What if the Dallas Mavericks Invested in the Draft, Second-Tier Free Agents?
What if Mark Cuban and the Dallas Mavericks didn’t swing for the fences every year and instead, invested in draft picks and second tier free agents?
Imagine if the Mavs had spent their money, time, and most importantly, draft picks on ascending, developmental players instead of random salary-relieving throw aways that usually get stashed overseas. Imagine if instead of constantly pursuing big-name players, they gradually accumulated young, coachable assets to supply Rick Carlisle with an athletic, yet capable group of players to put around Dirk.
There are countless options the Mavs have had over the last five offseasons that they have completely overlooked due to their obsession with big names.
Everything began to come apart the summer after winning the title. With J.J. Barea, Tyson Chandler, Caron Butler, and Peja Stojakovic headed for free agency, Mark Cuban pulled the trigger on Jordan Hamilton, a forward out of Texas who was quickly shipped to the Nuggets in a salary dump trade. Just four selections later came Jimmy Butler, a two-time all-star who represents Team USA during these current olympics. The Mavs could have also looked to retain J.J. Barea, who at the time was proving his worth as a capable rotation guard.
The following offseason was a nightmare for the Mavs. Their relentless pursuit of Dwight Howard came up embarrassingly short, but the Mavs had done absolutely nothing to prepare for their inevitable strikeout when it came to the draft.
Not only did the Mavs trade away Tyler Zeller on draft night, they also passed on Jared Sullinger, Terrence Jones, and Evan Fournier. But worst of all, Dallas passed on Draymond Green a whopping four times on draft night, with just Jae Crowder to show for it.
The free agent haul also yielded just O.J. Mayo, Chris Kaman, and Elton Brand. Had Dallas spent its resources in a more conservative, team building way, the Mavs would have been in position to push their roster into a more competitive position for a marquee free agent. But they also would have positioned themselves to continue their steady accumulation of young talent.
In 2013, the Mavs made several major mistakes that once again were because of an all out effort to pursue the top free agents. After another big swing and miss, the Mavs at least recovered slightly better than they had in previous years.
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After agreeing to contracts with Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon, Dallas returned to the playoffs and pushed the eventual champion Spurs to seven games. Even though the Mavs only achieved the eighth seed, the success from 2013 is fool’s gold, considering the players the Mavs did not pursue.
Not only did they select Kelly Olynyk on draft night and once again trade him like Tyler Zeller and Jordan Hamilton, but they also could have selected Rudy Gobert, Andre Roberson, or Dennis Schroder, who’s German background would have formed an instant bond with Dirk Nowitzki.
As the Mavs brought in their annual group of veterans in free agency, they passed on numerous up-and-comers capable of making a huge difference for the team. While the Mavs came within minutes of adding Andre Iguodala, they could have prioritized him from the second free agency opened, which would have sealed the deal on Iguodala possibly within the first day of free agency.
Wesley Johnson would have been a solid option for Dallas, considering the Mavs’ need for athletic 3-and-D wings. Dallas also should have kept Anthony Morrow around, who despite barely playing after a midseason trade the year before, possesses a unique shooting touch which spreads the floor better for Nowitzki.
2014 looked very, very promising for the Mavs. Tyson Chandler was no doubt a huge upgrade over Sam Dalembert and Chandler Parsons‘ arrival looked like a huge addition to an already scary offense.
Ellis, Parsons, and Nowitzki formed a terrifying offensive trio that started the year on record pace. Adding Jameer Nelson and Al-Farouq Aminu looked like the finishing touches on a deep, dangerous team. But of course, the Mavs went for the star power and shipped off the promising young talent between Brandan Wright and Jae Crowder, along with draft picks, for Rajon Rondo. Dallas pretty much got it right that offseason, but they ruined it the very next summer.
While the DeAndre Jordan fiasco was purely bad luck, the Mavs lost Aminu’s athleticism and defense less than five minutes into free agency to the Trailblazers. Dallas once again prioritized the top free agent while overlooking the precious young talent available to them.
While the Mavs certainly had no chance at Marc Gasol, Draymond Green, or Kawhi Leonard, there were other options for Mark Cuban. Iman Shumpert, Tristan Thompson, and Lou Williams were all cheaper options that Dallas would be glad they have around this year.
This most recent summer, the Mavs realized how much they had screwed this up. With absolutely no assets to trade for draft picks or players on other teams, they were again forced to offer max contracts to Mike Conley and Hassan Whiteside, who they predictably missed on.
The Mavs were left with nothing. Dirk, J.J. Barea, Devin Harris, and Justin Anderson were the only rotation players under contract for the Mavs. The Warriors gladly dumped Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut off to the Mavs after their shocking signing of Kevin Durant. Mark Cuban also brought in Seth Curry, who seems like the kind of young asset the Mavs have needed for so long.
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Now that Dirk is very near his retirement, the Mavs have finally figured out what they have needed to do to build their roster. Barnes and Bogut will keep Dallas competitive, but there is absolutely no way they lead towards championship contention this year, and possibly years to come. The Mavs are in an impossible spot, and it all started on July 1st, 2011.