With every season that ends, for the playoff teams at least, we felt it right to take a look ahead. TNT already has the rights to "Gone Fishin'," and because we're sure that someone, somewhere, still likes that Wyclef song, we're going with "Gone Till November." And, yes, we know the season starts in October. Today? The Dallas Mavericks.
The Dallas Mavericks are here, again. Pretty good team, lots of potential options, nothing set in stone, the clock ticking on Dirk Nowitzki’s game-changing NBA career all the while. It isn’t dissimilar to the 2012 or 2013 offseasons, or even the accelerated 2011 offseason that the Mavericks entered as defending NBA champions. The team topped off as an above-average turn in a very competitive Western Conference for the third season in a row, and it will attempt to convince a franchise-altering star of sorts to pair alongside Nowitzki with both cap space and trade assets.
At least the Mavericks have a playoff berth to feed off of, which was not the case following 2012-13, the first time the Mavericks failed to make the postseason since the Clinton Administration. Somehow the team’s 49-win season left nothing assured in the ridiculously deep West, and though Dallas was “only” an eighth seed in the Western playoff bracket, it played up to its potential and smarts in taking the defending championship conference Spurs to seven games before losing.
The team did lose, though. Horseshoes, hand grenades, all that. And now it will once again attempt to serve the team’s brilliant coach, one Rick Carlisle, with yet another roster that he will be charged with making better than the sum of its collective parts.
The offseason begins with the Nowitzki Decision, as the free agent will have to decide just how much he wants to give back in the first real free agent turn of his NBA career. As a player, Dirk wasn’t probably worth the nearly $23 million he made in 2013-14, but the All-Star wasn’t far off, and in terms of value to a franchise and city he’s “worth” well more. Nowitzki has indicated several times that he will be willing to leave money on the table in order for the Mavs to have even more cap space to chase free agents with, unlike what Kobe Bryant did last fall in Los Angeles, but getting to that actual number could be a painful and uneasy negotiation for both sides.
Still, a backloaded contract could prove a way around that, and don’t think that the Mavs and Nowitzki haven’t been carefully considering these sorts of things as they simmered on the back burner for months. Or years, even, in the wake of the team losing out on Deron Williams in 2012 or Dwight Howard in 2013.
Nowitzki’s re-signing won’t be the end of the difficult decisions, though. Vince Carter and Shawn Marion’s work in Dallas has been respectable, to say the absolute least. The team loves having them around, despite their relatively advanced NBA years, and both players still have a few very good years left in them. Cap holds are tricky things, though, and the two free agents may have to be renounced completely if the chance at a high-end free agent pops up.
That’s just assuming that the two want to return. Both gave every assurance that they dug their time in Dallas, with Marion even winning a championship in 2011. If a team with a more impressive recent playoff resume comes calling this summer, with the money being equal in every likely scenario for these two guys, you’d have to assume that the Mavericks have at best a 50/50 shot at retaining the veterans. After all, Miami is Miami, Derrick Rose is returning, Kevin Durant is fun to play alongside, and two other teams in Texas would seem to be better options if Dallas’ offseason falls flat.
“Flat” is a relative description, though. If you ignore cap holds and the whole “Dirk Nowitzki is a Dallas Maverick for life”-thing, the Mavs only have about half of the league’s expected salary cap number on their books for next season. No, Carmelo Anthony probably isn’t coming to Dallas, and it’s very possible that the newest Detroit Pistons general manager may want to retain Greg Monroe at all costs (the same with Eric Bledsoe in Phoenix), but that’s still a huge chunk of change to work with in both the trade and free agent market.
The problem with the former is that most of the high-end players with sizable deals are on that market for a reason, and you don’t really want to see Dirk Nowitzki’s winter spent with Josh Smith or Eric Gordon chucking alongside of him or even Tyson Chandler attempting to stay healthy following a salary exchange with another team. The NBA and its general managers are getting smarter, and nobody is going to line up to make Mark Cuban’s day any time soon. Not because they don’t like or respect the guy, but because most NBA franchises are in tenable, profitable, and potential-laden situations because of lessons learned from Cuban’s time in the NBA.
There are options, though. Sure, it may be a fourth straight offseason spent talking those options up, but this could be the summer the Mavericks finally cash in.
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