Fish Or Cut Bait: On Cuban's Mavs Evaluations

Mark Cuban issues his first comments on Mavs Summer Shopping and as you might guess, the remarks are overwhelmingly positive. Is his positivity about Mayo, Kaman, Brand, Collison and even Dwight justified? We sort through the remarks and play 'Fish Or Cut Bait' with Mark Cuban:

SUBJECT: On bargain shopping

"We knew with the CBA that there was going to be a little bit of a rush early on, but then there were going to be a lot of really good players falling through the cracks. When there were, we were ready to pounce. And we think we put together a really nice team."

As Premium Mavs fans know, Cuban's weekend comments to NBATV on the Mavs' post-DeronQuest approach echoes what he told weeks ago, when he told us he wasn't going to let the spending of "The Seven Deadly Sinners'' alter Dallas' approach. The Mavs were true to that approach, right down to the Mayo move, getting a "name'' player and a guy capable of 18 points a game for half the price he was asking of other teams (including Phoenix). And Brand is the weirdest case, making $18 mil but only $2.1 mil of it coming from Dallas.

"Patience'' worked.

So ... in terms of fulfilling the Plan Powder approach -- whether anyone ensorses the approach and whether anyone believes the approach will produce a highly competitive product -- we FISH on this.

SUBJECT: On the reloaded roster

"We think we've positioned ourselves so that we have a young nucleus. We can keep these guys, let them jell and play together, build around Dirk and have room for hopefully someone to come or to trade or whatever happens."


Cuban has mashed at least two distinctly different points into one sentence. Do they have a young "nucleus''? Nah. The nucleus is still Dirk. Brand and Kaman are part of that nucleus, too. They are 34, 33 and 30, respectively. As Kaman joked the other day, those three are going to be hoping for a lot of half-court offensive play.

Are the Mavs younger? Obviously. Collison the 24-year-old point guard stands out after the depature of Kidd, 39.

It is important that the Mavs are younger? This, to us, is a common error in judging a roster. A more aged roster is more susceptible to injury, of course. But a less aged roster is more susceptible to doing stupid things.
We never cared that Dallas got "younger.'' We just wanted them to get "better'' than they were a year ago. This roster might be equipped to do that, though everything about last year's roster is colored by the category in which we place Odom. LO, as he performed last year, is such a drastic negative that, yes, if you count him as a 2011-12 Mav, this year's roster is absolutely better.

But here's the nut of what Cuban is truly saying here: "Hopefully someone to come or to trade or whatever happens."

Now we're talking. This roster, as presently constructed, is not about "jelling.'' It's about transitioning to "The Next.'' Today or in February or next summer. It is entirely possible that, say, Collison and Mayo, or Roddy and B-Wright, or whomever, emerges from this group as a true keeper for the long-term future.

But executing Plan A remains the must-do here. Sometime. Someday. Everything else comes under the heading of "whatever happens.''

"Whatever happens'' is the underlying point Cuban makes here. What he's trying to sell is "youth'' -- because he knows that's what the audience wants to hear. For that reason ... we CUT BAIT on what Cuban is selling here.


On O.J. Mayo: "He can play. He knows how to impact a game. We were looking at players and one of the things Michael Finley, who's now kind of an assistant assistant general manager, said, you want to get somebody that the other team has got to game plan for, that the other team is afraid of at the end of the game, that they can make something happen. We didn't really have someone who could really just create off the dribble, who we could just give the ball. Jet was a great shooter, Jet did a lot of amazing things, but we needed somebody who could get a lot younger and do a lot of the same things and then some."

We can justify the Mayo-Jet argument, but let's be frank: Did Cuban think this over the course of the last couple of seasons? Did you? Because if you believe that Mayo is completely prepared to stroll into Dallas and "be Jet,'' well, hell, they should've traded for O.J. two years ago, when Memphis was trying to give him away.

We think it's crafty of Cuban to throw a bone to Finley here, and we think it's accurate to note that Mayo is physically capable of being an impact player. But until he's done it, this is pure pro-Mayo spin. We CUT BAIT and we cut bait sharply here.

SUBJECT: On Elton Brand

On Elton Brand: "We do a lot of advanced statistics, analytics, and Elton Brand was one of the top 10 defenders in the league in the low post. Overall, from an advanced plus-minus basis, one of the top 10 players in the league. Using that, we think we can really integrate him."


Cuban's numbers on Brand as a defender in the low post are similar to some of our findings. Cuban's plus-minus numbers on Brand -- numbers that show the results he brought to the Sixers as a team when he was on the floor last year -- are also accurate. This is especially true at center, when his PER at center was two points better than his opponent. He helps teams win games. Period.

But Mark is vaulting crazily over the top by attempting to interpret those stats as meaning that Brand is "one of the top 10 players in the league.'' That can't really be what Cuban thinks ... but he phrases it just that way, and it's misleading to do so.
The top 10 players in the league? Go through your personal list. LeBron, Kobe, Wade, Dwight, Durant, Paul ... Dirk is in there. Where is Brand? Brand is not in there. Brand is a force and a bargain and maybe even has within his grasp the ability to reclaim his position as a second-tier stud. If he does that, it will be a terrific accomplishment.

But top-10 anything? Boy, do we CUT BAIT.

SUBJECT: On Chris Kaman

On Chris Kaman: "Chris, once he got traded, it was an up-and-down season for him. So if you take out last year and go to the season before, there's no question he's going to help us. He's a great shooter from the 10- to 15-foot range. He'll be able to pick-and-pop and do a lot for us. You put him in a situation for Dirk, I think a lot can happen."


Cuban is picking and choosing the items that make his positive case, but at least he's also acknowledging the truth about last year, a season that does not make the Mavs' pro-Kaman case. And heck, he's even leaving out positives like Kaman's ability to fix Dallas' rebounding issue, which last year meant a No. 21 ranking in rebound differential (at minus-1.1).

We FISH, because we're so pleased that Tony Cubes realizes that we're big boys who can handle the truth.

SUBJECT: On Darren Collison

"You can't replace Jason Kidd. There's just no way. But at the same time, there's going to be a lot of things we couldn't do. You know, J could take over a game defensively and he could help us get where we needed to go, but he was just a spot-up shooter. Now, we've got a lot of people who are going to force people to really defend us."


Straight spin. Straight, unadulterated, undisguised spin. The Mavs offered Kidd a three-year contract. Kidd pullewd the "okie-doke'' on them, not the other way around. Let's pretend Kidd and Collison were both on this team today; who do you think would be penciled in as Rick's starter? We're CUTTING BAIT, Cubes.

SUBJECT: On Dwightmare

On Dwight Howard trade rumors: "Every little bit of noise gets amplified. There's just nothing there. What you've really got to ask yourself is, why would Orlando do something that's not in the best interest of their team?"

Cuban echoes what we've said ever since July 3, when we reported that Dallas and Orlando were talking about Howard. We believe they are still talking; indeed, until Howard's "inevitable trade'' to Brooklyn/Houston/Lakers (we use "inevitable'' sarcastically) why wouldn't the Mavs still be pursuing the Magic center?

There's no reason for Cuban to spin here. There's also no reason for Cuban to add to the "noisy amplification.'' We FISH here because we know how right he is.

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