Dallas Mavericks Must Improve From Within
By Rami Michail
Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
With the Dallas Mavericks stumbling and the February 20th trade deadline getting closer and closer as each day passes, many wonder what moves the Mavs may/can make.
The Mavericks biggest needs are at the center position and production from the reserves.
The Mavericks sport Samuel Dalembert, Brandan Wright, DeJuan Blair, and Bernard James at the center spots.
Free-agent bigs consist of the soon to be waived Andrew Bynum (UPDATE: Waived), Kwame Brown, Jason Collins, former Mavs Desagana Diop, Drew Gooden and Sean Williams, Hilton Armstrong, and Mavs’ training camp invitee Fab Melo.
Outside of Bynum are any of these players an upgrade over Dalembert, Wright and Blair? Is James worth waiving to bring one of these bigs in to just sit? Though Brown, Collins, and Diop all have big bodies that could come in use against the likes of Dwight Howard, Tim Duncan, and so on, it’s unlikely the Mavs would pursue such options.
It’s just as unlikely the Mavericks will find success on the trade market for a big. Unlikely the Houston Rockets would want to send Omar Asik to a division rival for what the Mavericks have to offer. The Washington Wizards currently find themselves in the playoff picture in the east and it’s unlikely they’d want to part with Marcin Gortat. The Milwaukee Bucks are loaded with bigs (Larry Sanders, John Henson, Ekpe Udoh, and Zaza Pachulia), but why would they part with their young bigs and Udoh and Pachulia aren’t exactly upgrades. With the Toronto Raptors recent surge, it’s unlikely they’d part with Amir Johnson unless they get a very attractive offer.
Other notable centers are Andris Biedrins (Utah Jazz), Aaron Gray (Sacramento Kings), and Nazr Mohammed (Chicago Bulls). None really worth bringing in unless we’re handed them.
Tyson Chandler returning seems more and more like a fantasy than actually a possibility. The Knicks at the least would ask for Shawn Marion or Monta Ellis, Samuel Dalembert, and either Vince Carter or Wayne Ellington, and that’s just to get the contracts to add up.
We looked at what the Mavs should do with Dalembert. The Mavericks interior issues begin with him. If he’s able to bring consistency and stability to the starting center position it would go a long way for the Mavericks. Wright and Blair would be allowed to play to their strengths and go up against second units. Surprisingly the 6’7″ Blair sports the best defensive rating on the team (102), but it’s obvious that he has far more suited for a reserve role. His defensive rating takes a large hit from reserve (98) to stater (107). As a starter teams are able to exploit his lack of height with bigger and more physical bigs.
Now to the wing position.
Monta Ellis, Jose Calderon, and Shawn Marion for the most part have been better than advertised. Marion is still the teams best wing defender, and now has shown the ability to shoot the 3-ball (33.8%). Calderon has brought stability to the point guard position that the Mavericks sorely lacked last season, and Ellis has exceeded all expectations and may finally become and NBA All-Star. Though Ellis, Calderon, and Marion are also at fault for the Mavericks struggles, the bench is just as much to blame.
Wayne Ellington who was originally signed to be the starting shooting guard, has not shown the ability to stay obtain a consistent role or minutes. Ellington a career 37.9% 3-pt shooter is only shooting 28.6% this season. Vince Carter alongside Marion is the one Mav who may be able to fetch a descent offer, but with the Mavericks chasing the playoffs as they did last season, it’s very unlikely either is parted with unless the Mavericks upgrade at that position.
Now the real issue for the Mavericks on the court and in the market lies with the likes of Jae Crowder, Shane Larkin, Ricky Ledo, and Gal Mekel. Though Crowder has shown some improvement, he has not shown the consistency on offense that the Mavericks need from him. Larkin and Mekel have been taking turns as the backup point guard, and neither has been able to hang onto it. Ledo has spent majority of the season in the D-League to develop.
The lack of consistency from the first and second year players has not just hurt the Mavericks on the court, but also in the trade market. Why would a team offer a high quality player to the Mavericks for young talent that has not shown much on the court?
Why would the Philadelphia 76ers (Evan Turner) and Chicago Bulls (Luol Deng) (UPDATE-Deng has been traded to Cleveland Cavaliers) part with their starting forward for these young Mav players when they can most likely find much better offers from other teams?
Free-agent wings consist of former Mavs’ Delonte West, DeShawn Stevenson, Josh Howard, Marquis Daniels, and Dahntay Jones, but would the Mavericks really consider any of these guys to bring back? Richard Hamilton, Mickael Pietrus, Devin Ebanks (Mav D-League), and Shannon Brown are also on the market, but again, are these guys really considered an upgrade and worth having to waive Ledo or Mekel?
With the West so competitive and the East so bad, trades will be even harder to come by due to many teams still within the playoff picture. If the Brooklyn Nets continue to slide, it would be to no ones surprise if they try to sell, but it would come to no surprise if teams line up for the likes of Kevin Garnet, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry. Utah’s Richard Jefferson, Orlando Magic’s Arron Afflolo, Charlotte Bobcats’ Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Ramon Sessions and Ben Gordon, and Bulls’ Kirk Hinrich and Mike Dunleavy are some names to watch out for as names that teams may pursue.
Before you suggest Carmelo Anthony and Rajon Rondo, if Dirk Nowitzki isn’t in the trade, most likely the Knicks and Boston Celtics will just hang up.
We all know Mark Cuban’s stance on Nowitzki,
"Dirk defines our culture. When your best player, no matter how old, is the first one in the gym and the last to leave, and works the hardest and encourages guys the way Dirk does … that has a value that goes far beyond what you see on the court."
Nowitzki will not be involved in any trade talks.
As well as Ellis and Calderon have played, not many rebuilding teams are interested in a 32 year old pass first point guard on a 4-year deal. Ellis has been a great fit alongside Dirk, but teams have seen how he fares when he’s the teams best player, unlikely teams will take that risk.
Outside of Nowitzki, Wright may be the Mavs’ best trade bait. Wright and Nowitzki are such a great fit alongside each other, and we’ve already seen the impact Wright has on this team, so unless the Mavericks find a starting or star level player for him, it will be hard to pry him away from Dallas.
It’s may be safe to say that the Mavericks’ biggest acquisition this season will be Devin Harris. Harris should be able to bring stability and defense to the guard position that the others haven’t.
Though Harris will find himself in a reserve role, how many games have been lost just because of a couple of possessions? Harris won’t be the big name many would hope for, but his impact will be felt as was Wrights’.
Even if Cuban once again announces that “‘Bank of Cuban’ is open,” it’s unlikely we’ll see a big move.
UPDATE: Cuban regarding making a trade and importance of Dalembert
"We’re always exploring, but it’s also harder to do deals now just because of the rules. But we’re always wide-open. We’ll do the deal that we need to do to accomplish what we need to accomplishIf we have the Sam of (Friday, Dalembert had 9 points, 8 boards and 3blocks), we’re good. If we have the Sam that isn’t as on key as he was night, it’s different."
The Mavericks must get Dalembert on track, Harris healthy, and hope the rest of the pieces fall in place for this roster to make a playoff push.
If not, the Mavericks will have wasted another great season from the 35-yr old Dirk Nowitzki.