Thanks, But No Tanks

“I love to challenge conventional wisdom. I’m a big believer that in business and in politics, when everyone is doing the same thing, none are probably as effective or successful as they could be.”

– Mark Cuban

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The Dallas Mavericks have done it again.

They whiffed on free agent targets and had a draft that was promising, but only if you are a fan Big Ten basketball.

What are they doing?  The Mavericks rarely have draft picks of value, they have no shot to win a title with their new talent both in terms of skill, age, and injury.  Once again, it’s just Dirk.  

Oh – and they can’t get any top-tier free agents to leave their team come to Dallas.  The Dallas Mavericks are continuously in the playoffs, not because of any considerable chance, but because of good roster management, great coaching, and one of the greatest power-forwards.  They are always contenders in their division, contending with the likes of San Antonio, Memphis, Houston, and let’s not forget New Orleans.

In spite of all this, the Dallas Mavericks failed in the their initial off-season plans for multiple years in a row.  Why don’t they just tank?

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That’s why.

This right here has been ignored by the would-be NBA bottom-feeders for so long that it’s become the norm for a team to intentionally lose to get a shot at the best players in future drafts; instead, the league is full of teams with young and underdeveloped talent because that pick wasn’t LeBron James – you can’t just throw them out there.

I could go on about the teams who have chosen this route, and the sad reality that THEY ARE STILL TERRIBLE – but, I’ll save that for another time.

Through all the tanking/rebuilding, Dallas has simply said “I WILL NOT!”  Cuban respects the Mavericks organization and its fans enough to at least try to put a product on the court worth watching.

Still, some say “just tank – be the laughing-stock of the league and draft a young phenom in the draft.”

Instead of competing for playoff contention?

No.  Losing is for losers.

The Maverick’s failures in free-agency are well-documented – again, another story for another time.  Year after year, star players refuse to play in Dallas despite the team consistently making moves to fight in the regular season and playoffs, doing more with less talent.  It is a riddle that can’t be solved.  Each time, they have their own reasons, but the bottom line is they don’t come.

Still, Cuban stops at nothing to get a true contender on the floor, though the lack of talent has been apparent to fans since 2011.  

Still, Dallas won’t become a tryout team for D-League players struggling to get a contract and recognition.

Still, Mavericks’ scouts go out and find quality players who have slipped through the cracks, and this year they are doing it again, continuing their attempts to bypass the classic ‘rebuild’ by signing young talent and drafting a potential defensive stopper.

On the Mavericks’ Summer League teams, there will be some familiar names, but the three most promising additions are Harrison Barnes, AJ Hammons and Seth Curry.

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Fresh off of a 5 year extension, Coach Carlisle is back, and the Mavs have new positive vibes about their team’s ability to contend in the future.  One of the best coaches this league has to offer and has proven this time and time again, Rick Carlisle has a new former lottery pick with a championship ring and all the experience that comes with that journey.  As a starter for the 73 win Golden State Warriors, Harrison Barnes averaged around 5 makes on 10 attempts as the fourth option on their league-leading offense.  He was sculpted in a culture of precise system-driven play, and when he was input into Kerr’s free-flowing offense at the beginning of the 2015-2015 season, issues arose the lack of play structure.  Still, the league saw a player able to adapt and show he can just hoop.

With the Dallas Mavericks and Rick Carlisle, we should see a more comfortable Harrison Barnes in a coaching system that closely mimics that of his college coach Roy Williams.  Roy and Rick don’t run the same offense, but they’re similar in the way they run the team: they have particular jobs for players, and in this type of structure, Barnes showed enough promise to warrant the number 7 pick in the 2012 NBA draft.

We saw what rick was able to do with Tayshaun Prince (Detroit Pistons), Ron Artest (Indiana Pacers) before, and what he was later able o do with Shawn Marion, Peja Stojakovic, Chandler Parsons and Justin Anderson.  With the exception of the promising, but unproven, Anderson, all of these players were/are productive players in the league.  Harrison Barnes projected as a more talented prospect than all of these guy coming out of college as a top option, drawing comparisons to players like Glen Rice.

In today’s game, Glen Rice wouldn’t be such a bad thing to have available in a coach’s arsenal.

ajIn the second round of the draft, the Dallas Mavericks selected A.J. Hammons with the number 46th pick, hoping to finally get the big man the Mavs have been looking for.

For those of you who didn’t watch much Big Ten basketball, you will be pleasantly surprised: this was a classic pick for the Mavs – an older college player with consistently high levels of production throughout his time in the NCAA.  A 3 time selection to the All Big Ten defensive team, Hammons completed his college career with his best season, making the All Big Ten Team and being rewarded with the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Award.  A.J. had game – in an avg. of 24 minutes per game, he shot 59.2% from the field in his senior year, and finished the season with 10 double doubles despite playing only half of most games.

Oak Hill has a solid track record with NBA talent, and I trust Rick Carlisle with centers/forward development, as almost big men under his watch have improved significantly.  Guys like Zaza Pachulia, Tyson Chandler, Dwight Powell, and back in the day, Ben Wallace and Jermaine O’Neal.

Finally, there’s the lesser known Curry in the league: the MVP’s brother, Seth Curry.

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Curry is the most intriguing pick-up because of his upside as a sharp-shooting guard that can run the point.  Standing at 6’2″ with the potential to shoot the lights all the way out, his measurables might not be as eye-popping as his brother’s, but he could easily fill a Jason Terry-esque role well as he develops.  His goal should not be to strive to become the next Steph, but instead try to fill a Jason Terry support role within the Maverick’s system.  With the ability to knock down threes at a 45% rate like he did in his last year in Sacramento, he can l find himself a home in Dallas after a long NBA journey.

Curry is another player who stands to benefit from the structure he had it in college.  It’s impossible to get a read on any players true ceilings while they play for Sacramento, with their disarray from the bottom, up.  Next season will be his fourth year in the league, and we’re about to finally see what he can do.

Rick’s been given some young players he can potentially build on, with potential to play well in this league for years to come.  There are a lot of ways this can go, but seizing the opportunity to play in the playoffs yearly, without bottoming out like the 76ers or Lakers, is a positive aspect of the Mavs organization for the team, and for its fans.

By Russell Johnson