MAVNALYSIS: Mavs Position-By-Position
We think we're all in agreement that the 2010-2011 Dallas Mavericks season ended in a manner that met the organization's, fan's, and city's collective expectations. It's hard to believe that two months have passed since Dirk stumbled off the court after Game 6 with tears in his eyes and a weight off his heart. Playoff games are falling to the bottom of DVR lists, championship gear shopping sprees are slowing to a crawl, and Dallas Maverick season-in-review DVDs have been watched countless times.
Not that those activities are getting old, because they are most definitely not, but when will something new happen? Even if there's nothing ‘new' to dive in to, but we can certainly speculate.
Ignoring the ongoing lockout bummer for a moment, this appears to be as safe a spot as any to take a snapshot at what the Mavericks current roster looks like and spend a moment to ponder some of the free agency options. The odds are slim to none that everyone will be back from the championship roster and there are a few interesting free agents out there that make sense for the franchise.
Let's delve in, root around, and sneak a quick peek at potential roster adjustments … while keeping our favorite championship YouTube videos on repeat in the background.
Disclaimer: For the sake of this evaluation, we're working under the constructs of the current CBA when mentioning "Bird Rights," though the continued existence of this tool meant to help teams retain their players remains murky at best and is far from a certainty, especially if a hard cap finds its way into the NBA landscape.
(Player and Year Contract Expires) Starter: Jason Kidd (Under contract through 2011/12 season)
Bench: Jason Terry (2011/12), Roddy Beaubois (2013/14), Dominique Jones (2014/15), Rudy Fernandez (2012/13)
Dallas Free Agents: JJ Barea (Unrestricted Free Agent- Mavs own Bird Rights)
Notable PG Free Agents (Only UFA): T.J. Ford (Indiana), Sebastian Telfair (Minnesota), Anthony Carter (New York), Earl Watson (Utah)
(click here for Mavs point guards' 2010-11 stats)
There are quite a few interesting tidbits at the point guard position of the Mavs. Jason Kidd obviously still has the starting spot on lockdown as he enters the final year of what appears to be a perfectly timed contract by the Mavs front office (Remember when experts insisted that three years was too long for the aging guard?)
The question of who steps in when Kidd hits the bench is where things get a bit dicey. Though the Mavs own his Bird rights (again, should they remain under the new CBA, this is a team's ability to exceed the salary cap in order to re-sign their free agents), our feeling is that Barea will get an offer from a team that would be fiscally irresponsible for the Mavs to match or exceed. JJ understands better than anyone how good a fit the Mavs are for his abilities, but there are precious few times in a player's career when the opportunity to cash in right as their stock is peaking arrives. That's especially the case for a 5-10 undrafted free agent out of Northeastern University.
The Mavs want JJ to stay, and on an emotional level the feeling seems to be mutual, but none can blame him for taking a run at the big contract he's earned. The point-guard free agent class is pretty grim, so the Mavs' best option to replace his production may come from within.
Jet has proven to be a reasonable emergency stand-in, but it's clear at this point in his career that his value is greatly diminished when forced to run the offense and stop shot-hunting.
Rudy Fernandez has played the position before, but without much fanfare of result. Then there's young Roddy B.
Remember Roddy B?
My, how things have changed in 12 months. The focus is on the young Frenchman again this offseason, but without the hype or near boundless optimism. How Beaubois recovers from his most recent foot injury and the grasp he has (if any) on the position may be a significant factor in deciding the Mavs' fate next season.
Finally, let's not forget a man many around the Mavs seemed very pleased with as the season came to a close, even as he watched in street clothes due to his own foot issues: Dominique Jones. We caught glimpses of his playmaking skills as well as his ability to defend quicker guards, thus allowing Kidd to save his legs for crucial crunch-time minutes, and note the fact that he was surprisingly the best rebounding guard (per minute) on a team that included Kidd. Given his extremely limited exposure, we're not ready to devote much faith to this option as of yet, but he's a wild card that should be noted.
Verdict: Kidd continues to take the reins of the offense and if Barea takes the money/opportunity route, the pressure is officially on for Roddy to turn into a useful pro.
Starter: Rudy Fernandez (2012/13 with Qualifying Offer, though his dealings with Real Madrid may complicate matters)
Bench: Terry (2011/12), Beaubois (2013/14), Corey Brewer (2012/13), Jones (2014/15)
Dallas Free Agents: DeShawn Stevenson (UFA- Mavs own Bird Rights)
Notable SG Free Agents (Only UFA): Jamal Crawford (Atlanta), Delonte West (Boston), J.R. Smith (Denver), Shannon Brown (LA Lakers), Jason Richardson (Orlando), Marquis Daniels (Sacramento)
(click here for Mavs shooting guards' 2010-11 stats)
DeShawn Stevenson started at shooting guard for the most productive segments of the Mavs' regular season and all of the playoffs until JJ took over for the last three games of the Finals. It worked well enough, but the trade for Rudy Fernandez on draft night seemed like a move to help solidify the off-guard spot as Stevenson heads into the free agency unknown. It's unclear if the Mavs intend to re-sign DeShawn, but the idea of starting Fernandez next to Kidd makes sense in Rick Carlisle's grand scheme of playing two ball-handling guards simultaneously.
If you want evidence of the effectiveness of the two guards with solid handles strategy, fire up your DVR and watch games 4-6 of the NBA Finals once Barea got the starting nod. The only asterisk next to Rudy is the offer he has supposedly signed with Spanish club Real Madrid for four years. He's obligated to play out his contract with the Mavs, but there's no telling what decisions he'll make if he ends up playing overseas for a prolonged amount of time during the lockout.
Terry will continue to take his sixth-man role in stride as he enters the last year of his contract (Another home run by Donnie and gang). Corey Brewer (as the venerable Marc Stein suggested), Roddy B, and Dominique Jones are all possibilities, but there are definitely some intriguing options via free agency if the Mavs decide to go that route.
Obviously depending on the new terms of the CBA, the Mavericks may or may not be able to make a run at a starting caliber shooting guard. Before the lockout, there were already whispers of Jason Richardson wanting to play for a winner rather than seeking top dollar, and there's little doubt the reigning champs fall into the category of "winners," but more on the player discount possibilities later …
Verdict: Fernandez starts at SG while Jet continues in his role of super sixth man that he's perfected over the years. The Mavs will also attempt to use their championship pedigree to woo a high-scoring off-guard on the cheap. That still feels unbelievable, and rather pleasant, to say.
(Also, if we were Mike Piellucci, we'd proclaim that love for JR Smith here.)
Starter: Shawn Marion (2013/14)
Bench: Brewer (2012/13)
Dallas Free Agents: Caron Butler (UFA- Mavs own Bird Rights), Peja Stojakovic
(UFA- No Bird Rights), Brian Cardinal (UFA- No Bird Rights)
Notable SF Free Agents (Only UFA): Tayshaun Prince (Detroit), Shane Battier (Memphis), Grant Hill (Phoenix), Andrei Kirilenko (Utah), Josh Howard (Just Kidding)
(click here for Mavs small forwards' 2010-11 stats)
After a small amount of venting over his perceived ‘rag doll' treatment in the wake of 2010's playoff exit, Shawn Marion has become the model of Rick Carlisle's "Be Ready'' role acceptance credo. Marion was in and out of the starting lineup all year as a necessity to the team, but found himself starting full time after injuries to Caron Butler, and later Peja Stojakovic. ‘Trix performed so well in that role throughout the championship run that he inserted himself into the conversation of the team's second playoff MVP after Dirk Nowitzki.
All that being said, the Mavs would love to bring Butler back. Dallas could have easily traded him at the deadline last season, but the value the organization places on togetherness and family outweighed whatever options ended up on the table. Butler wants to be a Maverick and through his actions made it clear how grateful he was for not being dealt by becoming a warrior during his rehab regiment. Yet, you can't foresee what offers may be thrown his way when free agency starts.
He's a scoring small forward who understands team defense and started on a championship team before his injury… if you're wondering, that is in demand, even when swimming beneath the shadow cast by being less than a year removed from serious knee surgery (assuming the season starts close to on time).
The Mavs also made a big push to sign Corey Brewer to a three-year deal for a reason last year, outbidding a small line of contenders. The kid's motor can't be matched when compared to the rest of the roster, but he remains unpolished offensively. If Butler walks and free agency proves fruitless for Dallas, look for Brewer to play a bigger role next season.
Verdict: As of now, Marion is the starter and Peja looks ready to retire or move on, and likely isn't worth much over a veteran minimum deal. If Caron isn't re-signed, veteran small forwards like Tayshaun Prince or Grant Hill would look mighty fine backing up (or even starting over) Matrix. Brewer taking all the leftover minutes at small forward has to be considered Plan B.
If Caron is retained, it will be interesting to see how Carlisle handles the position. Does he hand the starting job back to Butler, while leaning on Marion to close games, or keep Matrix as a starter?
Starter: Dirk Nowitzki (2013/14)
Bench: Ian Mahinmi (2011/12), Marion (2013/14)
Dallas Free Agents: Brian Cardinal (UFA- No Bird rights)
Notable PF Free Agents (Only UFA): Glen "I don't want to be called Big Baby" Davis (Boston), Kenyon Martin (Denver), Carl Landry (New Orleans), David West (New Orleans)
(click here for Mavs power forwards' 2010-11 stats)
As has been the case since frosted tips were cool (Wait, were they ever cool?) the Mavs' power forward spot is owned by The Uberman.
Fresh off his world domination, Dirk will be back and ready to chase another championship after his national team duty this summer. While there is no reason to expect Dirk's production to slow, last regular season marked the fewest minutes he played per game since his rookie year (34.3 MPG), perhaps aiding the fact that he posted the second best adjusted plus/minus in the playoffs (+16.59), trailing only the +17.49 Chris Paul totaled before being eliminated in the first round by the Lakers … though Dirk sustained his performance through 21 games.
The fact is that there are going to be 10-15 minutes each game where the Mavs must survive without the reigning Finals MVP. While that timeframe feels like a long time when you watch as a fan, it's not near a large enough window to attract a big name to play strictly behind Dirk. If Tyson Chandler is lost to free agency and the team's pursuit of power forwards in their last free agency window is any indication, the Mavs may pursue another big man.
Verdict: The available big-name FAs at power forward may be too rich for Dallas' blood, so either re-sign Caron Butler or make a run at a guy like Tayshaun Prince to allow Shawn Marion to swing from SF and PF as he did for most of last year. If the Mavs feel confident enough, increase the minimal workload that Mahinmi had last year. It's the least they can do after his Game 6, 3rd quarter buzzer beater, right?
Starter: Brendan Haywood (2015/16)
Bench: Ian Mahinmi (2011/12)
Dallas Free Agents: Tyson Chandler (UFA- Mavs own Bird Rights)
Notable C Free Agents: Joel Przybilla (Charlotte), Nene (Denver), Samuel Dalembert (Sacramento)
(click here for Mavs centers' 2010-11 stats)
The grim reality amongst the Mavs' Championship glory has been the free agent status hanging over the head of center-savior Tyson Chandler. Though Chandler's camp can't publicly admit for the purpose of bargaining leverage, both sides recognize the special situation they have fallen into. Chandler won't hesitate to leave for a monster offer, but also knows what kind of tandem he creates in the middle with Dirk.
Personally, we feel that cooler heads will prevail and both sides will recognize what they have here, leading to a deal being reached once the lockout is lifted … too bad our opinion doesn't mean anything to either of the involved parties. Nothing is a certainty in this league and the Mavericks must have a backup plan in place should Chandler bolt. Say what you want about Brendan Haywood, but this team could do MUCH worse than have him as their starting center.
Obviously, going from Chandler, whose 2010-11 season numbers mark him as the highest rebound-per-minute true-center (to have been in the complete season's primary rotation) the Mavs have known in the Dirk era, not to mention the highest point-per-minute center since Raef LaFrentz in the 2002-03 campaign, back to Big Wood would be a tough pill to swallow, but it's a reality MFFLs may have to accept.
When the Chandler-Haywood center combination came to fruition last summer, the sales pitch was that no one outside of the Lakers would be able to compete with their length. Maybe you didn't buy what Donnie was selling then, but you are now after the championship run because that's exactly what happened as the Mavs dominated the matchup down low in every series. Chandler leaving would create a giant hole in the middle, but just as importantly, it would leave them without elite depth at the position.
Verdict: This isn't exactly breaking news, but Tyson will be priority one when the lockout is lifted. Expect the Mavericks to weigh their monetary investment against Chandler's injury history and the idea of a possibly less motivated and very rich big man. In the end, the Mavs must ante up if at all possible. Trust us, giving back up minutes at center to Mahinmi or someone like Joel Przybilla is even less appealing to the front office than it is to you.
Keeping in mind that this is a current roster snapshot combined with pure speculation on the terms of the new CBA, there will be quite a few interesting wrinkles involved with the 2011-12 Dallas Mavericks:
1) There is talk that there may be a clause in the CBA allowing teams to void one contract from their roster to aid adjustment to the new bylaws. If the Mavs were to take advantage of this, logic would seem to point to Brendan Haywood as the choice, as his contract runs through 2014/15 if the team doesn't exercise their option in the final year. Of course, there's nothing to guarantee this clause will be included, but if it were and this is the route Dallas followed, the release of Haywood would leave them without a starting-quality center as free agency began. That is one hell of a risk to take.
A separate yet just as unattractive option, Shawn Marion could be another avenue for emergency salary reduction. It would be hard to imagine this team, a group that has leaned heavily on Marion's versatility, as well as his selflessness in forgoing personal glory to ensure the "dirty work," the unheralded, yet essential, facets of the game receive their due attention; being capable of matching this year's success without ‘Trix. Yet, if the new CBA arrives with much of the constrictive guidelines some predict, there are sure to be moves that hurt, moves that are monetarily forced.
While it may be ugly and hard to conceive, the fact is that Marion has three years and just under $26 million left on a deal that won't expire until he's 36. Considering their positions, and the talent available to other teams this may lend more trade value to a starting-caliber center (Haywood) than Marion will carry … making Big Wood an easier player to deal.
It's not a pretty thought, and hopefully one that can die in the realm of simple speculation.
2) The Mavs are always busy at the trade deadline, whether in rumors or reality. At the center of deadline deals are always expiring contracts. Who will be their biggest expiring deals next year? The Jasons: Kidd at $8.5 million and Terry at $11.5 million. The Mavs have the pristine reputation as a loyal franchise, but the ebb and flow of and NBA season can be cruel, even to a defending champion. If something causes the season to go wheels off before the trade deadline, is it possible that the front office would deal one (or both) of their cornerstone Jasons in order to remain a contender?
3) So often you hear about veterans willing to provide a discount to championship contending teams in order to make a run at a ring of their own. The Dirk-led Mavs may have always considered themselves a contender, but it's hard to tell if veteran free agents believed it. Things are a little clearer now.
The Mavericks are defending champs and it's fair to assume, or at least hope, that there will be free agents who want to win and will be willing take a little less money to ride the coattails of Nowitzki. Dallas never has a ton of room to directly maneuver under the cap during free agency, but their still-fresh championship tag may serve as the ultimate recruiting tool.
When the lockout reaches its conclusion, there will be a whole new world for the Mavericks. Tyson and JJ will be on the open market, but we will live in a land where it has become fact that a player can win a ring in Dallas. Thoughts of "Dirk can't lead a team to a title" will turn into "[Enter free agent name] should go to Dallas to follow Dirk to a championship." The proof is in the blue and white (and green?) pudding.
It will be a little different should more and more players come clamoring to play beside Dirk, but change can be good.
The lockout renders all current evaluation to speculation. We do not know what rules will govern the next contracts signed, or the constructs binding how future teams will be pieced together. We know we want Tyson Chandler back, and we can hope (even as our logic insists against it) that Barea remains, but we can't create a promise amidst the fog.
It's a brand new world … at least for the Mavs. To the victors go the spoils, and assuming history rolls on, we look forward to Dallas reaping the benefits of champions passed, where all interest Donnie, Mark and company casts is returned with matching fervor.
Welcome to the world of a defending champion.