June 13th 2006 is most likely a date that holds little to no relevance to most people. For the Dallas Mavericks and their fans however it was the beginning of a slow and disheartening downward spiral. After all it was that night in which the Mavericks blew not only a 14 point, 4th quarter lead but it was also the same night the Mavericks blew a 2-0 series lead in the NBA Finals the Miami Heat. The Heat would then move on to win 4 straight games and the Mavericks, along with their fans seemingly have never been able to recover.
In watching the 2009 NBA Playoffs, or to be more exact the Western Conference portion of the playoffs I believe I can say one thing with near certainty – had the Mavericks not lucked into the 6th seed while the Spurs lucked in the 3rd seen the Mavericks would have gone three consecutive seasons of being eliminated in the 1st round. The Spurs were the only team with who the Mavericks had a marginal advantage over. Manu Ginobli was injured, Tim Duncan had battled knee injuries throughout the year and the Spurs bench was quite possibly the weakest it had been in years. A healthy Spurs team would have handled the Mavericks in short order but health was not on the Spurs side this year. Actually, had Michael Finley’s 3 point shot been accurately called as being after the 24 second clock had expired during a late season game against the Sacramento Kings the Rockets would have earned the 6th seed. I feel that the Rockets would have dispatched of the Mavericks in short order as well.
By a stroke of luck though the Mavericks were able to move on to the 2nd round and at the very least get that monkey off of their back for the time being. The problem is though, I also do not think that the Mavericks would have been able to win a playoff series against the Jazz, Hornets, Lakers or Trailblazers and we already saw what the Nuggets did to them and it was not pretty! That doesn’t even take into account the Eastern Conference. The Celtics, Cavaliers & Magic would make short work of the Mavericks as well but at least they should be able to handle the Eastern Conference lightweights such as the 76ers or Pistons. After being so close to becoming NBA Champions though, contending against the lesser Eastern Conference teams just can’t be acceptable!
So what can the Mavericks do to catch up to the current NBA powerhouses? Well there are a few moves that I feel can help them move a few steps closer and at the very least allow them to compete. The biggest obstacle that the Mavericks have however is being already over the salary cap which means that to make any significant addition it will take a trade.
One of the most likely and beneficial moves for the Mavericks to make is to trade for Chris Bosh. He is from the Dallas area, he will not resign with Toronto after to 2009-2010 season, and he would provide a post presence the Mavericks have been lacking for years. What can the Mavericks offer to Toronto? Well for one Josh Howard. Thankfully Howard decided to show up through the regular and postseason and regained some of his trade value. He also has an expiring contract in 2010 which is widely known as the biggest free agent offseason in NBA history. Now it might also take moving Jerry Stackhouse as well which would simply be allowing the Raptors to dump even more salary. Why would Toronto move Bosh to simply free up money for the 2010 season? Well besides obvious stars such as Dwayne Wade & LeBron James there is a point guard who is scheduled to be a free agent after next season as well – a guy named Steve Nash. Nash is not only a 2 time MVP and a fantastic point guard but he is also a Canadian hero and it would be huge for the Raptors to have a hometown player to market to their fans.
If they are unable to obtain Chris Bosh all is not lost. If I were Mark Cuban (I’ll take the success and leave the haircut behind) I would look at New Orleans for a possible trade partner. This past season the Hornets tried to trade Tyson Chandler to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Joe Smith and Chris Wilcox. Was this a move that was made to improve their team? No, there is no way it was! It was simply a move by an owner who is struggling financially to try to dump some salary. It might be as easy as moving Jerry Stackhouse and Antoine Wright to get Tyson Chandler. It would provide around $7 million in salary relief for the Hornets as though Stackhouse’s salary is over $7 million, only $2 million is guaranteed. So the Hornets trade for him and then release him. If the Hornets are seriously strapped for cash then Cuban can go after David West offering more future cap relief in the form of Josh Howard. If my dream came true Cuban would figure out a way to pry Chris Paul away from the Hornets – sign and trade of Jason Kidd maybe?!? Yes, I seriously doubt it too, but a man can dream!
Those two scenarios would be ideal as far as trades go but there are other avenues for improvements such as the draft and free agency. In the draft a lot of experts are predicting the Mavericks drafting Josh Teague out of Wake Forest. A quick, scoring point guard is definitely something that could help the Mavericks so I would be fine with that choice. The team lacked in quality shooters this season and Teague would certainly improve that aspect of their game. Sam Young, Brandon Jennings & Austin Daye are also being mentioned. I would happy with any of those players at the 23rd position.
Potential free agents for the Mavericks to target with their mid-level exception or for a sign and trade are – Zaza Pachulia, Ben Gordon, Chris Andersen, Allen Iverson, Rasheed Wallace, Jamal Crawford, Ron Artest, Trevor Ariza, Lamar Odom, Jermaine O’Neal, Hedo Turkoglu, Andre Miller, Shawn Marion & Carlos Boozer. As you can see there are a number of talented players that will be available in the offseason. Whether or not they find a way to get one of these players or another point guard will certainly determine if they resign Jason Kidd.
What is clear though and what I really hope is that the Mavericks know that they can not longer compete with this same core group of players. Something must be done and it must be of a fairly large impact. Adding role players to Dirk, Kidd, Terry & Howard will only lead to another season of mediocrity where they only hope of moving past the first round of the playoffs, if not even qualifying for the playoffs in the first place, would be based simply upon luck.