Should Mavs Re-Sign Their Title Roster?

Emotionally, we want them all back. But what does history say about the advantages and disadvantages of bringing a championship roster back and intact for another run? We touch on Tyson and Caron on Tour and we examine Bulls and Rockets and Spurs and Spurs to learn some lessons about what Dallas might need to do with its maybe-changing roster.

We emailed, wrote, sent couriers, held extended stakeouts in the silver-haired man's front yard, hired thugs as muscle to aid in our "convincing," threatened, begged, promised, and made sure our tears were seen.

For 149 days, we took every avenue available to us. While the going was scarce at first, sightings began to pick up around Thanksgiving. Finally, it happened. We broke through. We found Santa and asked for the one gift that would crush the volcano of greed threatening to bury our beloved NBA.

"Please unlock the lockout and give us our Dallas Mavericks back," we pleaded.

The rest is history. And now, maybe the 2011-12 Mavs roster is history, too.
With the wheels already in motion behind a tentative agreement to end the lockout, begin training camps and free agency Dec. 9, though teams are already talking to agents, and open the season with what is now reported as being five games on Christmas Day; a wave of exhilarating chaos is about to swallow the basketball community whole.

*Exhilarating Chaos, Tyson Chandler Edition: The Warriors love him but maybe TY wants to play where CP3 plays ... like maybe Dallas?!

*Exhilarating Chaos, Caron Butler Edition: Are they lining up to give Tuff Juice his $7 mil a year?

*Exhilarating Chaos, JJ Barea Edition: The lil' fella seems a bit insulted by the Mavs' short-term-offer concept. has addressed how the Mavs can bring back the entire squad that lifted us to ultimate heights last season, delivering Dallas its first NBA Title. We've broken down in detail how feasible it is, how the new CBA doesn't have to be a scalpel severing the limbs of a roster even as it lingers in the glow of its accomplishments.

David Lord has shown us the numbers, has delivered us the map.We know it's possible … but is it ideal?

My heart screams yes, my head demands that I peer into the past. Prior to checking the rosters, my gut told me teams that win multiple championships, either consecutively or within a year of each other, endure a healthy amount of roster turnover in the process.

The reasoning behind this was simply, innately human nature. The edification of the will by the attainment of ultimate success leaves the drive of many without some aspect of hunger that drove it previously. Teams unite, become one, in the search of a singular goal. Once captured, it's only natural for outside factors to pry their way in, whether it be via monetary desire, a rising need for individual acknowledgment or other avenues of the ego … or simply a satiation of true and pure need.

Put simply, once full, perhaps eternally, not all of us will push as hard for that next meal.

This is in no way meant to disparage the character of the Mavs roster, or question the drive of any of its members. Rather, it is only recognition of the fact that they are human … exemplary humans in the realm of athletics, champions, but human nonetheless.

Looking back 20 years, beginning when Michael Jordan's Bulls won their first ring, does this thesis hold true? Do teams that are able to grab more than a single championship in close proximity undergo a near constant process of roster evolution to stay sharp, stay hungry and stay at the top? To get a glimpse of this, we looked at the top eight players in playoff minutes from one championship to the next for each team with multiple Titles from the 1990-91 season to present.

Oddly enough, this only includes teams that won in consecutive years (or three-year chunks) and the San Antonio Spurs, who took four championships with the final three separated by a single non-championship season each.

Beginning with the Bulls, it didn't appear my gut was correct. From their 1991 squad to the team that completed the first of their back-to-back-to-back championships every member among the top six in playoff minutes was among the prior season's top eight. In fact, of the top eight in playoff minutes there was a changeover of essentially just one player.

Craig Hodges ranked seventh in playoff minutes in 1991, but was nowhere to be found in the following years. We say "essentially" above as Will Perdue went from eighth in 1991 to ninth in 1992, switching places with Cliff Livingston, who went from ninth to eighth. Scott Williams was the only player among the top nine in playoff minutes in 1992 not present for the 1991 campaign.

Once again, from 1992 to 1993 the only change among the top eight in playoff minutes for the Bulls came at the eighth spot. Stacey King replaced Cliff Levingston in 1993.
Surprisingly, perhaps only to me, the next 3-peat from the Bulls was more of the same. The only transition from year-to-year came at the eighth spot. The top seven remained unchanged throughout. The changes, all in the eighth spot: Bill Wennington in 1996, Bison Dele in 1997 and Scott Burrell in 1998.

That's it. Yes, the idea of saving some time and ego by looking no further crossed my mind at this point.

There was a thorough shift from the roster that won between 1991-93 and that of 1996-98 (outside of Jordan and Pippen), most notably the transition from Horace Grant to Rodman (each occupying the third spot in playoff minutes per season for each complete 3-peat), though the entire top eight evolved to new names other than Bill Wennington's presence on the 1996 squad (eighth).

Looking only at the Bulls, my thoughts began to shift. Perhaps stability, continuity, was the dominant path after all. Of course, the presence of Jordan and Scottie Pippen on the same roster may have been throwing off the comparison.

The Houston Rockets won both O'Brien Trophies in the two years between the Bulls' pair of 3-peats … and those of us old enough to remember can instantly recall one major change from their first to second championship rosters: Otis Thorpe was traded for Clyde Drexler midway through the regular season of their second run.

Beyond this major trade, Vernon Maxwell slipped from second most playoff minutes in 1994 out of the top eight in 1995. The meant two of the top three players (by playoff minutes) from the 1994 Title roster were not a significant part of the repeat.

Among the top eight, the other changes were: Chucky Brown and Pete Chilcutt were seventh and eighth in 1995, but not present in 1994. Carl Herrara was eighth in 1994 and not present in 1995.
Needless to say, the Rockets faced drastic changes from year one to year two of their back-to-back championships. Though a little too severe, this felt more like what we expected to find.

Moving on …

After the Bulls second 3-peat, Phil Jackson once again led his team to another 3-peat. This time it was the Los Angeles Lakers. Unlike the Bulls, these rosters did show signs of evolution and change within the three rings claimed.

Sitting at one and two in playoff minutes were always Shaquille and Kobe (Shaq at one in 2000, then Kobe first in 2001 and 2002). Yet, the third spot changed each year: from Glen Rice in 2000 to Fisher in 2001 to Horry in 2002.

We also saw a slight shift in the role players. Glen Rice (3), Ron Harper (4) and AC Green (6) were there in 2000 and then gone.

Derek Fisher (3), Horace Grant (5) and Lue (8) joined the top eight in 2001, while both Grant and Lue were not present in 2002, replaced by Devean George (6) and Samaki Walker (7).

Perhaps not as radical as the Rockets, the Lakers certainly showed a steady process of roster shifting from one championship to the next.

The final team to win in back-to-back seasons within this sample size of 20 years was once again Phil Jackson's Lakers, winning in 2009 and 2010. Though the total number of variations to this roster was minor, the placement within the team's minute hierarchy was not.

Ariza ranked fourth in playoff minutes on the 2009 Lakers and was then gone. Artest replaced him, coming in third in playoff minutes on the 2010 team. This was the only change among the top eight. A single change, but one few would call minimal in overall impact on the team, even if the final results were the same.

This brings us to the four-time champion Spurs. We'll throw out their 1999 Title as too much time passed before their next ring in 2003 to accurately compare to the rest of the teams in this sample (and, as we're doing all this while thinking of the Mavs, we're not currently looking four years down the road, but in the more immediate future).
Within the top eight playoff-minutes contributors from year to year of the 2003, 2005 and 2007 Title teams, the Spurs endured a fair degree of transformation. Stephen Jackson (3), Malik Rose (6), Robinson (7) and Speedy Claxton (8) were present in 2003 but gone by 2005.

The 2005 and 2007 rosters had their top four cemented (Duncan, Parker, Bowen and Ginobili), but the rest continued to transform. Horry (5), Brent Barry (6), Mohammed (7) and Udrih (8) filled out the top eight in 2005 without having been present in 2003. Mohammed, Barry and Udrih were also gone from the top eight by the 2007 run (Barry was still on the roster, but finished ninth in 2007). Replacing them would be Finley (5), Oberto (6) and Elson (8).

Even while taking into account the year between each title run, this is a significant amount of roster modification.

Looking at all of these teams, the Bulls level of roster continuity quickly becomes the anomaly. To sustain championship runs, not mere contender status, the rest were forced to embrace a sustained evolution in their make-ups.

Ignoring the Bulls, only the 2005 and 2007 Spurs saw no change within their top-three playoff contributors (by total minutes) from one championship to the next, and even they did not keep their top five intact (Finley replaced Horry in 2007).

This would lead to one questioning the power of continuity on championship teams (beyond the transcendent leader present in every case), unless you can combine an all-time great with one many consider the greatest ever. Perhaps it hints at this … or, perhaps the stronger argument it may provide proof of is the immense difficulty found in keeping a championship roster together. Once you have what everyone wants, others are sure to come calling.

The NBA, like every other sport, is a copycat league, and the most direct method to copy those at the top is to pilfer the pieces that make up their whole. There's nothing devious to the concept, only an inevitable truth.

Regardless of the implications or reasoning you assign the Darwinian path of championship rosters from one ring to the next; the fact is they have been prevalent in the past 20 seasons. Roster changeover, as quickly as one season to the next, is present, possibly even necessary for champions to remain so in most cases (again, ignore the Bulls).

We've shown you that the Mavs are capable of bringing everyone back from a salary standpoint. But, we'll ask again: should they?

Before answering, it must be noted that this Mavs team is fairly unique in that it could stay the same while also changing significantly.

Now, some of this might be outside of Dallas' control. What if Chandler doesn't come back because he doesn't want to? What if Caron really does love the idea of being a Bull or a Net or a Clipper?

But consider the shift if Tuff Juice comes back. He is likely to jump quickly into the top five in playoff minutes after having been absent in 2011. After a season of acclimation, Brewer may climb the rotation ladder. Rudy Fernandez would also be likely to find his way into the top eight or even five. There's also a chance Roddy Beaubois takes a step forward. Perhaps Mahinmi or Dominique finds more significant ways to contribute. None of this is impossible.

And, it's safe to assume Butler, Roddy B and Fernandez should have little chance to have seen their drive dissipate (assuming Rudy wants to be here, which may not be a given at this point) considering they were unable to contribute directly on the court (particularly in the case of Caron, this is not meant to diminish what they did bring, only pointing out that they weren't physically on the court).
Here are the top eight in playoff minutes for the Mavs in 2011, in order: Nowitzki, Kidd, Marion, Terry, Chandler, JJ Barea, Stojakovic, Stevenson.

Haywood, due to injury, slipped to ninth.

Looking at this list, it's easy to envision room for change without a need for further roster moves.

Considering all of this, we'll ask again: It's fiscally possible for the Mavs to bring everyone back (other than whoever is replaced by Rudy), but … should they?

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