Players acquired via free agency or trade:
Players acquired via draft:
Jerry Stackhouse (re-signed, three years, $22,376,250, I think)
Devean George (opted out, re-signed, one year, $2,369,111)
Devin Harris (signed a five year extension)
DeSagana Diop (exercised team option)
The Mavericks have one of the worst young cores in the NBA. With only Devin Harris, Juan Jose Barea and Maurice Ager as the only returning players under the age of 26, and with only one of those players able to crack any NBA team’s rotation, Dallas enjoys (if that’s the word) almost nothing in the way of prospects. There’s Josh Howard of course, but he’s 27 now, and while DeSagana Diop is still only 25, you’re an optimist if you think there’s some skills in there that he’s merely kept hidden for six years.
(Incidentally, did you know that Mavericks training camp signee Jamal Sampson is only 24 years old, despite being around for what feels like a million years, and that commonly-accepted youngster Diduer Ilunga Mbenga is about to turn 27? Me neither. These things are worth noting. That is, they are worth nothing if you’re pathetic like me. If you are, hooray! We should hang out.)
Dallas tried to add to this somewhat this summer. Without a first-round draft pick, they picked Nick Fazekas high in the second, thus once again ensuring that they have a tall forward who takes 85% outside jump shots and who doesn’t move well on defence. It’s a recent trend that began with Keith Van Horn and that was last year handled marvellously by Austin Croshere, who now passes the mantle onto Fazekas.
Fazekas figures not to play much, though, after the unheralded signing of Brandon Bass seems to have given the Mavericks a backup power forward worth a damn. After two years of nothingness with the Hornets, Bass was allowed to leave unchallenged when Dallas picked him up. Since then, despite it only being preseason, Bass has shown signs of being a capable player, and being only 22 he can join (or rather, “be”) Dallas’ young core.
But then, who cares about a young core when you’ve just won 67 games the season before?
To add young talent is nice, but all Dallas really needed to do was to keep the core that they had, maybe add one or two pieces, and try all over again. They did this, adding some perimeter defence in Eddie Jones and Trenton Hassell, while bringing back Devean George and Jerry Stackhouse for some more depth. The Mavericks can boast now one of the NBA’s deeper teams, and they still rock the core that resulted in the fifth-best record in NBA history last year (it was something like that, at least. I forgot what it was exactly).
They didn’t blow it up, and under no circumstances should they have done. Watch as they now decimate the roster in a trade for Kobe.
Much has been made of the Mavericks’ historic capitulation to the Warriors in round one of the playoffs last year, which set all kinds of trends that I can’t remember. But what a lot of people tend to overlook was the sheer bad luck of it all. If any other team claims that eighth seed, Dallas polishes them off with no problem at all. Yet Golden State offered up by far and away the biggest matchup problem of them all, and it’s them who Dallas drew.
The Mavericks did not help themselves by somewhat wilting under pressure, and Avery Johnson by his own admission did not make the correct adjustments.
None of this, however, means that the right way for the Mavericks to go is to start thinking “yes, what we need right now is the sub-30% clutch shooting of Kobe Bryant”, or “we can never with win Dirk, let’s trade him”. They can win with Dirk. They just didn’t.
The Mavericks have a formula, and it’s one that works. It worked last year to the tune of 67 wins, and while regular seasons don’t account for anything in the playoffs (as Golden State showed), it does serve to prove that this Mavericks team can beat all comers. All, that is, but one.
To solve Golden State (and believe me when I tell you that I realise how stupid it is to imply that a team’s season rests on one match-up versus one solitary mediocre opponent), Dallas doesn’t need to revamp their roster, but make some adjustments and not get rattled. They didn’t, and so they lost. But were that situation to happen again, that’s all it takes to avoid that drama again.
Dallas is arguably the best team in the league. The Spurs have the title and claim that crown, but Dallas is up there. They should once again finish with the best regular season record and win the Western Conference.
This year, they just need a better stroke of luck, and a dose of fortitude. If that happens, they may win the title. They’re one of very few teams that are good enough.