Dallas is limping into the last stretch of the season, racking up losses in bunches which doesn’t bode well for any kind of we’ve finally woken up playoff surprise. If the Mavericks make the playoffs, a gritty six game series before starting their vacation would be a high mark. The NBA is cruel in how it doesn’t reward medicority. You have to be very, very good or godawful 76ers like to really make strides. But this summer is an outlier in that a ton of money will fall like a thousand fat raindrops into everyone’s lap.
Dallas has a few contracts off the books: Zaza Pachulia, Raymond Felton, David Lee, Charlie Villanueva, Dwight Powell. Also, Chandler Parsons, Dirk Nowitzki and Deron Williams have player options. Only Parsons is expected to opt-out.
With that in mind, entering the summer, the Mavs will get a $30 million gift thanks to the billion dollar television deal, allowing them to add a near max player or a couple of really good players this offseason.
So how is Mark Cuban going to fix his team so next year they are not in this same place?
It’s been 5 years since the Mavs championship title and 5 years since Cuban didn’t allow the team that slayed Miami and LeBron James to defend it. The Mavericks haven’t won a playoff series since. Their current problems are symptomatic of how the NBA has evolved in the past five years and, by coincidence, marginalized the Mavericks theory of relativity.
The NBA is younger and explosive. The Mavs are old and measured. It’s hard for them to compete when their best player is 37 years old. It’s a young league.
The facts: The Mavs give up more points (102.7) than they score (102.3). They are one of the slowest teams in the league which is bound to happen when all the skilled veterans except Wesley Matthews and Chandler Parsons are over 30 years old. (Matthews turns 30 in October and two weeks later Parsons turns 28). The Mavs don’t have a 20 point scorer. After Nowitzki’s 18, next up is Deron Williams at 13.9. They don’t score the ball efficiently enough (44.3%) and their three point shooting can’t compete with the Warriors and Spurs; they are the 8th worst three point shooting team (34.2%) in the league.
They are the worst team as far as shot blocking. The Mavs have zero rim protectors which means teams with quick guards can get to the rim repeatedly. They don’t create steals and don’t get easy baskets and are worse than the 76ers in fast break points.
There is a real possibility that if the Mavs don’t beat the Pacers Saturday afternoon they could go on a losing streak that rivals ten games. After the Pacers, the Mavs play the Hornets and Cavs on the road, the Warriors and Blazers at home, the Blazers and Warriors on the road.
Again, how does Cuban fix this?
Without landing in the draft high enough for an impact player, the Mavs have to work free agency to get younger. If they lose Parsons, there is Harrison Barnes, 24 years old, a two-way player. Kent Bazemore is 27 years old. The 6-5 Hawks guard/forward has an advantage over Parsons. He’s an excellent on the ball wing defender with incredible explosion.
Hassan Whiteside is a free agent looking for a payday. The 27 year old Whiteside is the rim protector the Mavs need. He leads the NBA in blocks, is better at it (1.55 blocks better) than DeAndre Jordan and, unlike Jordan, he has the maturity of having been around the league before he became an impact player.
Joakim Noah is available. Although Noah is 31, he averages 1.4 blocks in his career, more than anyone on the Mavs. Additionally, Noah is great in pick and roll coverage. His defensive effort is contagious. Al Horford is an undersized center but you can pencil in the 30 year old for 14 and 9, year in and year out. He also blocks shots, 1.5 this year. And he spaces the floor with his mid-range shooting .
Dwight Howard is out there too. As for explosion, Mike Conley (15.3 points, 6.1 assists) is hovering on the NBA changing teams list. Conley’s numbers this year are better than any Mavs point guard.
The only iconic talent available, Kevin Durant, will probably pass Dallas on his way to Oakland and the Warriors because Dallas hasn’t amassed enough young and explosive talent to entice an elite player. They haven’t transitioned from Dirk Nowitzki, best player on the team, to 25 year old fill in the blank, best player on the team. Nowtizki is still a damned good player but he can’t be the best player on a contending team. His age limits him in ways it didn’t five years ago.
The good news is the Mavericks will have money on July 1st and will be active on the free agency market. The bad news is so will everyone else.
photo via llananba