Anybody who watched the 2012-13 Dallas Mavericks knows that this team needs good point guard play.
And if you were one of those people who hung in there with that squad, you deserve a back rub or something.
That year was rough in many ways. Dirk wasn’t himself, the nucleus from the 2011 title team was gone, and all year the Mavs seemed out of sorts. With a roster almost entirely full of players on one-year deals, it was an experiment gone wrong.
But as the saying goes, you can learn more from failure than success. And one of the primary lessons learned was that the Mavs need a competent point guard.
The 2012-13 playoff-less season was marred by less than adequate guard play. There was a lack of understanding of how to run the offense, how to get the whole team involved and maybe most importantly an inability to perform in crunch time.
According to NBA.com’s team clutch database, the 2012-13 Mavericks were 23-24 in games where the spread was five points or less in the last five minutes. That was 17th in the league.
This team needs a solid point guard play, and with all the turnover at the position this offseason, it’s about time to take an assessment of exactly what the Mavs are working with here.
Grading Last Year’s Performance
The 2013-14 Mavericks went 26-22 in games where the score was five points or less in the last five minutes of a game. An obvious improvement over 2012-13 simply in terms of record, but their plus minus in those situations showed even greater progress. The point differential of 1.3 was a 1.4-point improvement from two years ago.
But someone had to get Dirk the ball. Someone had to calmly run the offense under pressure. And that someone had to be a point guard.
Enter Jose Calderon.
The veteran fit the bill in crunch time, and the team owes a lot of their improvement to Calderon’s addition.
Clutch situations weren’t the only spots where Calderon made a difference. Their point differential increased by three points per game, and their assisted field-goal percentage shot up to fourth best in the league.
Of course, Calderon isn’t solely responsible for this. The entire team went through an extreme makeover last season, it wasn’t just the point guard that changed. But these are areas where Calderon can make a big impact. Where a guy with his skills is very valuable.
All that being said, the Mavs were limited at the position last season. The two main guys were Calderon and Devin Harris, though Harris missed 42 games. So essentially, the main guy was Calderon.
And anybody who watched him play knew the Spaniard had gaping holes in his game.
In addition to being a notoriously bad defender, the guy had next to no ability to finish at the rim. He made just 46 shots from five feet and closer last season in 2,468 minutes played last season.
For some perspective, Nate Robinson is generously listed at 5’9” and only played in 44 games last season yet he made 66 shots from that same distance.
The position improved dramatically from 2012-13, but still had plenty of weak spots. It was good, but definitely not great.
2013-14 Point Guards: B
What to Expect This Season
Half the roster has changed this offseason, but perhaps no one position has undergone more of a radical shift than the point guard spot. Two of Dallas’ top guys in Calderon and Shane Larkin were traded to the Knicks as part of the package that brought Tyson Chandler to the Mavs.
And along with Tyson Chandler came Raymond Felton. Dallas also signed Jameer Nelson, and re-signed Devin Harris. Those three will be the point guards for this season.
Gone is Calderon’s steady hand, and in come three relative question marks.
As previously stated, Harris missed 42 games due to various injuries last season and he also hasn’t played more than 70 games since the 2010-11 season. He brought energy and some offensive punch when he played, but he also only shot 37.8 percent from the field last season. He was good, but often inconsistent with his production.
Speaking of inconsistency, Raymond Felton will compete for starters minutes. He went from key player on a 54-win Knicks team to an afterthought in just a year. It’s anybody’s guess as to which Felton the Mavs get, let’s just hope it’s an in shape one.
Finally, Jameer Nelson might be the closest thing to consistent the Mavs have at the position. His shooting numbers are in decline, but he’s still a good passer and a smart player. His best years are behind him, but he still has a lot to give.
Obviously, this group does not have a Jose Calderon. There is a striking lack of the sharp-shooting and sure-handed point guard who fixed so many of Dallas’s ills last season.
So the plan of attack has to change, but just a bit.
Even though Dallas is without a Calderon-type point guard, the new guys bring other things to the table. Namely, they’re more athletic.
Now nobody is calling these guys crazy athletes, but athleticism was something the position was sorely lacking last season. Devin Harris brings the speed, while Felton and Nelson are far from slow. All three are quick, and they make their money by getting into the teeth of the defense.
And with essentially three starting point guards, we might see a bit more pace-pushing. ESPN Dallas’ Tim McMahon recently wrote about how the roster seems to be moving in that direction, and the point guards are certainly equipped for that style.
As far as missing a steady hand, the Mavs should be just fine there too. Harris, Nelson and Felton have all been starters. They all know what they’re doing. And Nelson specifically has consistently run a team for all 10 of his NBA seasons.
To be clear, this is a team and a position in transition. Things are going to be different this year. Hopefully better, but nonetheless different.
Where Calderon was a limited player, the new trio is versatile. Where there was mostly just one point guard last season, now there’s three.
In football there’s a saying, “if you have two quarterbacks, you have none.” There’s no saying about three point guards in basketball, but either head coach Rick Carlisle will have his hands full or he will have three weapons to work with.
Based on his track record, it seems Carlisle should be happy this year. The Mavs can now play different styles, play mismatches and be less rigid in their lineups thanks largely to their flexibility at the point.
Change can be good. The Mavs have been proponents of that over the years, and this overhaul certainly puts that logic to the test. But the point guard position should improve with its new look. The front office did a nice job of keeping the position’s basketball IQ high while also upgrading its athleticism and versatility.
Now it’s time to start putting all the pieces together.
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The Dallas Mavericks may lack star power at point guard, but they make up for it with depth.
After trading away one of the more reliable game-managers and shooters in the game in Jose Calderon in order to acquire Tyson Chandler from the New York Knicks, the Mavericks are betting that a veteran platoon of guards will be able to share the load and keep one of the league’s very best offenses chugging along.
Who will be the man primarily tasked with that job? It certainly isn‘t easy to handicap.
Raymond Felton, who was acquired alongside Chandler in the trade, is coming off the worst season of his 9-year career, where he averaged just 9.7 points a game and shot 39.5 percent from the field. Felton appeared to lose a step offensively, as he could no longer reliably get in the paint or threaten opponents with his three-point jumper (31.8 percent last year).
There is hope that Felton will return to the mean this season for the Mavericks, however, as the 2012-13 season was one of his very best. Felton proved to be a capable distributor out of the pick-and-roll with Chandler during that season, and he was part of a team that shot a ton of threes, which is something Dallas should do this season.
Felton will be suspended the first four games of the season, but he’ll get his chance to prove he’s worthy of holding down the starting job.
Counting on Felton to be in shape and return to form is always a dicey proposition, and so it makes sense that the Mavericks addressed their point guard situation with other signings this offseason as well.
Former Orland Magic point guard Jameer Nelson was a late offseason addition, but his shooting and distributing ability should help alleviate some of the sting from losing Calderon.
Here’s what Nelson told Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel about joining the Mavs:
I just think with the makeup of the team and the organization it’s similar to what we had in Orlando when we were winning. And I wanted to get back to that. I’ve dealt with the process of rebuilding, and it’s tough. I want to win. I don’t want to sit back and develop anymore.
Nelson may be on his last legs at 32 years old, but he did average 7 assists a game last year with minimal talent around him. Now with guys like Dirk Nowitzki, Chandler Parsons and Monta Ellis next to him, Nelson could have a bit of a revival.
It’s important to note that Nelson only played around 29 minutes a night even in his prime, so sharing the load with the other point guards shouldn’t be much of an issue. He’s used to playing in shorter stints.
In addition to Felton and Nelson, the Mavs also re-signed Devin Harris, who brings a change of pace and a little more size off the bench. Harris should spend a good deal of his time backing up Ellis at shooting guard, but he’s easily capable of getting substantial minutes at point as well.
Here’s Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News with his take on the Harris signing:
Devin Harris got a good deal.
And by the way, so did the Mavericks.
Harris showed in the second half of last season that he is still a very solid option at point guard and at shooting guard in smaller lineups. He also re-proved that during the playoff series against San Antonio, when he was still a pest to Tony Parker.
Harris is the best defensive option of the bunch, which could mean he’ll see an uptick in minutes when the matchups call for that. Harris can also help the Mavericks play a little faster when he’s at the point.
Here’s what Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle told Tim MacMahon of ESPN Dallas:
The Mavs ranked in the middle of the pack in pace last season, averaging 95.7 possessions per game, almost six fewer than the team that played at the fastest tempo. Carlisle hopes the remodeled Mavs, a team he believes is built to run, will be among the leaders next season.
“We want to play faster,” Carlisle said. “We’re going to have to do it by playing with our depth and playing with intelligence. We should be able to do that because we’ve got a lot of high-IQ players.”
That includes three point guards with significant starting experience in Jameer Nelson, Raymond Felton and Devin Harris. Of that trio, only Harris could be considered fast by NBA point guard standards. However, the Mavs’ hope is that their three-man rotation at the position gives their point guards the luxury of playing at maximum speed without concern for conserving energy.
The idea isn’t necessarily for the point guards to run the transition offense on a regular basis anyway. The best way for them to push the pace is often via the pass, something Jason Kidd was a master of as an old man during his second tenure in Dallas.
The reference to Jason Kidd and that 2011 title team is important. The Mavericks have shown before that they can get by with creative defensive schemes to make up for a lack of foot speed and athleticism, which Kidd was short on at that point.
With Felton, Nelson, Harris and maybe even a little bit of Gal Mekel, the Mavs will largely need to get by with intelligence instead of athleticism at the point this season. Egos will need to be cast aside, as playing time should be based on matchups and who has the hot hand.
That could cause some serious issues, but the presence of a leader and teammate like Nowitzki and an excellent coach in Carlisle provides a pretty strong foundation for this point guard experiment to flourish.
That being said, there’s no mistaking that point guard is the one weak link for the Mavericks right now. Monta Ellis had some great moments at the 2 last year, Chandler Parsons should be a huge offensive upgrade at the 3, and Nowitzki and Chandler have proven in the past that they are a perfect fit for one another. There’s just one hole in this starting lineup.
Relying on this veteran group beyond this season probably isn‘t ideal. The Mavericks could potentially get involved in a big way in free agency next year, particularly if Chandler re-signed on a friendly deal similar to Nowtizki’s. Thanks to the contract that will pay Nowitzki $8.3 million next season, the Mavs can address their long-term point guard situation sooner rather than later.
The free agent market for point guards in 2015 should be a strong one. Eric Bledsoe could very well be an unrestricted free agent, should he take the qualifying offer for this year. Rajon Rondo is set to hit free agency. Goran Dragic will likely decline his player option and become a free agent. Ricky Rubio could be a restricted free agent.
A lot can change between now and then, but Dallas is in a good spot having point guard as the only real position of need. That’s the deepest positional talent pool the league has to offer.
While it’s possible the Mavericks get involved in trade talks if the veteran platoon doesn’t work out, building chemistry and letting this roster jell is probably the preferred way to go.
There are a lot of new pieces and old faces in Dallas this season, but having multiple experienced players at the point should go a long way for a team that once again has legitimate title aspirations.
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The Dallas Mavericks have made several moves this off season that should have a significant impact on their performance this year. Yes, they did get rid of point guards Jose Calderon and Shane Larkin in a trade, but it was worth it to get center Tyson Chandler back in Dallas. Getting Raymond Felton isn’t too bad either, even if Felton is suspended for the first four games for gun related crimes.
They made a big splash in getting Chandler Parsons, which happened with a gutsy large offer sheet that Houston didn’t feel was worth even after missing out on Chris Bosh. It also wouldn’t have been possible if Dirk Nowitzki didn’t resign with the Dallas hometown discount rate.
Other key pieces the Mavs added besides Parsons, Felton, and Chandler include:
Jameer Nelson, former Magic All-Star point guard
Al-Farouq Aminu, former Pelicans small forward
Richard Jefferson, veteran small forward (Nets, Bucks, Warriors, Jazz)
So what does this all mean? It means that the Mavs have gone back to their
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It’s about time we start to give the Dallas Mavericks some respect.
Dallas sneaked into the playoffs last season by one game, pulling out 49 wins in an ever-competitive Western Conference and earning the eighth seed. Its reward? A match against the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs, to whom the team fell in seven games.
After another disappointing end to the year, owner Mark Cuban’s team, which has failed to make it out of the first round since winning it all in 2011, entered the offseason with the same strategy as it always does: Go big or go home. After all, everything is bigger in Texas, and Cuban wanted himself a star to put next to Dirk Nowitzki in the homegrown hero’s waning years.
The Mavs may have lost Vince Carter (and remain on the brink of letting Shawn Marion walk), but Dallas pretty easily filled the voids created with the departures of those two veterans, aggressively hitting the trade and free-agency markets:
Aggression can only do so much, though. It’s not like Dallas hasn’t tried to shoot the moon for a star in previous offseasons. The problem was it failed to do it successfully.
Two summers ago, the Mavericks planned on pursuing Deron Williams. It didn’t work and they ended up with Elton Brand, Chris Kaman and O.J. Mayo.
Last summer, they wanted Dwight Howard. But the same thing happened. Howard shunned Dallas and the Mavs ended up implementing a similar strategy to that of its previous offseason, acquiring dependable, makeshift veterans on one-year deals.
Over the past two months, Dallas has stayed true to that strategy.
Richard Jefferson, who shot 40.9 percent from three last year and has value on a minimum deal, can pull off a poor-man’s version of what Marion and Carter did. Ivan Johnson has already provided us with the best quote, via Yannis Koutroupis of BasketballInsiders.com, of the 2014-15 season (you’ll know which one it is if you click on that link—NSFW language) and can be a bully in every way possible.
And though Al-Farouq Aminu has a somewhat large flaw in that he’s an incapable shooter from the outside with a career 29.2 three-point percentage (just somewhat large), he’s still a player who can defend and hit the glass at elite levels for a small forward.
Dallas improved, but clearly it wasn’t just on the fringes. For the first time since their title, the Mavs successfully brought in some big names.
The First Chandler
What’s the difference between this offseason and the last few? Dallas actually shored up its weaknesses, and even in winning almost 50 games last season, the Mavs surely had their share of flaws.
Most of those came on defense.
Dallas finished 22nd in points allowed per possession last season, though the offense was one of the more fluid attacks in the league. That’s how the Mavs—of all San Antonio postseason opponents—were able to present the most issues for the Spurs, taking the men in black and white to seven games during Round 1.
Rick Carlisle was the only coach who could implement an offense that could match Spurs coach Gregg Popovich’s ball movement.
Look up the teams that played the least isolation during the 2014 postseason, and those will you find sitting first and second on Synergy Sports’ site? The Spurs and the Mavs. But still, even with all that ball sharing on the offensive end, the defense managed to hold back Dallas as a whole.
Mainly, the Mavericks didn’t have a top-notch rim protector, playing Samuel Dalembert, Brandan Wright and DeJuan Blair at the 5 throughout the season. Considering Nowitzki isn’t going to play that role at power forward, the team has to find rim protection and help defense from its centers. Last season, it wasn’t able to do that on a consistent basis.
Actually, the Mavs haven’t been able to find a center to protect the rim since Tyson Chandler‘s departure in the post-lockout winter of 2011. So, what did they do this offseason? They brought the 31-year-old Chandler back to Dallas.
It’s a strange move in that it’s the organization’s way of saying, “We totally messed this one up.” The Mavs balked on re-signing their defensive general in 2011 because they thought Chandler would command too much money on the open market after adding Second-Most-Important Player on a Championship Team to his resume that June.
Their prediction was right. Chandler would sign a $56 million, four-year contract with the Knicks that summer.
Now, after Chandler has already won Defensive Player of the Year and has garnered an All-Star appearance, the Mavs bring him back, three years older on a contract they didn’t want to pay him in the first place. Now, they missed the best part of the deal and have to eat the less valuable, back end of the agreement. But the trade still makes sense.
Chandler had a down year last season. No one’s disputing that. But that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s done forever. Would anyone be all that surprised if the soon-to-be 32-year-old had one or two more great seasons left in him?
There were extenuating circumstances in New York last year. Mainly, the Knicks were the worst-communicating defense in the NBA—and coach Mike Woodson flip-flopping on pick-and-roll coverages throughout the season didn’t help that one bit. That’s not an environment conducive to a defensive floor general.
On top of that, Chandler spent the year dealing with leg injuries and off-court personal issues, which never leaked but did seem to be damaging enough to affect his in-game play:
As Chandler said in a conference call after the trade, he thinks this season can be a turnaround one (h/t to Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com):
I finished the season healthy, so this summer I was able to start earlier. I took a couple of weeks off and then I already started getting back in the gym and improving things. I want to get back to thinking and moving the way I moved. I started correcting things mentally and physically. I was already looking forward to this summer because I felt like there was so many things I could improve on.
Is it even bold to predict that one of the best help-defending big men of the past five years will improve from a down season as he presumably gets healthier (the Mavs training staff, led by former Phoenix Suns trainer Casey Smith, is fantastically underrated) and starts playing for one of the three or four best NBA coaches, one for whom he’s excelled in the not-so-distant past?
Dallas allowed opponents to shoot 63.9 percent in the restricted area last year, the third-worst percentage in the league. If any part of a retro-Chandler comes back, that stat will change.
The Second Chandler
Tyson wasn’t the only Chandler the Mavs brought in. They were just one Bing away from the trifecta.
Chandler Parsons, you got us so close.
Parsons has been possibly the most underpaid player in the league over the past few seasons, earning six figures during each of his first three in the pros. But such is the life of a second-round pick.
The Mavs jumped in and gave a $46.1 million, three-year deal to the restricted free agent this summer, and even if that seems like a reach for a guy who has only been a third option, it’s a deal that makes sense for Dallas, especially considering the amount of flexibility a freshly signed $25 million, three-year Nowitzki contract gives the organization.
The 25-year-old Parsons is entering his prime and switching to a coach under whom perimeter players have thrived.
Parsons is still in a position where he’ll have to guard the opposition’s best wing on a nightly basis—a job he’s slightly underqualified for—but at least he’ll have wing defenders like Jae Crowder and Aminu coming off the bench to spell him, something Houston didn’t provide.
Really, this is only going to help the Dallas offense. One of the most underrated parts of Parsons’ game is his passing, and that Dallas offense moves the rock as well as any other attack in the league.
Acting as a floor spacer the Mavs didn’t have at the 3 when Marion was there, Parsons swings the ball around the three-point arc promptly and has the ability to create off the dribble. Often, he’ll receive a pass on the wing and immediately find a guy in the corner for an open shot as a defender closes out on him.
That’s the respect Parsons commands as a 37 percent career shooter from long range. It’s also part of what the Rockets‘ analytics-crazed philosophy has taught the former second-rounder: prioritize the corner three and the shot at the rim over all else.
Parsons will create those looks, and his ability to put the ball on the floor to create for others and himself only helps with that. His 19.5 percent assist rate ranked him in the top 10 among small forwards last season. And remember, this was as a third option when he wasn’t handling the ball as much as he could in the future.
The critique on the Parsons deal is that he’s been a third preference within an offense. But would he be anything other than that in Dallas, with Dirk still going strong and Monta Ellis doing plenty of dribbling? We haven’t even gotten to exactly how great Nowitzki has remained.
The safe bet by now is just to assume that he’s never going to age.
At 35 years old, Nowitzki came closer to a 50-40-90 season last year than anyone else in the league, and it would’ve been his second 180-shooting year. Dirk is still as efficient as ever, and Dallas has even more offensive weapons coming in next season. The Mavs have a pick-and-roll guy now to pair with Dirk’s Pringle-like popping ability.
Ellis is a pick-and-roll ball-handler but didn’t have a center to play off last season, though Wright has become a reliable screen-and-roll option in his 18 minutes a night. And though Chandler isn’t thought of as an offensive player, his threat as someone who can screen and dart to the hoop actually helps space the floor by bringing guys into the paint.
That helps Dirk when he pops, and the presence of Parsons will only give the 36-year-old a break from offensive reliance.
Dallas is starting from a high base. This team tied for second in points per possession last season. Next year, it could easily have the best scoring attack in the league.
Let’s go back to that first-round Spurs series for a second, the one the Mavs ended up losing in seven games despite heading into it as the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference.
No one drove the Spurs to seven games after that—not the Portland Trail Blazers, Oklahoma City Thunder or Miami Heat—and part of that was because Dallas was the only team that could come close to matching what San Antonio does best.
We always talk about how Popovich is the best coach in the league, hands down. And that’s perfectly justified. After championship No. 5, it’s pretty safe to say Pop has made his way onto the NBA coaching Mount Rushmore along with Phil Jackson, Red Auerbach and Pat Riley. (How weird is our recent cultural obsession with ranking top fours, by the way?)
When it comes to the conversation about who the NBA’s second-best coach is, Carlisle has to be in the conversation, if not leading it. No one—save Pop—can craft both an offense and defense so methodically. And that’s how the Mavs match San Antonio: with brain power.
Dallas moved the ball so well last season. Part of that was because of personnel.
Calderon is as unselfish as they come. (His “You shoot!” “No, you shoot!” moments when he shares the floor with fellow anti-chucker Pablo Prigioni this season in New York could become an immensely entertaining game of hot potato.)
Dirk, meanwhile, is an egoless superstar on the floor. But then there are the transformation projects, the stray dogs Carlisle rescued from the alley out back.
Look at what he did for Carter’s career, prolonging the basketball life of a guy who once succeeded mainly on athleticism. Now, Carter is an ideal 3-and-D veteran, who makes smart decisions and defends on the perimeter.
A career transformation—thanks to coach Rick. Clearly, Carlisle brings more to the table than just a striking resemblance to Jim Carrey.
We all know about Ellis, Carlisle‘s most impressive resurrection. It’s not that Ellis took bad shots. It’s that he exclusively took bad shots.
Two seasons ago in Milwaukee, Ellis sunk 28.7 percent of his threes. Of the 716 individual seasons in which a player attempted at least 300 long-range shots, Ellis’ three-point percentage in his final year as a Buck ranked 709th.
Yep, it was the eighth-worst high-volume, three-point-shooting season ever. But Carlisle tamed Ellis’ shot selection and decision-making, and in that, created a totally new player who could score relatively efficiently and even command an offense.
With that, Ellis’ true shooting jumped from an atrocious 49.3 percent the previous season to 53.2 percent during his first year in Dallas.
Carlisle simply understands how to get guys to buy into his offense.
Dallas was this close (the index finger and thumb are almost touching) to moving past the first round back in May. Now, this is a team that has two potential All-Stars in Parsons and Dirk, and one more major scorer in Ellis.
The offense is going to be destructive, and the defense could make its way into the top half of the league if Chandler finds any of the juice he left back in 2013. That’s a formula to push Dallas past any given team in the West…potentially.
Portland doesn’t play much defense and came back to earth a bit during the second half of last year. Houston lost Parsons and Omer Asik. And Golden State is relying on Andre Iguodala, Andrew Bogut and Stephen Curry to stay healthy for another season, which is no guarantee.
A top-four seed isn’t out of the question for this team—actually, if the Mavs can outplay the Memphis Grizzlies, it should be the expectation.
With potential on both sides of the ball, Dallas can contend to make the Western Conference Finals—or even beyond that. Finally, holding out for the big names worked.
Fred Katz averaged almost one point per game in fifth grade, but he maintains that his per-36-minute numbers were astonishing. Find more of his work at RotoWire.com, WashingtonPost.com or on ESPN‘s TrueHoop Network at ClipperBlog.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredKatz.
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Dirk Nowitzki is a man of his word. After being quoted multiple times as saying he’s willing to take a pay cut to allow the Dallas Mavericks financial flexibility, the All-Star forward signed a three-year deal with the team to back it up.
Marc Stein of ESPN was first to report the agreement:
Stein had more on the terms of Nowitzki’s agreement:
The deal, sources said, contains a player option that would allow Nowitzki to return to free agency in the summer of 2016 and preserves the rare no-trade clause he had in his last contract.
Matt Moore of CBS Sports weighed in on the money Nowitzki signed for in Dallas:
Nowitzki, 36, made $22.72 million in the final year of the four-year, $80 million deal he signed in 2010. The future Hall of Famer has played all 16 of his NBA seasons with the Mavericks, earning 12 All-NBA distinctions, one NBA MVP and, notably, the 2011 championship.
Despite his advancing age, Nowitzki continued to adapt his game in 2013-14 to stay among the league’s most deadly offensive weapons. He averaged 21.7 points and 6.2 rebounds while stretching beyond the arc more consistently than he had in a decade. In an effort to combat the wear and tear his body was going through banging down low and in the midrange—Nowitzki missed 29 games in 2012-13—he greatly upped his three frequency and toned down on the post-ups.
A healthy Dirk allowed the Mavericks to earn the No. 8 seed out West, pushing the San Antonio Spurs to a seventh game. With a veteran-laden roster and owner Mark Cuban promising an even greater influx of talent this summer, Nowitzki’s re-signing has long been a foregone conclusion.
“Like I always said, it wouldn’t even feel right if I played somewhere else,” Nowitzki told reporters (via ESPN) in May. “We’ll get together at some point and talk about the future and see what we’ve got going. It hasn’t gotten to that point yet.”
From both sides, this seemed to be a negotiation of good faith throughout. The Mavericks only had $31 million on their books (not including holds) coming into this summer. Veterans Shawn Marion, Vince Carter, DeJuan Blair and Devin Harris are set for unrestricted free agency.
It is not clear which of those players will come back alongside Nowitzki. But the 7-footer has known from the outset Dallas cannot compete in the daunting West without at least a couple of those guys returning, while leaving enough room for another instant-impact piece.
“I’m pretty sure I’m not going to sign Kobe’s deal. Unfortunately,” Nowitzki joked with reporters (via NBA.com) during the playoffs. “We’ll find a good way where I feel respected for what I did and where we still have enough money left for us to get great players in here.”
Nowitzki was referring to Kobe Bryant‘s two-year, $48.5 million contract. The onerous deal, largely viewed as something of a legacy contract, will constrict the Lakers‘ budget each of the next two summers. Tonally, Nowitzki was joking. Yet everyone in the media room knew the best jokes are based in truth.
By agreeing to take such an annual pay cut, Nowitzki allows Cuban to hit the open market looking to repeat last season’s success. The Mavericks missed out on Dwight Howard but were able to snag Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis on medium-cost deals—ones that worked out splendidly. Ellis revived a flailing career, and Calderon gave Nowitzki his latest savant pick-and-pop partner.
Dallas’ first order of business this offseason was unloading Calderon to shore up the defensive middle. Bringing Tyson Chandler back into the fold freed up long-term cap room—his deal expires after next season—and gave the Mavs a presence they’ve lacked since allowing Chandler to leave following their championship run. Dallas is now emphasizing wooing the likes of Carmelo Anthony, though it’s more likely it will fall back on mid-tier veterans again this summer.
Either way, everyone walks away happy. Dirk will get to spend his last few seasons in the only professional home he’s ever known, and his ownership has the financial flexibility to hopefully push this core to the next level.
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Would signing Anthony improve their odds of making a realistic championship run?
As long as they answer in the affirmative, then the reward is absolutely worth the risks involved with chasing the 6’8″ scoring machine.
That’s a question the public can ponder in the coming days, but Dallas appears to have already reached its conclusion. The Mavericks, who will be making their best sales pitch to Anthony on Wednesday, are convinced they need to go “all in” on the Anthony sweepstakes, according to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein:
Despite the massive implications such a signing would hold, the motivation to participate in the latest “Melodrama” is a rather simple one.
Assuming LeBron James stays based in South Beach, no available player could push the Mavs‘ ceiling higher than Anthony.
Comfortable operating on the low block, behind the three-point line or anywhere in between, the seven-time All-Star is as versatile as scoring savants come. This past season, he held top-50 efficiency rankings as an isolation player (0.96 points per possession, 37th), a pick-and-roll ball-handler (0.86, 44th), an off-screen shooter (1.05, 30th), an offensive rebounder (1.19, 38th) and a post-up scorer (1.02, 18th), per Synergy Sports (subscription required).
Of course the Mavericks would love to have Anthony. Any team in its right mind would.
For Dallas, though, the need to land him is higher than most. Not only could he add a new element to this already explosive offense—the Mavs put up 109.0 points per 100 possessions last season, tied for the second-most in the NBA, per NBA.com—he’d also help ease the superstar burden felt by the 36-year-old Nowitzki.
In return, the Mavericks could offer Anthony a stable, supportive organization, a shot at championship contention and surely a boatload of money. As CBS Sports’ Matt Moore explained, the mutual benefits for this potential pairing are numerous:
The Mavericks need someone to take the reins from Nowitzki as the franchise star. The Mavs present a totally professional organization with a brilliant coach, aggressive management, and an innovative marketing team. Dallas isn’t New York or LA, but it is a major market with a huge foothold and of course, no state income tax.
Also working in Dallas’ favor is the fact it secured a spot on Anthony’s cross-country recruiting trip. The Mavs need a seat at the table to take the pot, and they have one.
Now they have to figure out their best hand to play.
According to ESPN Dallas’ Tim MacMahon, they’re going with a “five-pronged pitch” hitting on the following elements: “1. Play for an elite coach … 2. Play with a selfless star … 3. A quality supporting cast … 4. A proven front office and culture of winning … 5. A plan for the future.”
Expect the Mavs to invest a significant amount of their pitch to the first part of that equation, coach Rick Carlisle. He’s a tactical genius in every sense and one of the franchise’s biggest strengths in the eyes of owner Mark Cuban.
“I don’t want to throw anybody under the bus, but their coaches are not as good as Rick Carlisle,” Cuban said during an appearance on 103.3 FM’s ESPN Dallas Gameday, via MacMahon.
Carlisle should be a major boost to the Mavs‘ chances, but Nowitzki’s selflessness could wind up being their trump card.
Though his star might not shine as bright as it once did, the former MVP still holds that status in the NBA. For evidence of that fact, look no further than the 21.7 points a night he put up this past season with a sizzling .497/.398/.899 shooting slash to boot.
A 7-footer with legitimate three-point range (38.3 percent for his career), Nowitzki is a unique weapon in a league littered with larger-than-life specimens.
He’s also more than willing to share the spotlight. He attempted only 15.9 shots a night in 2013-14—fewer than players like Thaddeus Young (16.2), Ryan Anderson (16.1) and Josh Smith (16.0)—letting teammates Monta Ellis (15.6), Vince Carter (10.0) and Shawn Marion (9.3) hunt for their own offense.
Allowing others to help shoulder the scoring burden paid major dividends late in games, as the Mavericks didn’t have to rely on Nowitzki to be their closer.
The clearest sign of his selflessness, though, comes in his unwavering loyalty to his franchise.
He had committed to taking a “significant pay cut” in May 2013, per MacMahon, but he’s found a way to provide the Mavs with even more flexibility. As sources told Stein, Nowitzki and the Mavericks “have mutually agreed to put off the finishing touches on their weeks-long negotiations until after the chance to make their recruiting pitch directly to Anthony.”
Nowitzki will still get his money, but he will neither squeeze every penny out of Cuban’s pocket nor force the franchise to pay him until it’s done frying bigger fish:
The supporting cast might seem like the toughest sell considering what the Mavericks are reportedly up against. They don’t have a James Harden-Dwight Howard duo to sell like the Houston Rockets, or a three-headed monster of Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson like the Chicago Bulls.
They do, however, have some intriguing pieces in place, as MacMahon explained:
The Mavs can make the case that a Monta-Melo-Dirk trio would be the NBA’s most explosive one-two-three offensive punch. They certainly will make the case that adding Anthony to Nowitzki and center Tyson Chandler, his former New York Knicks teammate, would give the Mavs the best frontcourt in the league.
Anthony would have a defensive insurance policy in Chandler, along with offensive safety valves in Ellis and Nowitzki. Depending on how the Mavericks build the rest of their roster—they could face the departures of free agents Carter, Marion, Devin Harris and DeJuan Blair—their arsenal could grow even stronger.
The Mavs will need nothing more than a stat sheet to point toward their culture of winning. They’ve averaged 53 wins over the last 14 seasons, a stretch that has included a pair of NBA Finals berths and the 2011 title. That number is even more impressive than it sounds, considering it’s dragged down a bit by the lockout-shortened, 66-game 2011-12 campaign.
And Dallas’ plan for the future? Well, that grew even more appealing after the six-player trade that brought Chandler back to the franchise.
“He will be a free agent again next summer,” Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News wrote of Chandler. ”That means the Mavericks figure to have maximum money in 2015 to pursue free agents again. And next summer’s crop could be huge with Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge and Marc Gasol headlining that class.”
The Mavericks’ sales pitch should register well with Anthony, provided he’s willing to listen.
For Dallas, chasing Anthony is absolutely the right move it can make.
“When you have a player of Anthony’s ability — he’s averaged 28 points the last two seasons and led the league in scoring two years ago — and you have money to get his attention, you take a big swing and hope for the best,” Sefko wrote.
With the Mavs clearly swinging for the fences, what are the chances they actually make contact? After all, they’ve made a habit of chasing big names—Deron Williams in 2012, Dwight Howard and Chris Paul last summer—and have yet to walk away with one.
Will this time be any different? That’s hard to say, although it doesn’t look great for Dallas.
“The Knicks remain the clear favorite to sign Anthony,” Frank Isola of the New York Daily News reported Monday. Chicago can keep Anthony inside the path of least resistance that is the Eastern Conference, while the Rockets can offer him superstar running mates the Mavericks simply do not have.
Dallas, though, isn’t out of this race. No one is until Anthony decides he’s found the best spot to put pen to paper.
As long as Anthony’s still floating in free-agent waters, the Mavs have to keep their boat nearby. Any chance to catch a big fish is one worth taking. There aren’t enough risks to outweigh the potential reward.
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The Dallas Mavericks have been one of the most active teams in free agency through the first few hours, and it appears that they have their eye on yet another point guard target. According to a report from Tim MacMahon, the Mavericks are interested in signing free agent point guard D.J. Augustin. Augustin would certainly be an intriguing pickup for the Mavericks, especially after his impressive end of the season last year in Chicago. Sources: Mavs interested in D.J. Augustin http://t.co/kv0vnJoh8O — espnmavsblog (@espnmavsblog) July 1, 2014 Mark Cuban has made it very clear over the past couple weeks that he believes the Mavericks are a solid move or two away from contending for an NBA Finals appearance, and Augustin could bring some scoring to the bench. He didn’t play well two years ago with the Indiana Pacers, and the beginning of last year was terrible with the Raptors. After being cut by Toronto, the Bulls gave him a chance and he never looked back. Augustin played in 61 regular season games with the
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The Dallas Mavericks may not have max-level cash to spend, but that won’t stop them from pursuing max-level free agents this summer.
We’re going to swing for the fences. I think some of these guys are opting out just to create leverage, and they’ll go back. Then there’s some that really want to go to different teams. We’ll try to put ourselves in position to get them.
With LeBron James and Dwyane Wade opting out of their contracts with the Miami Heat—and Chris Bosh expected to follow, per ESPN’s Chris Broussard (via Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne)—there will certainly be stars on the market.
Toss in Carmelo Anthony and his free-agent status, plus a load of second-tier options that includes Kyle Lowry, Marcin Gortat, Trevor Ariza, Pau Gasol and Luol Deng, and you’ve got a vast array of options for the Mavs to pursue.
In fact, according to Stein and McMahon, both Gasol and Deng are already on Dallas’ radar.
On first hearing Cuban’s comments, it might seem like the desire to pursue big names without the ability to offer big money doesn’t square. Adding Tyson Chandler in a trade further shrunk Dallas’ available cap space, and it remains to be seen how significant Dirk Nowitzki‘s pay cut will be.
Really, though, Cuban’s bold approach is just an extension of what Dallas has been successfully doing for the past couple of seasons. It has shown a real knack for finding undervalued assets and paying them reasonably. Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon were the two most recent examples of that practice.
The Mavericks are smart opportunists who look for chances to exploit undervalued commodities, but they also have some built-in advantages to their sales pitches—advantages that might make it possible to snare top-end free agents at below-market prices.
In addition to fielding consistently competitive teams, the Mavericks also have a reputation as a franchise that takes great care of its players, offering perks and creature comforts that are second to none. Plus, ownership has always been committed to winning, and, according to Cuban, there’s something else Dallas can offer that most clubs can’t:
If you look at other teams with cap room and then you just look at their coach and if they’ve made the playoffs, you look at how their playoff runs went, you’re not looking at them and saying, ‘Wow, that team really … .’ I don’t want to throw anybody under the bus, but their coaches are not as good as Rick Carlisle.
Coaching excellence should appeal to any free agent, and it’s worth mentioning that even someone as seemingly out of reach as James might see the value in what Carlisle did for the Mavs last year.
Per B/R’s Zach Buckley: “Dallas more than held its own in a seven-game slugfest with the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs. That’s a claim none of San Antonio’s other playoff opponents could make—not even the Heat.”
What the Mavericks are attempting is, without question, a long shot. But if any organization can get away with pitching less than max money to max-level players, it’s probably the Mavs.
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If there’s a Phil, there’s a way, and Phil Jackson managed to trade away the disgruntled Raymond Felton and Tyson Chandler to the Mavericks in return for VALUE.
In a blockbuster deal, the Knicks traded Felton and Chandler to Dallas in exchange for Jose Calderon, Samuel Dalembert, Wayne Ellington, Shane Larkin, and the 34th and 51st selections in tomorrow’s nights NBA Draft.
The team confirmed the news via Twitter.
#Knicks acquire Calderon, Dalembert, Ellington, Larkin & 2 2nd round picks from Dallas. READ: http://t.co/t7ibjLXV6t pic.twitter.com/X5caZu0vsI
— NBA New York Knicks (@nyknicks) June 26, 2014
The Knicks got away with pure robbery with this trade. How Phil Jackson was able to get a team to take Raymond Felton who has been out of shape, non-productive, and in trouble with the law is mind-blowing.
Tyson Chandler had his moments in New York, but injuries took their toll on his playing time. This trade reunites Chandler with the Mavericks where he enjoyed tremendous succes…
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