Dallas Mavericks: Andrew Bynum

3 Points: Biggest threats to playoff quest?

January, 15, 2014
Jan 15
Marc Gasol and Dirk NowitzkiJerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsThe return of Marc Gasol makes the Grizzlies a more formidable obstacle for the Mavs getting into the playoffs.
ESPNDallas.com columnist Jean-Jacques Taylor and MavsOutsider.com editor-in-chief Bryan Gutierrez will join me each week to run a three-man weave on a few questions on the minds of Mavs fans.

1. Which teams are the biggest threats to the Mavs' quest to make the playoffs?

Gutierrez: The only team behind Dallas right now that might bring some cause for concern is Memphis. That's due to the fact that Marc Gasol, the reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year, returned to action after spraining a left knee ligament less than eight weeks ago. Their defensive tenacity can help them get back in gear, but they may be too far behind in the pack. I'm going to take an indirect route for the answer and say that the Mavericks themselves are the biggest threat to their quest to make the playoffs. They have the ability to score on any given night, but their own shortcomings on defense and in terms of rebound really derail their potential. It's up to them to decide how far they can really go.

Taylor: Denver and Minnesota are the best bets to improve and get better over the course of the season, which makes them the biggest threats to the Mavs. Denver has a new coach in Brian Shaw and it always takes teams time to adjust to a new coach and a new system. It takes time for all the players to find a role and get comfortable in it. The Nuggets are just 11-8 at home, where they have traditionally been outstanding. Once they play better at home, they'll start putting some winning streaks together. Minnesota's biggest problem is it doesn't know how to win. Kevin Love is among the league's best players. If they can continue to get strong performances from Ricky Rubio and Kevin Martin, they will eventually make a push for the playoffs. Rick Adelman is a terrific coach and sooner or later he'll get the most from that team's talent.

MacMahon: The Grizzlies are by far the biggest threat with Gasol back. I figured Memphis as a playoff lock before the season started. The Grizzlies got off to a disappointing start and struggled without their best player, but they are only one game below .500 and completely capable of still getting to 48 or 49 wins. The Nuggets and Timberwolves can't be discounted, but the Nuggets' inconsistency and Timberwolves' stunning inability to win close games (0-11 in games decided by four points or fewer) make them lesser threats.

2. Should the Mavs want Andrew Bynum if he'll take the minimum?

[+] EnlargeAndrew Bynum
AP Photo/Mark DuncanWould Andrew Bynum be worth the risk for the Mavericks?
Gutierrez: Hypothetical or not, Dallas doesn't really need to go after Bynum. Do they need a legitimate big man? The answer is obviously yes, but I don't consider Bynum to be that anymore. Mark Cuban has created a culture and locker room over the last decade-plus that has withstood a lot. The only thing it can't seem to withstand is when former L.A. Lakers have to change colors and become Mavericks. Dallas hasn't had any significant luck, mainly just aggravation, when it comes to bringing in players who used to wear the purple and gold. Fans who remember see Bynum as the "thug" who took a cheap shot on J.J. Barea during the conference semifinals of the 2011 playoffs. For those who haven't really kept up with him this year, the analytics say that Bynum isn't worth the hassle, even at the minimum. He doesn't radically improve the team defensively or in terms of rebounding. The culture has worked with various players, even this year with Monta Ellis, but past results in a specific category suggest that this isn't worth the hassle.

Taylor: I wouldn't want Bynum under any circumstances. He has a loser mentality and there's been no indication he loves the game -- only what it can prove him materially. The Mavs under Cuban, and especially under Carlisle, has been a franchise that plays with maximum effort. Lamar Odom drove Carlisle and Cuban crazy. Bynum would do it faster.

MacMahon: Yes. The Mavs were right -- and I was wrong at the time -- for not making Bynum an offer this summer when it would have taken significant guaranteed money to get him. Bynum obviously wasn't worth that risk. But there would be no risk with a minimum contract. The best-case scenario is that you get a center who can provide scoring punch, rebounding and an interior defensive presence for around 20 minutes per night. If he causes problems, cut him. For me, it comes down to this: Would you rather have Bernard James or Bynum?

3. Should the Mavs be buyers or sellers in the trade market?

Gutierrez: They should be buyers, but I don't really see what they can buy that makes a substantial difference. They have nice assets, but the assets likely won't fix what ails them unless they radically shift the makeup of their roster. Defense is clearly the issue, so they would have to give up key pieces to their offense to fill that void. It doesn't make sense to trade pieces such as Jose Calderon or Monta Ellis because they're new pieces to your core. When you look on the other side, guys such as DeJuan Blair, Vince Carter, Samuel Dalembert and Shawn Marion have contracts that are expendable, but they all provide something of substantial value to the team. It's a precarious spot for the Mavericks. They can't be sellers because they have a solid chance to be a playoff team, but their assets don't provide the foundation to provide a quick shot in the arm as buyers.

Taylor: This depends on what they're getting. If it's a high-end lottery draft pick, then be sellers because they have zero chance to win a title this season. If it's a low first-round pick, then the Mavs might as well try to have the best season they can and ruin someone else's season in the postseason.

MacMahon: They can't be sellers. Not if they want to avoid the wrath of a certain 7-foot German. Cuban is too competitive to do anything to reduce the Mavs' chances to get back in the playoffs anyway. But I don't think it's realistic to expect the Mavs to be buyers, either, unless a team is really motivated to dump salary. The Mavs just don't have the assets to be aggressive in the trade market, especially because they can't trade future first-round picks since they're still being handcuffed by the Odom deal.

Mavs mailbag: Dirk still a legit superstar?

January, 14, 2014
Jan 14
DALLAS -- A couple of the wins weren’t works of art and the loss was awfully ugly, but the Mavericks just finished a 4-1 run in a span of seven days.

Suddenly, they’re alone in seventh place in the West as the midseason point approaches.

The prospects for a playoff appearance are pretty bright. A playoff run? Well, let’s not get too carried away quite yet. But we’ll get to that in a bit.

On to your questions ...

@coffeesodabeer on Twitter: If Dirk is still a legitimate superstar, why aren't the Mavs as good as they were in 2008-2010?

Are the Mavs really that far off from what they were from 2008-10? They averaged 52 wins and won one playoff series in that three-season span. They’re on pace for 48 wins now.

Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsDirk Nowitzki acknowledges that he can't be as consistently dominant as in the past, but it'd be hard to find a coach who would say he's dropped from superstar status.
I’d say that parallels pretty well with the decline in Dirk’s game. He doesn’t play as many minutes (roughly five fewer per game) and readily acknowledges that he can’t be as consistently dominant as he used to be. He’s also not nearly as good a rebounder as he was five years ago.

But we’re talking about a dude who ranks 14th in the league in scoring with 21.2 points per game, ninth in Player Efficiency Rating (23.77) and has a legitimate chance to have the 11th 50/40/90 season in NBA history. (That’s 50 percent field goal shooting, 40 percent 3-point shooting and 90 percent free throw shooting.)

We can get into a semantics discussion about what a superstar is, but I don’t believe you will find a coach in the league who would say Dirk has dropped out of that class.

@JohnnyPablo_ on Twitter: Can the Mavs make an impact if they reach the playoffs or are we looking for a first-round exit?

It’s hard to envision a scenario in which the Mavs can make it out of the first round.

Perhaps they’d have a puncher’s chance against Portland, a team that has precious little playoff experience. That’d probably be the best possible first-round matchup for the Mavs, assuming they aren’t going to be able to move up from the seventh seed.

San Antonio or Oklahoma City? The Spurs or Thunder could very well be busting out the brooms. The Mavs are 1-12 against OKC since the title run, including a sweep in the 2012 first round. The Spurs have a seven-game winning streak against the Mavs, including four blowouts.

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Opening Tip: Bynum a fit for Mavs?

January, 13, 2014
Jan 13
DALLAS -- The Mavericks opted not to make a bid this summer after checking Andrew Bynum out from head to knees.

Wise decision, as it turned out.

But the Mavs are among the eight teams who expressed exploratory interest in Bynum after he cleared waivers, ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reports. Why would the Mavs have any interest in Bynum now after passing on him this summer?

Andrew Bynum
David Richard/USA TODAY SportsWould Andrew Bynum be an upgrade to the Mavericks' roster?
Start with the price tag. If the Mavs could have signed Bynum for the minimum this offseason, they would have surely taken that flyer. But Bynum wanted significant guaranteed money -- and got $6 million from the Cleveland Cavaliers, a market the Mavs weren’t willing to enter.

At this point, there would be no negotiating. The Mavs have no cap space and have used all their exceptions, so all they can offer is the minimum. If Bynum gets a better offer, good for him.

“That’s not a banking issue,” Mark Cuban said. “It’s not to say we wouldn’t consider him. But we’ll look at everybody and make a determination. Any free agent, we can only offer them the minimum. Any free agent.”

Cuban claimed he hadn’t studied film of Bynum from his brief Cleveland tenure. It’s not exactly impressive viewing, as Bynum averaged 8.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.2 blocks while shooting only 41.9 percent in 20 minutes per game.

But this isn’t a matter of whether the 7-foot, 300-ish-pound Bynum can get back in All-Star form. The question is whether he would be an upgrade to the Mavs’ roster.

In other words, would you rather take a flyer on 26-year-old Bynum with his bad knees and baggage or keep 28-year-old fourth-string center Bernard James as the 15th man on the roster?

There’s at least the possibility that Bynum could fill the Mavs’ void at starting center at some point. And, if you’re discussing Dallas’ needs, that’s a pretty good place to start given Samuel Dalembert’s unsurprising inconsistency.

“Depends on which Sam we have,” Cuban said. “If we have the Sam of [Friday] night, we’re good. If we have the Sam that isn’t as on key as he was [Friday] night, it’s different. Again, we’re always being opportunistic. Wherever we can improve our team, we will.”

Of course, a strong argument can be made that the risk of bringing Bynum to Dallas outweighs the reward. He’s been a high-drama, no-impact player at his last two stops and was often a pain during his productive days with the Los Angeles Lakers.

But this would be a relationship of convenience, not a marriage. If it doesn’t work out, oh well. At least it wouldn’t be as messy as the Mavs’ recent breakups with ex-Lakers.

Mavs mailbag: Is Andrew Bynum worth risk?

December, 31, 2013
Two months into the season, the Mavericks pretty much are what we thought they were.

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.

[+] EnlargeTyson Chandler
Rob Foldy/USA TODAY SportsTyson Chandler is playing so well that it's unlikely the Knicks would let him go.
@mayur_patel_91 on Twitter: Realistic chances of trading for Tyson Chandler if the Knicks keep doing bad?

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).

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The biggest catch in the Mavericks’ summer free-agency expedition is point guard Jose Calderon.

That isn’t by design, of course. When free agency opened, the Mavs hoped to talk Dwight Howard into coming to Dallas.

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.

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Howard, however, headed to Houston. The Mavs then opted not to offer Andrew Bynum a contract before he committed to the Cavaliers, scared away by his bad knees. The Mavs' starting center is to be determined, with stopgap candidate Samuel Dalembert meeting Thursday with the Mavs.

That isn’t too big of a concern to Calderon, who agreed to a four-year, $29 million deal to take the reins of Rick Carlisle’s flow offense.

“For sure, it’s important to have a big center,” Calderon said on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM’s “Fitzsimmons and Durrett” on Thursday. “But at the end of the day, the way coach plays and if you play the right way with a guy like Dirk (Nowitzki), it makes everything a little bit easier for everybody. If you play the right way, you may not need that big a star at the 5 position.

“You just need a guy who can complement Dirk, who can play defense and rebound the ball. Maybe you’re not looking at Dwight or Andrew Bynum like there were talks around there, but you mainly need a guy who can complement and can give you good work out there without being a star to make us a good team.”

Some other highlights from Calderon’s appearance:

What made him decide to sign with the Mavs?

“The truth is that I don’t know if there was exactly that many options there. Sometimes the offers come and go two hours later. It’s kind of a weird thing. I think there were several things I wanted to put into the balance to make a decision. There was the team, the franchise, the coach, the players -- playing with Dirk was something that was important for me -- the city, a little bit of everything.”

How does he envision his game fitting with Nowitzki’s?

“We know what Dirk can do, so I’m really happy to be here with him. Both of us can shoot the ball, so we’re going to put some problems out there on the defense. Those 2-on-2 situations are going to be a big thing for us, for sure.”

What makes the Mavs attractive to free agents?

“You’ve got an owner who really likes to win. When you know you’ve got somebody who is going to do whatever it takes to win, it makes you think about just coming to Dallas. You know he’s not going to wait 10 years to try to win. He’s going to always try to get the better opportunity out there. That’s what convinced me, and I think that’s what people ought to be thinking of.”

Does he consider it part of his job to be a mentor to rookie point guards Shane Larkin and Gal Mekel?

“I always try to help. I’m always going to put the team first. That’s the way it works, so I’m going to talk to them a lot. I’m going to learn from them, and they can learn from me everything they want. I’m going to always be open to questions. If they play point or whatever, I’m always going to try to do what’s best for the team and I always try to help everybody.”

Rick Carlisle looking forward to challenge

July, 11, 2013
After passing on Andrew Bynum, who decided to join the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Mavs are left trying to find another way to improve their team.

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.

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Sources told ESPN.com’s Marc Stein that Dallas is looking at Samuel Dalembert and Greg Oden to fill the need at center.

Even with the uncertainty surrounding the roster, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle didn't seem concerned as the summer league team prepares to head out to Las Vegas.

“It’s July 11. We don’t even have training camp until October,” Carlisle said Thursday. “Who knows what’s going to happen over the next few months?”

It’s hard to paint a rosy picture for the Mavs this summer. Things haven't gone as planned and they are now left scrapping to find pieces to try to build a playoff contender. With their current situation and the roster in a state of flux, shouldn’t that cause some concern or anxiety?

“Isn’t that exciting,” Carlisle immediately replied. “That’s excitement. That’s an enthusiastic thing. Look, it’s exciting to have a group of new guys and be assigned the job to bring them together and get them better.”

It shouldn’t be a radical adjustment for Carlisle, who operated under a similar fashion last season with players such as Chris Kaman, O.J. Mayo, Darren Collison and Elton Brand coming to town on one-year deals. Carlisle has put a positive spin on a situation, noting that time is still on the Mavs' side and that they can still be successful.

“That’s how I approach it,” Carlisle continued. “With that mindset, I think we can do great things. It’s going to be work and I’m looking forward to it."

The Mavs announced earlier Thursday that they signed Gal Mekel to a deal. They are expected to make the signings of Jose Calderon, Devin Harris and Wayne Ellington official in the near future.

“We’ve still got a lot of work to do here. We’ve got some other roster spots to fill, Carlisle said. "You’re going to hear some good names I think in the coming days and weeks that are going to be on our team.”

The trade market will likely also bring an avenue that the Mavs will have to look into over the next few weeks. It will be up to president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson to ensure that they do bring those “good names” to Dallas.

There is certainly some panic brewing, but Carlisle is giving the impression that he isn't concerned.

Sources: Mavs interested in Greg Oden

July, 11, 2013
The Mavericks passed on Andrew Bynum because of his bad knees, but they’re interested in the Greg Oden reclamation project.

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.

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Sources told ESPN.com’s Marc Stein that the Mavs formally reached out to Oden’s camp to make sure they’d be involved in the bidding for the services of the 2007 No. 1 overall pick. The Mavs made that contact even before they opted to not make an offer to Bynum.

Why would the Mavs be willing to take a chance on Oden but not Bynum? The price will be significantly lower for Oden, who hasn’t played since the 2009-10 season.

The Mavs are among the teams who have been keeping tabs on Oden’s rehab for the last two years. That group also includes the two Finals teams, and the Mavs would likely have to significantly outbid the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs to get Oden.

One source close to the process told Stein that the Mavericks will get "legit consideration" from Oden alongside the teams previously in his top three: San Antonio, Miami and Cleveland.

Oden’s bad knees limited him to 82 games in two seasons with Portland -- three, if you count the 2007-08 season, which he missed entirely after injuring his right knee in the preseason. Oden averaged 9.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks before his forced sabbatical.
Could this summer get any worse for the Mavericks? Well, Dirk Nowitzki could start having second thoughts about his intention to stay in Dallas for a drastically reduced salary when his deal expires after the 2013-14 season.

Actually, sad as it is to say, that might be in the franchise’s best interest long term.

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.

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Owner Mark Cuban’s biggest fear has been for the Mavs to get stuck on the mediocrity treadmill. That drove his decision to strip down the 2011 title team, ensuring that the aging Mavs wouldn’t decay into an expensive team incapable of contending or making necessary upgrades.

Instead, the decline in Dallas was steep. The Mavs have a grand total of zero playoff wins in the past two seasons and zero big-fish free agents hooked in the past two offseasons.

Cuban, as stubborn as he is smart, is trying to pull off the most difficult task in pro sports: rebuilding without hitting rock bottom. To pull that off, the Mavs' front office must be willing to gamble -- and have a bet or two pay off big.

Yet the Mavs refused to take a risk on Andrew Bynum, the one potential home run left on the market this summer after Dwight Howard headed to Houston.

Here they are, stuck in the middle again.

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.

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This isn’t a case of another name-brand free agent turning down the Mavs. The Mavs didn’t make an offer to Bynum because they were scared away by the bad knees that kept him sidelined all of last season. All Dallas had to do to get the 7-footer, who was an All-Star in 2012, was trump Cleveland’s offer that included only $6 million in guaranteed money. The Mavs weren’t willing to take that chance.

That’s an awfully conservative approach for a franchise that rolled the dice so boldly after the lockout.

There’s a good chance the Mavs are right about Bynum’s knees and he’ll spend big chunks of this season sporting wild hairstyles while watching from the bench. But this would have been the time for a boom-or-bust swing for the fences.

The potential reward if Bynum worked out: a foundation piece. The risk if he didn’t: money down the drain and a ticket to a loaded lottery.

It’s not as if the Mavs were going to be on the hook long term if Bynum was a bust. After all, he went to Cleveland for a two-year deal that has a team option on the second season. And the Mavs, with $35 million of expiring contracts on the roster, are guaranteed to have salary leeway next summer anyway.

But the Mavs decided not to make a bold move after missing out on Howard. They played it safe. They’ll plug in Samuel Dalembert or someone of that unimpressive ilk at center and try to make a blockbuster trade despite lacking attractive assets.

The reality is that the Mavs will have to scrap to have a shot at one of the last couple of playoff seeds in the loaded West next season. Dallas seems destined to finish around .500 again with a draft pick that isn’t high enough to get one of the can’t-miss prospects and isn’t low enough to unload to Oklahoma City, which owns a Mavs pick that is top-20 protected through 2017.

(On a related note, Cuban’s two biggest mistakes since stripping down the title team: 1. Pulling off what seemed like a steal for Lamar Odom, giving away only that protected pick, which has since bounced from L.A. to Houston to OKC, helping the Rockets land James Harden to make them an appealing team to Howard; 2. Not going all-in on recruiting Deron Williams, skipping the face-to-face meetings while filming "Shark Tank," when Cuban really preferred to make a run for Chris Paul or Howard this summer.)

The Mavs’ biggest splash so far this offseason has been signing a soon-to-be 32-year-old point guard who has never won a playoff series. Cuban has acknowledged that it’d take a two-year process to put the Mavs in position to contend again, but the strides this summer haven’t been nearly big enough to provide any optimism that the plan will come to fruition.

Cuban’s biggest fear is coming true. The Mavs might not have a bloated payroll, as the Boston Celtics did before realizing their run was over, but they’re still a noncontender that can’t find a way to get better, handcuffed by a lack of assets and a sudden aversion to risk-taking.

Dirk, as loyal a solider as you’ll see in this NBA generation, can’t put a so-so supporting cast on his back and make the Mavs a legitimate threat in his mid-30s. Hard as he might sprint, the Mavs aren’t moving forward, at least not enough to matter.

They can’t compete with the Spurs and Thunder and Rockets and Clippers and Warriors and Grizzlies. Given that reality, with Dirk, they’ll probably be too good for their own good.

The Mavs are stuck on the mediocrity treadmill. Does Dirk really want to stick around for that?

No Bynum, so Mavs will target Dalembert

July, 10, 2013
How does Samuel Dalembert as the Mavericks’ starting center sound?

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.

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Could you please at least attempt to stifle your yawns?

ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reports that Dalembert will be the Mavs’ primary target since their pursuit of Andrew Bynum has fizzled. A source told ESPN's Chris Broussard that Bynum decided to sign with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

There simply aren’t many other quality alternatives in free agency to fill the Mavs’ massive void at center, considering that it’s pretty much a given that restricted free agent Nikola Pekovic will return to Minnesota.

Dalembert, a 32-year-old stopgap candidate, is the closest thing to a starting center on the open market other than Bynum. The 6-foot-11, 250-pound Dalembert started 23 games for the Milwaukee Bucks last season; he averaged 6.7 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 16.3 minutes per game.

Dalembert’s per-36 minute production was actually pretty good: 14.7 points, 13.0 rebounds and 2.5 blocks. He’d at least give the Mavs a big body with a proven track record as a rebounder and rim protector to pair with Dirk Nowitzki.

Dalembert, who will likely play for his fifth team in five seasons, certainly isn’t a name that will sell any season tickets. But he might end up being the Mavs’ best option during a summer that started with a plan to sign Dwight Howard.

Don't expect Monta Ellis to be a Maverick

July, 10, 2013
The Mavericks don’t expect to do any more summer shopping for backcourt help.

“That’s probably a long shot,” president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson told reporters Wednesday.

In other words, don’t hold your breath for Monta Ellis to become a Maverick.

The Mavs have addressed their backcourt needs by agreeing to terms with point guard Jose Calderon, combo guard Devin Harris and shooting guard Wayne Ellington. Sources have indicated throughout the free-agency process that the Mavs’ interest in Ellis has been dependent on his slipping through the cracks and being a short-term bargain, as O.J. Mayo was last summer.

The Mavs, who have approximately $8.2 million in salary-cap space, have made filling their massive void at center a priority. They are engaged in cautious negotiations with Andrew Bynum after meeting with the free-agent center and his agent Wednesday morning.

Ellis, a combo guard with a career average of 19.4 points despite poor efficiency ratings, is a luxury the Mavs likely cannot afford.
Andrew Bynum has a two-year, $24 million offer on the table from the Cleveland Cavaliers.

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.
At some point, the Mavericks will address the glaring need for size. So far in free agency, they’ve just loaded up on bodies for the backcourt.

Wayne Ellington is the fourth guard to agree to terms with the Mavs in free agency, joining Jose Calderon, Gal Mekel and Devin Harris.

The 6-foot-4, 200-pound Ellington should be a rotation player at a reasonable price. His two-year deal worth more than $5 million will likely come out of the Mavs’ “room” exception, meaning he wouldn’t count against the salary cap this season.

Ellington and Harris could compete to start at shooting guard. Ellington, who has played for three teams in four NBA seasons, is a decent defender who has shot 38.2 percent from 3-point range during his career. He averaged 10.4 points in 38 games with the Cleveland Cavaliers last season after a midseason trade from the Memphis Grizzlies.

With Andrew Bynum in town to meet with the Mavs, Dallas has approximately $8.7 million in salary-cap space. That figure that can be increased in several different ways, including waiving players with nonguaranteed contracts (Josh Akognon and Bernard James), renouncing the Early Bird rights of Brandan Wright or trading a veteran such as Shawn Marion or Vince Carter to a team with cap space.
How do the Mavericks address their glaring hole at center if they don’t sign Andrew Bynum?

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.

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At the moment, there is one big man on the Mavs’ roster. That’s Bernard James, who played less than 20 minutes in the final month of his rookie season.

It’s not like there are a lot of options available in free agency, either. In fact, there aren’t any starting centers left other than restricted free agent Nikola Pekovic, and Minnesota will likely match any offer he receives.

Some other options: Samuel Dalembert, Chris Andersen, Byron Mullens, Jermaine O'Neal, Elton Brand and Brandan Wright.

The Mavs might end up with one or two of those other options, but they aren’t targeting them as starters. They’ve been in touch with O’Neal and Brand, but those former All-Stars are low-cost backup bangers at this point of their careers. They have Wright’s Early Bird rights and would like to keep him, but they see him as a 20-minute-per-game spark, not a starter.

Can Dalembert be a stopgap starter at 32 years old? Perhaps. His per-36-minute numbers for Milwaukee last season were pretty solid (14.7 points, 13.0 rebounds and 2.5 blocks), but he averaged only 16.3 minutes and appeared in only 47 games.

Houston’s Omer Asik and Phoenix’s Marcin Gortat could be available in the trade market. What assets do the Mavs have that would tempt their current teams?

Maybe Houston would be interested in Shawn Marion, who could provide the Rockets some veteran savvy and perimeter defense currently missing from their roster. Of course, then there’s a huge hole at small forward. Perhaps the Mavs could orchestrate a multi-team deal to get Asik or Gortat.

Or maybe the Mavs head into the season with a three-headed monster featuring, oh, say, O’Neal, Wright and James.

Yep, Bynum has some leverage, bad knees and all.
How much is Andrew Bynum worth?

How does an NBA front office determine the value of a 25-year-old center who was an All-Star two years ago and didn’t play a second last season? That’s the challenge the Dallas decision-makers will likely face soon.

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.

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ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reports that Bynum, who is visiting Cleveland now, also has sit-down meetings scheduled in Dallas and Atlanta this week. Medical evaluations by the teams’ athletic trainers and physicians should be part of those meetings, providing a big piece of the puzzle front offices must ponder before bidding for Bynum.

The Cavaliers have $15 million in cap space and could make a big one-year offer, potentially complicating the process for the Mavs. (UPDATE: Yahoo! Sports reports that the Cavs have offered Bynum an incentive-laden deal worth up to $24 million over two years, with the second season being a team option.)

If Cleveland guarantees big money for one year, Bynum wouldn’t be motivated to sign a contract with the Mavs that included team outs after one season tied into the health of his problematic knees. Maybe a deal could be worked out that included partial guarantees for the second season, with triggers based off minutes or games played to guarantee more money.

The Mavs have approximately $8 million in salary-cap space at the moment. That could increase to $8.6 million if the Mavs waived the nonguaranteed contracts of guard Josh Akognon and center Bernard James – or $8.3 million if they waived just one of them.

Would that be enough to get Bynum? What if it’s a multi-year deal? The Mavs could go as high as approximately $37 million over four years if they dump the nonguaranteed deals.

The Mavs might also have to decide whether taking a chance on Bynum merits creating additional cap space. In other words, would they be willing to move Shawn Marion or Vince Carter if the bidding for Bynum goes higher than their current cap space?

Bynum represents the Mavs’ best chance to acquire a cornerstone-quality player -- or, really, just a starting-caliber center -- this summer after Dallas didn’t win the Dwight Howard sweepstakes. But he’s also a huge risk. The Mavs must determine how much they’re willing to bet on Bynum.
Forget about Andrew Bynum’s bum knees for a few minutes. Do the Mavericks really want to bring another 2011 Laker to Dallas?

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.

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Maybe the third time would be the charm. The first two members of that squad -- the two-time defending championship team that ended up being barely a speed bump in the parade route around these parts – who later joined the Mavs were disasters in Dallas.

Lamar Odom goes down as one of the greatest disgraces in Dallas sports history. He went from Sixth Man of the Year to scrub during the lockout, and his lack of effort for the Mavs was just embarrassing. The man stole Mark Cuban’s money for a season, continuing to cash checks after Cuban finally had his fill and kicked Odom off the team.

Oh, and the protected first-round pick the Mavs gave up to get Odom seemed like chump change at the time, but it’s handcuffing the Mavs as far as trade assets go (they can't trade future first-rounders) and indirectly helped deliver Dwight Howard to Houston. The Rockets, who acquired that pick from the Lakers, shipped it to Oklahoma City as part of the blockbuster deal to get James Harden, which made recruiting Howard a realistic goal.

And the Odom deal/debacle can get even worse for Dallas. What if the Mavs aren’t good enough to give OKC the pick while it’s top-20 protected through 2017? Can you imagine the Thunder getting a high lottery pick from the Mavs right as Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are reaching the middle of their primes?

Derek Fisher's layover in Dallas didn’t cause a whole bunch of collateral damage, other than hurt feelings. At least he had the decency to stop being paid when he quit on the Mavs.

The 37-year-old Fisher lasted a few weeks as the Mavs’ starting point guard before deciding he wanted to spend quality time with his family. That, of course, was a politically correct way of Fisher freeing himself to wait for an opportunity with a contender to come up.

Can the Mavs trust Bynum to pack his heart if he moves to Dallas? Of course not. But it isn’t like there are better big man options available.

We are talking about a guy whose motivation was questioned many times during his stint with the Lakers. This is a dude who quit on Phil Jackson in the legendary coach’s last stand, a broom-waving blowout in Game 4 of the 2011 West semis at the American Airlines Center.

Mavs fans’ strongest memory of Bynum is of his cheap-shot body slam of J.J. Barea, guaranteeing that the big man could exit the Game 4 rout early instead of enduring the embarrassment for 48 full minutes. Who can forget Bynum ripping off his jersey like a pro wrestler as he headed into the tunnel while being hollered at by Cuban and 19,000 other fans?

Do the Mavs really want that guy on their roster? Do they want to test their luck with another 2011 Laker?

In ideal circumstances, the answer would be absolutely not. But Bynum represents the Mavs’ only hope to hit a home run this summer, so they’d roll the dice on his character if his knees don’t scare them away.



Dirk Nowitzki
21.7 2.7 0.9 32.9
ReboundsD. Nowitzki 6.2
AssistsM. Ellis 5.7
StealsM. Ellis 1.7
BlocksB. Wright 0.9