Commentary

Mavs' roster moves fail to excite

Despite recent additions, club is closer to mediocrity than title contention

Updated: July 17, 2012, 2:01 PM ET
By Jean-Jacques Taylor | ESPNDallas.com

Your Dallas Mavericks have been legitimate title contenders each season for about a decade.

No more.

[+] EnlargeElton Brand
Eric Hartline/US PresswireElton Brand can help the Mavs, but it's hard to get excited about his signing after the failed attempt to land Deron Williams.

Not right now, anyway. And unless they can figure out a way to acquire a superstar of Dirk Nowitzki's caliber during the next couple of seasons, it's going to be a while before they're contenders again, no matter how much financial flexibility and dry powder they have.

The reality is it's going to take some time to grow accustomed to viewing the Mavs as merely a playoff contender in the Western Conference and changing the standard by which we judge them.

For a couple of weeks, the Mavs had us gung ho over the prospect of adding Deron Williams to the roster. Now, we're supposed to get excited about Elton Brand and O.J. Mayo, who reportedly agreed to terms with the club late Monday night.

C'mon man.

No one gets excited about a backup power forward/center who averaged a career-low 11 points and 7.1 rebounds, the second-lowest mark of his career, as a 33-year-old with Philadelphia. After all, the 76ers let him go through the league's amnesty program because they deemed -- correctly -- that he was no longer worth the $18.1 million he was scheduled to earn.

Now, he's a member of the Mavs for the consignment shop price of $2.1 million.

And you must be suspicious when an up-and-coming playoff team such as Memphis that finished tied with the Los Angeles Lakers for the third-best record in the West essentially lets Mayo walk for nothing.

Woo-hoo!

Do you think Charlotte fans were thrilled with the player they received -- none other than former Mavs center Brendan Haywood -- from the same amnesty program as Brand? Of course not.

There's always an exception such as Luis Scola, but Houston released him because the Rockets want to make a play for Dwight Howard, not because Scola's not worth the money.

Understand, this isn't about Brand. Or Mayo. It's so much bigger than either of them.

We know Brand is the consummate professional and he's going to play as hard as he can each game. We know he's going to provide solid minutes when Nowitzki and new center Chris Kaman need a breather.

From time to time, Brand will have a 20-point game or a 15-rebound performance that helps the Mavs win a ballgame. We know Mayo will hit the 3-pointer and provide some stellar offensive moments. He's capable of the spectacular on occasion.

Ultimately, though, neither player is going help the Mavs contend for a title next season.

It's not supposed to be championship or bust, but for the best NBA franchises that's exactly what it is. Ask the folks in San Antonio. Or Los Angeles. Or Miami. Or Boston.

Go ahead and ask them if they're happy with anything less than a title. They'll tell you no.

Maybe even hell no.

And that's how it has been in Dallas since the Mavs started regularly churning out 50-win seasons.

These Mavs, as currently constructed, aren't equipped to do much next season other than serve as first-round playoff fodder for a real contender, if we're lucky. Otherwise, they'll be lottery-bound.

This team is about to hop on the treadmill of mediocrity that every franchise seeks to avoid because it means you're too good to get a game-changing player at the top of the draft, but not good enough to compete for a title.

Thirteen months after winning the first title in franchise history, the Mavs want you to remain emotionally invested just because they acquired a young point guard in Darren Collison, who lost his job in Indianapolis; a veteran center in Kaman, who couldn't persuade any team to give him a multi-year deal; Brand, whose former team believed he wasn't worth the money; or Mayo, who was allowed to become a free agent.

That's the truth.

If you choose to be optimistic about the Mavs' acquisitions, it's OK. Collison, Kaman, Brand and Mayo certainly make the Mavs better than they were a week ago when Williams and Jason Kidd spurned them and Jason Terry left for Boston.

But these Mavs are a fringe playoff team at best.

After weeks of listening to the Mavs' hierarchy talk about signing a "big fish" and making Dirk the second-best player on the roster, getting excited about their collection of acquisitions is hard to do.

Jean-Jacques Taylor joined ESPNDallas.com in August 2011. A native of Dallas, Taylor spent the past 20 years writing for The Dallas Morning News, where he covered high schools sports, the Texas Rangers and spent 11 seasons covering the Dallas Cowboys before becoming a general columnist in 2006.

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