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Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Experts: What's next for the Mavs?

ESPN.com

Jason Kidd
Jason Kidd's return to Dallas has been rough, especially with the Hornets exposing him on both ends.
Now that the Mavs have been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, it's time for some hard questions to be asked … and answered.

For the latter, we turn to our analysts:

1. How will you evaluate the J-Kidd trade?

Henry Abbott, TrueHoop: Chris Paul was, in the regular season, even better against Devin Harris than he was against Kidd. So while Kidd may not have been a magic ingredient for the Mavericks, I'm also not sure he was the problem.

J.A. Adande, ESPN.com: Unlike the Suns, who had the best record in the West when they made the Shaq trade, the Mavericks had to do something. They were flirting with missing the playoffs, and the 2007 playoffs exposed a lack of leadership on the squad. Kidd was never going to be the missing piece that turned the Mavs into championship favorites, but it was worth trying something different.

Experts on Suns

Now that the Suns have lost the series to the Spurs, what do we make of the Shaq trade? And what happens to Mike D'Antoni? Experts

Chris Broussard, ESPN The Magazine: Again, they weren't going to win it as they were, so they took a chance. But this trade was clearly a bust because they gave up so much youth, and it cost them an extra $11 million when they had to revamp the trade to keep Stackhouse out of it.

Ric Bucher, ESPN The Magazine: A gamble on par with the Shaq deal, only a tad less costly because Kidd has only one more year on his contract. Unlike the Suns, the Mavs weren't legitimate contenders before they made their trade. Also unlike the Suns, they didn't fully utilize their acquisition. Kidd gave them floor leadership and playmaking they sorely needed.

Chad Ford, ESPN.com: A huge mistake. Kidd doesn't have the speed to keep up with the Chris Pauls and Tony Parkers of the world. Devin Harris does. That leadership in the fourth quarter that Kidd was supposed to bring doesn't help much when you're getting run out of the gym.

John Hollinger, ESPN.com: Total panic move. It made no sense then and less now.

Tim Legler, ESPN: The Jason Kidd trade was worth the risk, but it did not translate into a championship, so it must be considered a failure. The Mavs gave up a point guard in Devin Harris, who will be a solid starter for the next eight to 10 years and got significantly slower and less explosive in return. In addition, the trade disrupted the team's offensive chemistry.

Chris Sheridan, ESPN.com: Didn't like that one either when they made it, and we're all seeing why. In that conference, Kidd is too slow to match up with a lot of opposing point guards, and he can't take 25 percent of his playoff games off anymore like he used to do in New Jersey.

Marc Stein, ESPN.com: I'm grading it the way it should be graded … incomplete. I underestimated how poorly Kidd fits in Avery Johnson's offense and overestimated his ability to convince the coach to loosen things up. Can a more Kidd-friendly coach rejuvenate a 35-year-old point guard who is starting to show his age? I need to have that answer before I punt.


2. Will Mark Cuban fire Avery Johnson? Should he?

Abbott: The Dallas media sure seem to think he will! I have no special insight. But I'll say this: There seems to be a troubling lack of trust between that city and that team. It is one of the best teams in the NBA, yet there is a tremendous amount of second-guessing going on. Also, if Johnson is fired, won't Cuban owe an apology to the guy who runs FireAvery.com?

Avery Johnson
It was only just two years ago Avery Johnson was in the Finals.

Adande: Mark Cuban rarely follows popular opinion. But in this case his decision should match the public's. As much as they've been at odds this season, they can't have this issue hanging over their heads next year, when every three-game losing streak will bring questions about Johnson's future.

Broussard: My guess, based on what sources say, is that he will get fired. Avery's a great young coach and he'll get another job quickly, but the Mavs need a fresh voice and a fresh start. And you know what they say: You can't fire the players.

Bucher: Rumors abound that he will. Should he? No. As much as I believe Avery was crowned a master coach far too fast, he, too, deserves a full summer and training camp to demonstrate he can make the most of what he has.

Ford: No, I don't think Cuban will fire him. I think it's difficult for Mark to admit to mistakes, and he's made several with Johnson. Should he fire him? Yes. Johnson never really let the reins loose on Kidd and he never got really comfortable with the team. Johnson was a good point guard in the NBA -- but Kidd has been much better.

Hollinger: I'd bet on it, which is shocking given his record. I'm not sure the players are responding to him the way they used to, but the Kidd trade also makes him a victim of circumstance -- the Mavs have played every other card, so the only option left is changing coaches and seeing if the new guy can do better.

Legler: Avery Johnson is one of the best coaches in the NBA. Period. Before Mark Cuban considers firing him he should ask himself who could improve their chances of winning a title. This team competes. They respond to Avery and they are well prepared. The problem lies in their personnel and their mental toughness. The guy is a top-tier coach. End of story.

Sheridan: It stands to reason that he will, because there's usually a fall guy when a team has slid as far as the Mavs have in the past two years. But I also wonder whether Cuban has had enough of the NBA and will look to get out. Remember, he almost sold the team two summers ago.

Stein: Avery is definitely out. Can't blame him exclusively for the New Orleans series but this has been building for months. Coach and the owner don't have the same relationship they once had and the authoritarian intensity that was such a successful contrast to Don Nelson's style early in the Avery Era is too easily tuned out now. Throw in the scars that linger from the playoff losses to Miami and Golden State and it's clearly time for a change.


3. What roster moves should Dallas make to stay among the West's elite?

Abbott: Remember how Rasheed Wallace was often spectacular, but ultimately unreliable and unsuccessful as a leading man -- but then became a second banana and won a title? I wonder if that might be the recipe for Dirk Nowitzki. Rather than Dirk creating and kicking out to somebody else, maybe somebody else should create and kick out to Dirk.

Adande: It's not going to happen with Dirk Nowitzki, so they might as well trade him. True, NBA teams rarely get better when they trade a superstar. But they could get some good young players, and with Dirk's salary gone and Kidd's contract up next year, the Mavericks could position themselves to make a run at a superstar such as LeBron James or Dwyane Wade in the big free agency summer of 2010.

Broussard: Kidd for Iverson. Not sure it makes either team a contender, but both clubs need a shake-up.

Bucher: Simmons' e-mail address is …

Ford: Ironically, they traded away what they really needed -- a young, quick point guard who can penetrate to the basket and defend the young point guards in the West. I'm not sure that guy is out there unless they're willing to part with Josh Howard. They've traded away many of their other assets.

Hollinger: I'm not sure they can. Right now they're down to seven effective players, five of whom will be 30 or older next season. Dallas keeps lusting after veteran role players in their mid-30s, but they've got to refocus on building the talent base back up and snagging a couple of more Brandon Basses off the scrap heap.

Legler: The Mavs must add size and toughness up front. Brandon Bass also should get significantly more time and responsibility. A young, quick point guard with size also would help in the West to limit Kidd's exposure defensively to the likes of Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Tony Parker, Baron Davis and Steve Nash. Less reliance on Dirk offensively and more on Josh Howard also would be a step in the right direction.

Sheridan: Use the midlevel to find an undervalued player the way Orlando did when it went out and got Hedo Turkoglu. Someone is needed to provide a spark and some speed off the bench.

Stein: It was less than two years ago when the Mavs were being hailed for their athleticism when they finally toppled San Antonio. Now? Everyone sees that they are woefully slow and unathletic around Nowitzki. Yet these problems naturally would be easier to address if Dallas' best trade chip (Howard) didn't just significantly dent his trade value with a dreadful series and his inexplicable marijuana monologues. The silver lining for the Mavs is that Kidd doesn't have the leverage to demand a lucrative contract extension this summer, which means he'll be playing on a $21.3 million expiring contract next season. If a new coach and offseason tweaking aren't enough to hoist this team back into the West's elite, Dallas should have the financial flexibility/trade asset to start working on a major makeover.

Click here for our experts' takes on the Suns' situation