MAVS to the Future

“The way I see it, if you’re gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?”

Doc Brown, Back to the Future (1985)

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dirk_nowitzki_battles_the_flu_leads_his_mavs_to_a_finalstying_winIt’s possible that the 2016-2017 NBA season might be Dirk’s last, and an unfortunate reality will likely be shared between Dirk and Kobe in their final seasons: no deep play-off run.

Next season will be the unofficial Dirk farewell tour, and it will not be as publicized as Kobe’s farewell tour – Dirk is a low-key guy.  He will retire in the same manner as Tim Duncan: with minimum media coverage and a brief thank you to all the people who meant a lot to him over his successful career.  Mark Cuban will cast a big net for one last time, trying to reel in a big enough fish to make Dirk’s final season relevant.  Since the Mavs’ 2011 championship season, Cuban has tried to recreate that magic, but fallen short each season.  His failure to reel one in hasn’t been due to a lack of effort: he tried to recruit superstars Deron Williams, Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan, to name a few.  Though he landed a Deron Williams on the rebound, he was not able to convince Dwight Howard or DeAndre Jordan to join the Mavericks.

May 2, 2014; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki (41) shoots over San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker (right) during the game against the San Antonio Spurs in game six of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Center. Dallas won 113-111. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki / Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj – USA TODAY Sports

Mavericks fans have been spoiled by one of the longest playoffs streak in NBA history.  Their streak lasted 12 years (2001-2012), when finally, in the  2013 season, the Mavericks missed the playoffs.  Credit goes to Cuban for maintaining the winning culture of his team while making the right personnel changes and finding the right types of players and coaches to make Dallas Mavericks a nearly permanent fixture in the post-season; but the lion’s share of credit for the Mavericks’ post-season success goes to Dirk, who has carried the Mavericks on his broad shoulders.

Dirk willed his way to victory, catapulting the Mavericks into the playoffs season after season.  A long list of supporting cast members have helped him over the years, but the core of the Maverick’s franchise for nearly two decades has been the extraordinary abilities and offensive prowess of one of the top 10 NBA regular season scorers and top 15 NBA Playoff scorers of all-time.

Even If Dirk averages 20 ppg next season, he will still fall short of Wilt Chamberlain’s 31,419 career points.  Though Dirk will likely end his career at the 6th spot in NBA all-time scoring history, Dirk is unquestionably a six-sigma event that will not be replicated again.  One of the most humble stars in sports, Dirk does not demand the spotlight; on the contrary, he shies away from it and let’s his teammates share the glory.  No player will ever have a career like Dirk’s.  Coming into the league, he was less coveted than any of the other top 20 NBA scorers – nobody knew who Dirk was when he got drafted.  He is a true champion, and the 2016-2017 season will be an Ode to his incredible feats.

If this is Dirk’s final season, what lies ahead for the Dallas Mavericks franchise?  This is a question that many Mavericks fans now ponder, though it will be answered with time.  Nevertheless, Mavs supporters can attempt to decipher what the future holds: the team can be improved through the NBA draft, trades, and through free agent signings.

In attempts to improve the team’s talent level during Dirk’s final years, the Dallas Mavericks traded all of their picks in the 2016 NBA draft, so, the draft is not an option for the Mavericks at least for next season.  Justin Anderson had an encouraging rookie year, but he did not play enough minutes to increase his value in the trade market; plus, he’ll be a vital piece of the Mavs going into the future.

Also, Dallas doesn’t have many tradable assets that other teams covet: instead, Dallas has aging players on their roster.  Trading them with other teams in the hopes of returning adequate value is also out of the question.

That leaves the Mavericks with only the 3rd option – to explore the free-agent market for players to improve the team.

The recent high-price signings of Chandler Parsons and Wesley Matthews have yet to yield desired returns: Parsons’ first seasons have been plagued with injuries, and Matthews has yet to find his outside stroke after returning from an Achilles tear.  There is a good chance that Chandler Parsons leaves the Mavs this offseason, as he will be highly recruited by his childhood dream team, the Orlando Magic.  Under the leadership of new coach Frank Vogel, and with a talented, young core of players in Oladipo, Payton, Gordon, Vucevic, Fournier and Hezonja, the Magic will be an attractive destination for Parsons.  However, since the Magic currently have a log jam at the 3 position, the Mavs could pursue a sign-and-trade with the Magic for some of their developing players – like Hezonja and Nicholson – along with a veteran – like Ersan Ilyasova.  A sign-and-trade could represent a win-win situation for both teams, with the Mavs starting to develop younger players and acquiring assets, and the Magic acquiring a budding star in Parsons.

Deron WilliamsThe Mavs will try to re-sign Deron Williams, who has a player option and will likely opt-out in search of a more lucrative long-term contract: with the Cap poised to jump from $70 million in 2015 to $89 million in 2016 season, there will be plenty of money available for free agents like Deron.
Though top-tier free-agents, like LeBron and Durant, won’t be signing with Dallas, some of the NBA’s top 2016 free agents are likely to leave their current team, and may consider Dallas.  DeMar DeRozan, Al Horford, Dwight Howard, Harrison Barnes, Allen Crabbe, Mirza Teletovic, and Joe Johnson are all potential signings for the Mavericks to consider.  If the Mavericks are able to sign DeMar DeRozan or Harrison Barnes, the addition would be a significant step in the recruiting process, paving the way for more free agents to sign with Dallas in the near future.
Mark Cuban will be under immense pressure to land talented free-agents who can help make Dirk’s final season memorable – there’s a risk that this pressure could push him into signing mediocre talent to high-priced and long-term deals.  The Mavs cannot sabotage Dirk’s final seasons in the NBA.  As long as a deservingly talented player wants to continue his career in Dallas, overpaying for such a talent would be a wise long-term move.

 

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continuedUncertainty abounds for Mavs’ fans this offseason, but they can rest-assured that Cuban will go all-out to make the Mavericks a contender for a season that might well be Dirk’s last.

By Raj Manjrekar