Last summer, we told you the Mavs looked at a free-agency rebuilt as a two-summer project. They needed multiple DeAndre Jordan-level players, they weren’t going to do “multiple’’ in one summer …
So DeAndre in 2015 and another player of that ilk in 2016 and voila!, you are rebuilt into a multi-star contender.
And what happens now that you didn’t net a foundational star in the summer of 2015 (thanks to the DeAndre DeFection)?
Testing both your tolerance for pain and your capacity for patience ... the two-year clock starts ticking all over again.
The Mavs have backed themselves into a corner here, having often forfeited a focus on the draft to instead put all their eggs into the free-agency basket — and then swinging big and missing there. Now, it’s worth noting that in the last 12 months, Dallas has used all five avenues of talent acquisition, to wit:
*Recruit and sign notable free agent Wesley Matthews
*Recruit and sign reclamation free agent Deron Williams
*Trade for Zaza Pachulia (giving up a bag of beans)
*Recruit and sign post-deadline buyout David Lee
Those were all pieces on a surprisingly capable No. 6 team in the West. But “No. 6’’ isn’t true contention, and while there was some cleverness and some skill in the above acquisitions … Dallas now has exactly zero superstars in their prime. (And soon won’t even have Twilight Dirk under contract, either.)
And you need two or three to play on a level with the Warriors, Thunder, Spurs, Cavs and the like.
Owner Mark Cuban drives this train. He is the de facto GM, and essentially always has been, and he realizes that he gets credit for the many Mavs positives and must absorb blame for the failures. There is nothing wrong with his “Win Now’’ approach as it feeds the needs of Dirk. And “Win Now’’ needn’t be dumped just because the reality requires more than just one wildly successful summer.
Dallas needs TWO wildly successful summers, and they need to happen quickly if they are to benefit the Nowitzki Era. (Worth nothing: Even post-Dirk, this roster will require two wildly successful summers. “Win Now.’’ And “Win Later.’’ And “Win Always.’’ That may be Pollyanna-ish, but short of tanking, it’s the primary goal.)
So, with the $92-mil cap and the available tools (detailed here), are we on the precipice of a the first of two consecutive Wildly Successful Summers?
Book this: Cuban and his lieutenants will make at least a “courtesy call’’ to Kevin Durant. (That story is here. And as long as too much time is not wasted there, it’d be foolish to not at least send KD a love note, just in case.)
Book this: Sources indicate to DB.com that the Mavs are not head-over-heels with the idea of Dwight Howard, their interest being so limited that they might end up offering him one-third of his max. (Read that exclusive here and understand that if you’re planning to low-ball a “star’’ player by this much, you are not planning on acquiring the player.)
Book this: A lot of free-agent names are going to end up being connected to Dallas and the Mavs are going to have to decide if they wish to overlook warts. Just to name a few examples from the whispers I'm getting out of Mavs HQ:
The Mavs see warts with Harrison Barnes. They see warts with Al Horford. They see Nic Batum as duplicate of what they already have in Chandler Parsons (assuming CP re-signs here after his opt-out, with the Mavs are indeed assuming. I can go all the way down to center Bismack Biyombo with this "warts game.''
Now, that doesn't mean Dallas doesn't eventually go to those places. They overpaid for Matthews; if the road to improvement is to overpay again, why not do it again? I can also argue that beggars can't be choosers, and therefore a "duplicate of Parsons'' might have to be positive enough.
My mentioning of those six guys (Durant, Howard, Barnes, Batum, Horford, Biyombo) obviously isn't meant to be all-encompassing when it comes to what Dallas wishes to do and to not do this summer. That's just a sampling. There are other options, and beyond free agency, there is the trade avenue. But understand that if, for instance, you trade Wes Matthews, you get a "fair'' return on him. Meaning you don't automatically get "better.'' By the very nature of the concept of a trade, you get equal value. Same with this idea discussed in Mavs Nation of letting Parsons go because you don't want to pay him $20 million a year. You can do that. But you will then find yourself trying to replace Parsons with a "duplicate'' (let's say Batum) and you will be paying him that same $20 million a year.
You could, in theory, also follow the sports-talk-show way of doing sports business. You BLOW IT UP! (At which point, of course, no free agents want to sign here. Including Dirk.)
So you are spinning your wheels there.
Dallas has never become a "free-agent destination'' (for big fish, anyway; secondary fish are lured here successfully). And that, by itself, is not a knock on the city, the state, the franchise or its fans. Big-fish free agents don't just "never come to Dallas''; they almost never come to anywhere. Coercing a Kevin Durant-type superstar to a) leave the city he knows where he can get a five-year guaranteed deal or to b) spurn invitations from "destination cities'' (whatever you think those might be, LA, New York, whatever) or c) spurn invitations from franchises dangling championship jewels (Warriors and Spurs, to start) seems an impossible task.
So impossible that now, in retrospect, even I wonder how Mark Cuban (energy, passion, confidence, intelligence and cash flow aside) harbored the audacity to think executing such a coup - a Wildly Successful Summer -- could justifiably be the central part of the construction of the Mavs.
And as the Mavs review the available players and as they review their own plans, a pain-causing, patience-requiring realization: Now, not even the near-impossibility of a Wildly Successful Summer will be enough. A full Dallas rebuild to true contention requires a Wildly Successful Summer followed by another Wildly Successful Summer, a double-near-impossibility.