In the 1998 NBA Draft, the Dallas Mavericks found a way to snag Dirk Nowitzki in a trade with the Milwaukee Bucks. They paired up the lengthy German with Steve Nash and Michael Finley. They went only 19-31 in a strike shortened season, and failed to make the playoffs the following year, going 40-42. Since then the Dallas Mavericks have gone 796-494, making the playoffs 14 of the last 15 seasons, including two NBA Finals appearances, one of them resulting in an NBA Championship.
Face it. We’ve been fattened up and spoiled throughout the years. We don’t know what it’s like to start from scratch. We did that back in 1998, and it’s something that nobody, including the Mavericks front office, seems to ever want to go through again. However, what has it gotten us the last few years? We head into each off season with high hopes of landing a superstar (Deron Williams, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Dwight Howard, etc), only to come away with going the route of putting together a large gathering of new players and plugging them into a system in hopes they can gel at the right time.
Take this season for example. The Mavericks brought Tyson Chandler back, stole Chandler Parsons from the Houston Rockets grasp, and added multiple veterans to team up with Monta Ellis and Nowitzki. In December, they pulled off a blockbuster trade, reeling in Rajon Rondo from the Boston Celtics in exchange for Jae Crowder and Brandan Wright.
Championship contenders right? Wrong. It’s unrealistic to think that year in and year out you can bring in a whole new team, and expect them to find the right time to click and maximize their potential. You would think that after being rivals for so long, the Mavericks would have navigated down that “muddy water” riverwalk, and stole some of the key strategies that have landed the San Antonio Spurs 5 NBA titles. The Spurs found a system that worked, and kept their core players in tact.
Back in 2009, the Mavericks traded for Jason Kidd, and despite going 55-27 during the year, were eliminated in the 1st Round of the playoffs. Rather than looking to reshape their roster heading into the following season, they allowed Kidd to have an entire off-season to gel with the team, ultimately resulting in the organizations lone championship title. Then, the Mavericks let key players go, because of the salary cap situation.
“It was a mistake to let [Chandler] go, but it turned out best that we did it the way we did,” Cuban said in an email. “The plan was to be opportunistic. We couldn’t build through the draft. That couldn’t be done fast enough. We tried to be opportunistic. I thought we did a good job when we got Vince and Lamar. But Lamar was probably the worst move I have ever made. We went in the wrong direction and that was it.”
Since then, the Mavericks have looked repeatedly for answers. Find a superstar to team up with an aging Dirk Nowitzki? Trade key bench players to land one of the smartest point guards in the game in Rondo? Team up a young player (Parsons) who hasn’t hit his full potential yet?
What if the real answer is a rebuild? It seems that the Mavericks are dead set on finding ways to give their aging superstar one last run at a title, but at what cost? If that hadn’t been the plan over the last few years, what could they have acquired in the draft? Look at teams like the Warriors and Thunder. Golden State landed guys like Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green, while the Thunder acquired a huge talent in Russell Westbrook to team up with Kevin Durant.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying I don’t enjoy the thrill of each off-season as a Dallas Mavericks follower, because it’s filled with constant refreshes on our Twitter timeline, and each season brings a new list of question marks. I am by no means questioning Mark Cuban either. I’m just curious if the Mavericks should have looked a little harder at the young talent they could have brought in and nurtured through the D-League or Summer League play. Could we have landed ourselves a Dennis Schroder or some other young talent like Rudy Gobert?
Face it. While Nowitzki vows to be the ultimate team player and put his personal accolades aside for the success of the franchise, he is getting up there in age, and the Mavericks are still searching for answers. So once again, the Mavericks will head into Free Agency this summer with hopes of landing big names like LaMarcus Aldridge, Marc Gasol, and DeAndre Jordan to name a few. The Mavericks only have four players under contract (Nowitzki, Parsons, Harris,Powell) and three with player options (Ellis, Aminu, Felton).
Buckle up Mavs Nation. For yet another year, it is going to be one fast paced and entertaining summer.
Mavericks Photo: Vernon Bryan
Mark Cuban Photo: Ron T. Ennis / Fort Worth Star-Telegram / MCT / Getty Images
Warriors Photo: Tony Gutierrez / AP
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