After what was supposed to the summer of enticing Deron Williams, the Dallas Mavericks went back to the drawing board (or the waiver wire, as it were), and rebuilt on the fly yet again. While the Mavericks aren't likely to be as good as they were even last season, they'll still go as far as Dirk Nowitzki takes them. Luckily for Dallas, there's nothing that indicates Dirk can't carry that burden. What's that? Knee scope, you say? Last week, you say? Oh. Oh my.
Dirk is expected back in action in a couple of weeks. He's come back from injuries on the early side of the timetable before, so he very well could do it again. And Dallas better hope he does. Dirk is absolutely the heart and soul of the Mavericks.
That isn't to say I dislike the other moves the Mavericks made this offseason. They made some interesting moves, but most of the moves they made are lotto tickets. The Mavericks have a bunch of guys that they just hope live up to their reputation or their contracts. But it's all fine, because every move Dallas made this offseason fits into a very simple philosophy. Dallas, and Mark Cuban specifically, believe in flexibility. Cuban has been the most vocal of the doomsayers regarding the new CBA. Cuban has laughed at the contracts handed out by other teams, and has refused to throw money around if it doesn't make sense based on how he interprets the new rules of the game. Every notable offseason move for the Mavericks was a move made with a mindset of winning while maintaining flexibility.
The Mavericks brought in free agent center Chris Kaman on a one-year contract. Kaman is no longer the player he once was, and the contract may be viewed as a mistake depending on how the season goes, but it's a one-year gamble. Similarly, Dallas picked up Elton Brand after he was amnestied by the Philadelphia 76ers. Brand's poor reputation was based more on the size of his contract than his on-court production. While Brand's production certainly slipped since his days with the Clippers, he's still a good defensive player and is suddenly a bargain for the Mavericks. Even if age catches up to Brand and he declines further, the Mavericks are paying him $2.1 million for one year.
The Mavericks then traded Ian Mahinmi to the Pacers for Darren Collison and Dahntay Jones. While Mahinmi is a nice piece, Dallas didn't want to pay him. Instead they get Collison, a 25-year old point guard with upside. The other benefit is that Collison, in what is becoming a common theme, is in a contract year. Jones probably won't be much of a factor, barring another inexplicable career resurgence, but he is also in the final year of his contract.
Dallas' biggest free agent acquisition was O.J. Mayo. Mayo was unceremoniously allowed to leave the Grizzlies, and then found the free agent market to be lukewarm. He never got near the amount he was hoping to get, and should enter this season with a chip on his shoulder and something to prove. Mayo is signed on a two year deal worth just $8 million total. The second season is a player option. Either Dallas gets one year of an inspired Mayo, or two years of the same Mayo we've come to expect. Either way it's a win-win, and neither direction hinders Dallas' long-term flexibility.
When viewing Dallas' moves through the lens of balancing wins and costs, the Mavericks had a very nice offseason. You look at the roster and you can easily see the Mavericks performing worse than last year. They could definitely be at risk of missing the playoffs entirely. But the roster has the upside to outperform expectations. And if it doesn't, Dallas will once again remodel the entire roster around Dirk.
It's Dirk's team, and Dallas will continue to swap the parts around him. They'll do this year-by-year until they finally land another star. That's what the flexibility is for. To allow Dallas to land another star, ideally before Dirk is done.
Even if it doesn't work, at least you can see the plan.