The off-season is here. The NBA draft is coming up but this is not what most people are talking about. The collective bargaining agreement is set to expire at the end of June. Many teams are reportedly losing millions of dollars. We are being told that the owners are prepared to take a hard stand, needing to do so in order to keep the league going. Speculation is that much of the season could be lost with both sides refusing to budge. Lets hope that is not going to happen.
Owners were desiring to do away with guaranteed player contracts. But recent reports covering negotiations that they are willing to concede that point. I doubt if they will give on issues like the hard salary cap. So without knowing what the new deal will include, it is difficult to speculate about the Mavericks chances of repeating as NBA Champions next season. But what fun would it be if we didn’t try?
The Mavs are not an invincible team. There are areas that can be improved and flaws that need to be addressed. Lets take a look at a few of those issues. The first question I have is what is going to happen with Jason Kidd? At 38 years old, and having finally won a championship, it is very possible that he will decide to retire. I think the chances of this increase if there is a protracted lockout.
But Kidd also proved that he can still play. Granted he is not the player he once was. He cannot drive the lane and get to the basket like he did the first time he played in Big D. And coach Rick Carlisle will need to limit his minutes throughout the year to prevent Kidd from wearing down over the course of the season. But he can still play defense, move the ball around, provide stability and leadership, and hit the three point shot. If Kidd retires, the Mavs will need to grab another point guard, preferably a veteran who can replace some of the leadership skills at the point.
Second, can the Mavs resign J.J. Barea? Barea emerged as a star during this playoff run. He was a pivotal play without whom the Mavs would not have won the title. He is only 26 years old, one of the few young stars on this veteran team. There is no doubt that he will draw the interest of several teams. Depending on salary cap rules, will the Mavs be willing to commit huge dollars to keep him? Is Barea more important to the team than fellow free agents Tyson Chandler and Caron Butler? Who will GM Donnie Nelson, Mark Cuban, and Rick Carlisle give priority to in signing if they cannot afford them all?
Third, what about Roddy Beaubois? Remember him? He missed almost the entire postseason, first with a bad ankle, then by coach’s decision. Beaubois is still extremely raw. He is extremely talented, but must continue to develop, particularly by taking better care of the basketball and becoming more consistent. Will he? And where will he play? Will Carlisle play him at the point or at shooting guard?
Finally, I cannot help but notice the talk about Dwight Howard. Howard is by far the best big man in the game today. Phil Jackson has said that Howard would be the player he would select to build a franchise around, an impressive endorsement to be sure. Howard is in the last year of his contract. Despite his stated desire to stay with the Magic, Howard has yet to sign the extension that the team has offered him. This puts the Magic in a difficult situation.
Since the LeBron James “decision”, teams are a bit more cautious about taking the risk of letting a franchise player walk without getting something in return. See the situations with Carmelo Anthony and Deron Williams as proof. Howard is far better than either one of those players. While everyone has penciled Howard into the Laker lineup, it seems doubtful given their contract situations and lack of tradeable pieces.
Howard has mentioned that the Mavericks are one of the teams that he would want to play for. Could the Mavs work out a trade to bring the big man to Big D? Would the Mavs be able to do a sign and trade with Tyson Chandler and add a couple of other pieces plus draft picks to make a trade possible? Would the price be too high for the team to compete? I think the Mavs have to at least make an inquiry and see what the Magic want.
If there is any way to add the most dominating center in the game today to pair with Dirk Nowitzki, the Mavs have to seriously consider making that happen. Think about the difficulty those two would give opposing defenses? Want to double Howard down low? He will kick it out to Dirk for the jumper. Want to focus on Nowitzki? Then Howard will slam it down your throat. Who wouldn’t want to see that? Plus the marketing boost this would give Mark Cuban, having two of the best players in the game, he could take the Mavs to the next level, selling more merchandise and giving them a huge national following.
People will tune in to watch the Mavs, not to root against their opponent. Speaking of Dirk Nowitzki, today is his birthday. This must be the happiest birthday of his life after having just won a championship, cementing his place in NBA history in the process, and winning the Finals MVP. Things are looking pretty good for Dirk and the Mavs. But the decisions that will be made in the coming months will play a large role in determining if that will continue into next season. One thing we know; Mark Cuban will do whatever it takes to give his team the best chance to be successful. And that is all we can ask for.