calls the Mavericks made in the opening hours of free agency as they began doing their due diligence on potential backup plans in case Dwight Howard decides to sign with another team.
|Donnie Nelson joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the crazy NBA draft, new Mavs Shane Larkin and Ricky Ledo, and Dirk Nowitzki's long-term roll with Dallas.
Lee recently told The Associated Press that the 7-foot, 285-pound Bynum, who averaged 18.7 points, 11.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks in 2011-12, expects to be healthy for the beginning of training camp. The Mavs would obviously want their own medical staff to evaluate Bynum before signing him to a contract, which would likely include language to manage the team’s financial risks if his knee problems continue.
The Mavs’ medical staff, headlined by head athletic trainer Casey Smith and Dr. T.O. Souryal, could be a factor in Bynum choosing to come to Dallas if the Mavs make a competitive offer. They helped get Tyson Chandler’s career back on track after he arrived in Dallas as a dumped salary, having missed a total of 68 games in the previous two seasons due to foot and ankle injuries.
Bynum’s missed games total in the last six seasons: 82, six, 28, 17, 32 and 47.
Utah’s Al Jefferson, San Antonio’s Tiago Splitter and Minnesota’s Nikola Pekovic are the other most accomplished centers on the market. Splitter and Pekovic are restricted free agents whose teams have the rights to match any offer and are interested in keeping them.
The deadline passed without Marion exercising the early termination option in his contract, according to a source, meaning the Mavericks need to create an additional $2.73 million of space under the salary cap to be able to sign Dwight Howard to a max contract.
|Donnie Nelson joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the crazy NBA draft, new Mavs Shane Larkin and Ricky Ledo, and Dirk Nowitzki's long-term roll with Dallas.
A best-case scenario for the Mavs would have been Marion, whose agent Dan Fegan also represents Howard, opting out of his contract and returning to the Mavs on a multi-year deal with a lower annual salary. However, NBA rules expressly forbid negotiating that type of deal before the player officially becomes a free agent, as the league office recently reminded the Mavs.
If Howard chooses the Mavs over the Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets or other suitors, the most likely scenario is that the Mavs would trade Marion for no, or significantly less, returning salary.
Marion, the Mavs’ most versatile player and best defender, is Dirk Nowitzki’s lone remaining teammate from the 2011 title team. Other core players from that team, such as Tyson Chandler, Jason Terry and J.J. Barea, left via free agency when the Mavs opted not to make competitive offers because Mark Cuban wanted to create the kind of financial flexibility necessary to sign a superstar such as Howard.
“We’ll cross that bridge once we get there,” Nowitzki said this week of potentially trading Marion. “If Dwight really says he’d love to be here, he’d love to come and this is where he wants to play, then that’s something we have to address then. Now I don’t think we have to address that.
“I loved playing with all of my championship teammates. We had a great team and chemistry. I was sad seeing all of them go. It would be the same if we did part ways with [Marion]. We’ve been through a lot. We’re the same age and we almost came into the league together. We’ve seen a lot together in this league and we won the ring together. It’s been a great ride together. We’ll see how far we can still take it. We’ll just have to wait and see.”
Both Miami and San Antonio have depth at their disposal. On top of that, their depth is versatile. Whether it is Kawhi Leonard, Ray Allen, Matt Bonner or Shane Battier, each team has multiple options who are solid at multiple facets of the game.
|ESPN senior NBA analyst Marc Stein joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss the NBA Finals and latest Mavericks news.
Mavs coach Rick Carlisle isn’t very fond of judging players by the old, by-the-book way of thinking. “He’s a basketball player” is a phrase that often comes out of the coach’s mouth. The game is shifting away from defined labels for players based on position. Carlisle, as well as the two coaches involved in the NBA Finals, have recognized this and often try to find the best lineups that can be placed out on the floor, regardless of the traditional positions.
Now, Dallas has to try to find the right pieces that can bring true depth. The pieces they had this season didn’t amount to much, as they were depleted at the point guard and center positions. They have a relatively clean slate to work with. You have Dirk Nowitzki as the focal point and Shawn Marion and Vince Carter as the veterans. Those two could easily be moved in the offseason, but they also work perfectly in what the Mavs would need to do if they’re building a roster based on depth and versatility.
The championship team of 2011 provides an additional example of how the depth can be advantageous. The Mavs had players such as DeShawn Stevenson and Brian Cardinal who could provide tough defense and perimeter shooting. While Tyson Chandler was seen as the major big man, Brendan Haywood was a solid rim protector who could hold his own in the rebounding department. Like the Heat and the Spurs, the Mavs’ title squad had enough depth to withstand whatever challenges came their way.
Depth has delivered success to Miami and San Antonio. It clearly delivered to Dallas back in 2011. With a roster full of holes, the front office must choose wisely with their open spots.
Bryan Gutierrez currently covers the Dallas Mavericks for The Two Man Game, an ESPN affiliate blog on the TrueHoop Network. Gutierrez, who has covered the Mavs since 2010, studied journalism and psychology at Texas Tech University.
Miami and San Antonio aren’t one-trick ponies. It’s been established that they are skilled and efficient on the offensive end of the floor, but both teams are equally skilled on the defensive end. The “defensive rating” is an advanced statistic that measures a team’s points allowed per 100 possessions.
Miami ranked first in offensive efficiency with a rating of 110.3 and seventh in defensive efficiency with a rating of 100.5. San Antonio was seventh in offensive efficiency with a rating of 105.9 and third in defensive efficiency with a rating of 99.2.
When it comes to defense, neither team has a dominant big man in the post who collects all of the rebounds or anchors the middle, so they mask that weakness by putting a stronger emphasis on contesting shots. The downside is that fouls tend to add up and fewer rebounds are collected. The risk is worth the reward because the opposing offense is disrupted with contested shots.
This season, Dallas had the 10th worst defensive efficiency in the league with a rating of 104.0. That rating was the third worst defensive mark for the Mavericks in the last 10 years.
|Dirk Nowitzki joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett live in studio to discuss the moves he expects the Mavericks to make this summer, what his pitch would be to Dwight Howard and Chris Paul, and his upcoming Heroes Celebrity baseball game.
During the 2011 title run, Dallas showed the defensive disposition that coach Rick Carlisle craves. The Mavs had the seventh best defensive efficiency with a rating of 102.3, their best during the last five seasons. While there were only three teams in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive ratings this season, there were only two teams in the top 10 in both categories in 2011: Dallas and Miami.
The Mavs had a true defensive anchor in Tyson Chandler. He was a solid last line of defense as his teammates gambled on the perimeter. The Mavs also played together on a string. By doing that -- which requires teamwork, coordination, trust and synchronicity -- they were a team with only one premiere defender but became a roster full of team defenders. It came down to the five players on the floor doing their job, being in position and being accountable.
Dallas’ flow offense is predicated on its ability to get stops. If the front office finds players who believe in playing on a string and bringing a strong defensive disposition, it will open things up on the offensive end of the floor. The Mavs don’t need a roster full of All-NBA defenders. They just need a set of players who will buy in to playing defense together as a team.
Bryan Gutierrez currently covers the Dallas Mavericks for The Two Man Game, an ESPN affiliate blog on the TrueHoop Network. Gutierrez, who has covered the Mavs since 2010, studied journalism and psychology at Texas Tech University.
The list of teams that can match the Lakers’ tradition is awfully short.
|Mark Cuban joins ESPN Dallas GameDay to discuss the Mavericks' plans, the free-agent market and what possibilities there are for Dallas.
Of course, all-time great big men are a big part of the Lakers’ championship tradition. George Mikan, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O’Neal set a sky-high standard for centers who wear purple and gold. That might not necessarily help the Lakers’ cause in trying to keep Howard.
There’s a ton of pressure that comes along with following that line of legends in the nation’s second largest media market. Shaq’s disdain for Dwight, which manifests itself in many nationally televised verbal jabs, doesn’t help matters. There’s a theory that Howard would prefer to create a different path instead of simply following Shaq’s Orlando-to-Los Angeles footsteps.
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How heavily will that weigh on the mind of a man who has made it clear he’s searching for happiness this summer?
If Howard goes to Houston, he’ll be constantly compared to Hakeem Olajuwon, a Hall of Famer and two-time Finals MVP.
To a lesser degree, there will also be comparisons to Moses Malone and Yao Ming. However, as dominant as Malone was during his Houston days, he never won a ring with the Rockets and isn’t a Houston legend. Ming only got out of the first round once during his injury-abbreviated career.
The Rockets have tradition, but it’s been years since Houston has been considered a legitimate contender. Over the last decade and a half, the Rockets have been a distant third among NBA franchises in this state. The scrutiny wouldn’t be anywhere close to as suffocating as it is in L.A.
All due respect to James Donaldson and Tyson Chandler, but Howard would be the best big man in Mavs history as soon as he tied his shoes. There could still be some unflattering comparisons for Howard when it comes to Chandler’s excellent intangibles, but there’s no question that Howard is the superior center.
While only one championship banner hangs on the Mavs’ side of the American Airlines Center, this franchise has established an impressive winning tradition during Mark Cuban’s ownership tenure. (Or during Dirk Nowitzki’s career, if you want to assign credit to the man who did more heavy lifting.)
The Mavs and Rockets can’t stack up to the Lakers’ tremendous tradition, but that might be a good thing in the Dwight sweepstakes this summer.
EDGE: That all depends on Dwight’s mindset … which infamously can change with the wind.
Ian Mahinmi is the last member of the Mavericks’ championship team left standing in these playoffs.
With Mahinmi watching all but four minutes from the bench, his Pacers eliminated the Knicks in Game 6, ending a miserable series for two integral pieces of the 2011 title team.
Indiana’s Roy Hibbert dominated Tyson Chandler before the Knicks big man fouled out with 3:12 remaining. Jason Kidd was benched for the second half for the second straight game and went scoreless for the 10th consecutive game, dating to Game 2 of the first round.
Hibbert had 21 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks in the series finale. Chandler had two points and six rebounds, limited to only 23 minutes because of foul trouble.
For the series, Hibbert averaged 13.3 points, 10.3 rebounds and 3.2 blocks, compared to 6.2 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.7 blocks for Chandler. The Knicks were outscored by 23 points with Chandler on the floor in the series, including 17 in Game 6.
The 40-year-old Kidd had a historically horrible offensive performance during these playoffs. He averaged 0.9 points and shot 12 percent from the floor, the lowest postseason field goal percentage for a player with at least 25 attempts since 1947.
This might not quiet the outcry about Mark Cuban opting to break up the Mavs’ championship team – that’d probably require signing a superstar this summer – but it definitely deadens the angry mob’s factual ammunition.
Here is what Cuban feared: The Mavs would look a lot like the Boston Celtics or New York Knicks, veteran teams who weren’t good enough to be true contenders and have extremely limited avenues to improve because of their bloated payrolls and the restrictive rules of the new collective bargaining agreement.
Imagine if the Mavs paid the price to keep all of their championship pieces. Chandler, Kidd, Jason Terry, J.J. Barea and Caron Butler will cost a total of $35.1 million next season, which would put the Mavs in luxury-tax territory, handcuffing them this summer. Only Butler’s $8 million salary would come off the books in 2014-15.
With a Dirk Nowitzki as the lone star surrounded by an supporting cast of players who are primarily also on the decline, do you really believe the Mavs would have been a threat to come out of the West?
You can make a strong case that it’d have been better for the Mavs to have kept the title core together and at least be a playoff team than the mediocre mess the franchise put on the floor this season. But this really isn’t a Chandler vs. Chris Kaman conversation. It’s a risk/reward discussion.
In Cuban’s opinion, the potential reward didn’t justify the risk of sacrificing roster flexibility if they kept the championship team intact. Finances were only a factor in the post-lockout decisions as they related to limiting the Mavs’ upgrade options.
Cuban decided to dream big, putting immense pressure on him to pull off a superstar acquisition this summer. That ultimately needs to happen to justify stripping down the title team as a good decision.
But if you think the Mavs broke up a dynasty, you clearly didn’t watch much of the first two rounds of these playoffs.
Jason Kidd: It’s gotten to the point that Knicks coach Mike Woodson is being widely praised for benching Kidd during the second half of New York’s series-extending Game 5 win over the Pacers.
Kidd failed to score for the ninth consecutive game, missing a layup in the second quarter. The missed shot was the only stat Kidd recorded during his 5:20 of playing time.
Woodson opted to play rookie Chris Copeland instead of Kidd. Copeland responded by giving the Knicks a much-needed spark, scoring 13 points in 19 minutes. Kidd has scored a total of 11 points in 11 games this postseason, shooting 12 percent from the floor.
Tyson Chandler: Chandler told reporters he’d be fine for Game 6 despite a nasty fall on his back when he got his shot blocked by Indiana’s Roy Hibbert.
Chandler didn’t put up impressive numbers (two points, 1-4 FG, eight rebounds, two blocks), but neither did Hibbert, who had nine points on 3-of-7 shooting and seven rebounds. Both big men got in foul trouble, limiting Chandler to 27 minutes and Hibbert to 31.
Ian Mahinmi: With Hibbert in foul trouble, Mahinmi played 17 minutes, his high this postseason.
Mahinmi had five points, three rebounds and a blocked shot, but his plus-minus illustrated Hibbert’s importance as Indiana’s defense anchor. The Pacers were outscored by 10 points with Mahinmi on the floor.
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
Play Podcast Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett at Mavericks media day to discuss his expectations for the upcoming season.
Play Podcast Mark Cuban joins Galloway and Company to discuss the Mavericks' new GM Gersson Rosas and much more.
Play Podcast Fitzsimmons and Durrett discuss Mark Cuban's comments from Las Vegas about the Mavericks' offseason, how he sees the team without Dwight Howard and more.
Play Podcast Marc Stein joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why the Mavericks didn't want to match Cleveland's offer to Andrew Bynum, what's next for the Mavs and the possibility of Dirk Nowitzki ending his career elsewhere.
Play Podcast Jeff Platt fires quick-hitters at Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon in the weekly sports standoff about Andrew Bynum, the Mavs' current backcourt, a potential Nelson Cruz suspension and more.
Play Podcast ESPN Los Angeles' Ramona Shelburne joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why she thinks Andrew Bynum got a bad rap in Los Angeles and how he would fit in with the Mavericks.
Play Podcast Buy, sell or hold? If Dwight Howard goes to another team, what are the Mavs' options? The guys take a look at a list of potential fallback options.
Play Podcast ESPN's Marc Stein joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the latest news on the Mavericks' meeting with Dwight Howard.