Do the Dallas Mavericks really have to sign any of their free agents, save for starting center Tyson Chandler? Do they even have to re-sign Chandler, considering that Brendan Haywood is on the roster? SB Nation's Mike Prada had developed a sound argument that has us thinking that Dallas might best served letting most of these guys go.
This contention is based on a hypothetical that probably won't even have a chance to come true until (at best) later this summer, but more than likely sometime this fall or even winter. To hear some people tell it, the hypothetical hasn't a chance because the entire 2011-12 NBA season will be lost due to a lockout, and with it will go the expiring contracts of all the characters in question.
But the question is sound. Do the defending champion Dallas Mavericks really need to re-sign any of their free agents? Save for, of course, the mighty Tyson Chandler? I'm with Mike Prada on most of this. The smartest moves might be to let all these people go, considering what they might demand in an open market.
Not because the Mavericks are hard up for cash, or because they don't want to pay these contributors. Mark Cuban may have financed a massive payroll last year, he might be regarded as a bad example as a "have" versus the man NBA team "have-nots," but this isn't the most pressing of concerns either on a payroll page, an influence page (make no mistake, the NBA's old guard regards Cuban as a bad influence amongst the younger owners, forgetting that he actually put the work in analytics-wise to attempt to make smart decisions with his money), or any other page.
No, this is about a level of flexibility that often runs away when you devote too many resources to players you've fallen in love with. Mainly because they were around for last year's party, regardless of their role. And with Jose Juan Barea, DeShawn Stevenson and Caron Butler, it is worth wondering just how needed their presence might be on this team moving forward.
(But Ironhead! Wasn't Barea the one skating through the Laker defense on the way to Dallas' sweep of the then-defending champs? The reason Dallas pulled away with your stupid analytics once they started him at shooting guard? Wasn't he the difference?)
He probably was, at certain intervals. Usually the intervals that included him driving and making shots. But that doesn't mean others can't be the difference, working in his capacity.
(But Ironhead! I'm pretty sure I saw DeShawn Stevenson nailing 3-pointer after 3-pointer in those Finals, playing sound defense, and professionally responding to his bench demotion!)
OK, obviously it's me writing between those parentheses, but let's let Mike Prada have a whack at this defending champion with his inimitable circular saw-analysis:
The Mavericks already have younger, cheaper players on the roster to replace Barea, Stevenson and Butler. Those players are Rodrigue Beaubois, Corey Brewer and the recently-acquired Rudy Fernandez.
None of the three had great seasons last year, but there were mitigating circumstances for each. Beaubois began the year with a broken foot, and never got on track from there. Broken feet are no joke: it's so hard to recover from that injury, especially when you rely so much on your speed.
Brewer never got a chance to play in the playoffs, as Carlisle didn't give him burn even though lots of advanced stats suggested he was a better defender than anyone else on the roster. This, again, can be explained by Carlisle's system being more complex than most coaches.
As for Fernandez, he goes from a system that stifled him to one where he should thrive. The Blazers never ran plays for Fernandez, using him mostly as a spot-up shooter. Carlisle will figure out ways to deploy him to play to his strengths, running him off curls and other off-ball screens to get him in motion. Once that happens, Fernandez can give the Mavericks what Stevenson provided and then some.
This is a truncated breakdown, so as to convince to go read his column, but the sentiment remains. The Mavs needn't overpay for players that are both integral and replaceable at the same time.
Now, Caron Butler? I've rarely been smitten with his game, and I'm usually the guy shaking his head when others overrate him to no end. He does little expertly, even fewer things poorly, and the end result he's a good player that often gets characterized as a very good or even great player. But on a team like Dallas? A squad that, even with its championship pedigree, could really use a guy that does a little bit of everything? You have to attempt to retain him. Not at any price, but if in any way feasible.
The kicker here is Tyson Chandler. The Mavericks' center routinely gets passed over when hoops observers point to Dallas' supposed one-two punch of Nowitzki and Jason Terry, forgetting that it was Chandler's movement, threat, footwork and ability that made it possible for the team to not only help to no end on any screen and roll featuring Dirk, Kidd or Terry (all step-slow, if well-meaning, defenders), but also delve into that zone defense that served them so well in the postseason.
You have to bring Chandler back. His back has gone batty, he's been banging around this league since 2001, and he makes 40 percent of those two-handed push shots he shoots while he jumps into a defender's upright arms. Doesn't matter. He's the key.
The other guys? Mike Prada is right, as is usually the case. Explore your options. Don't hurt anyone's feelings, but don't follow feelings above foresight and commit to something that could end this run just after it begins.
Assumingly, hypothetically, the NBA resumes by 2016.