The summer of 2012 promises to be like no other offseason the Dallas Mavericks have experienced during the 12-year ownership of Mark Cuban.
For the first time in Cuban's tenure, the chronic luxury-tax spender has cap space to chase high-dollar free agents. Also for the first time in his tenure, Cuban is tasked with building a team basically from scratch after the defending champions, the oldest team in the league, was bounced out of the playoffs in a first-round sweep by the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Dirk Nowitzki is the lone Mavs player guaranteed of returning. Jason Kidd and Jason Terry are free agents and there's a good chance that Terry's eight-year run in Dallas, which includes two trips to the NBA Finals, could be over. Lamar Odom won't be back. Delonte West and Ian Mahinmi are free agents. Center Brendan Haywood could be amnestied.
Which players return and for how much will all be decided on whether the Mavs land prized free-agent-to-be Deron Williams, a Dallas-area native and perennial All-Star point guard.
Mavs management knows this offseason is all about putting younger, more athletic players around Nowitzki.
"We've got our work cut out for us," Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said. "Obviously, we've got some decisions to make with guys in the locker room and free agency and such. Clearly to have more than one or two guys that can create opportunities and shots and that type of thing, that's important."
Williams is Plan A. Plan B could include trying to reunite Nowitzki and Steve Nash. Houston Rockets point guard Goran Dragic is another possibility as a free agent. But the Mavs are also going to need size inside to complement Nowitzki on the front line.
"There's a lot of stuff this organization has to decide on the next couple of months," Nowitzki said. "We'd obviously love to get better. I think that's obvious. We went for cap space for the first time in my career, so we'll see what we can do with that the next year or next two years. But we definitely want to improve the franchise."