Jacob Eisenberg discusses the very real possibility of a super team in Dallas by next season.
In the off-season of 2011, Mark Cuban acted very “un-Cuban-esque.” After winning the championship, he decided to let his defensive MVP, Tyson Chandler, leave for New York. Then he allowed his lightning quick scorer, J.J. Barea, bolt for Minnesota. Fans wondered if winning the championship caused Cuban to lose his edge. In a sport where money rules, Cuban was not an owner who was typically outspent. Still, just one day after letting Barea leave, Cuban traded Rudy Fernandez, a player acquired on draft day for a hefty fee, to the Nuggets for a mere second round pick.
Was Cuban mad? He was throwing the 2011 season away! With his superstar, Dirk Nowitzki, entering the tail-end of his career, why would Cuban start selling?
As the NBA trade deadline approaches and the Mavericks struggle to match their dominance from last season, Cuban’s off-season continues to look questionable in the eyes of a casual fan. However, upon closer observation, Cuban’s decisions not only make sense but also have the potential to be brilliant. By not re-signing Tyson Chandler, J.J. Barea, Deshawn Stevenson, or Caron Butler to overpriced contracts, Cuban has put himself into a position of having a strong opportunity to sign both Dwight Howard and Deron Williams to pair with Dirk Nowitzki through free agency in just five easy steps.
Dirk, Dwight, and Deron would instantaneously supplant Miami’s as the best big three in the league. Unlike in Miami, where the Heat has three stars who play similar styles, the Mavericks would have one defensive stopper in Howard, one offensive juggernaut in Nowitzki, and arguably the league’s best playmaker catalyzing them both in Williams.
Nowitzki proved last season that he could outscore anyone on any stage when he’s called upon to do so. Howard has developed into the most physically imposing big man in the league and has the inside track toward a fourth consecutive Defensive Player of the Year award in the NBA. Lastly, Deron Williams proved in Utah that he could be unstoppable setting up a top big-man. Now he’s proving in New Jersey that he can score with any guard in the NBA as well. (Evidenced with his 57-point performance on March 4th).
So, how do the Mavericks pull off this coup and form the best triumvirate in NBA today? It’s easier than you would think…
STEP ONE: TRADE SHAWN MARION
First, the Mavericks have to address the issue of Shawn Marion’s contract. Although Marion has provided superb defense and steady offense in Dallas, his contract lasts through 2014. As valuable as he’s been to the Mavericks, Shawn Marion is expendable in the eyes of Mark Cuban if it means he can land two superstars.
Finding a trading partner should not be too difficult. Teams in need of an extra scorer would be quick to trade for Marion. One possible trade is Marion to the Lakers for Matt Barnes’ expiring contract. This would work because Los Angeles has an exception from trading Lamar Odom to Dallas earlier in the season which allows them to take on salary space. Matt Barnes is not as efficient as Marion but he is still capable of providing energy off of the bench.
Another potential trade would be Marion to Utah for C.J. Miles and Josh Howards’ expiring contracts. Marion could provide veteran leadership to the youthful Jazz team on the rise. In either of these cases, Dallas would be selling Marion for 60 cents on the dollar for the sake of clearing salary space.
STEP TWO: AMNESTY BRENDAN HAYWOOD
Once Marion is traded, the Mavericks will be able to apply their amnesty provision to center Brendan Haywood. Although Haywood is a capable starting center in the league, his contract is bloated and doesn’t factor into Dallas’ long-term plans if Dwight Howard comes to town. The amnesty provision allows teams to release one player’s salary from the team without the release counting against the team’s payroll. Because Dallas has yet to use the provision, Haywood is a perfect candidate to use it on.
STEP THREE: LET EXPIRING CONTRACTS WALK
With the contracts of Marion and Haywood out of the way, the Mavericks would have to make their most difficult move and let let fan favorites Jason Terry and Jason Kidd become free agents.
Terry and Kidd have both provided veteran guard play for the Mavericks for years but will be too expensive to keep on the roster. Rodrigue Beaubois may be ready to assume Terry’s role as the sparkplug of the rotation and Deron Williams’ presence would render Jason Kidd as superfluous.
Dallas would then have to decline the team option on the largely disappointing Lamar Odom. This move would seem inevitable regardless of Cuban’s other intentions.
After letting the free agents walk, the Mavericks would only have money committed to Dirk Nowtizki, Vince Carter, Rodrigue Beaubois, and Dominique Jones. Depending on salary space, the team could then offer contract renewals to lesser role-players like Brian Cardinal, Brendan Wright, and Ian Mahinmi as long as they are willing to sign for the veteran minimum.
STEP FOUR: SIGN DERON WILLIAMS AND DWIGHT HOWARD TO NEAR MAX-CONTRACTS
With only one significant contract committed (to Nowitzki), Dallas could sign Deron Williams, a native of the Dallas area, to a maximum contract. Signing Williams would symbolize an end to his tenure with the Nets right before they moved to Brooklyn. Without Williams on the Nets, Dwight Howard’s interest in Brooklyn would certainly wane. It is likely that Howard would feel compelled to join Williams in Dallas and form a super team with Nowitzki. Howard already has the Mavericks on his short list of team’s he’d consider being traded to.
With both players earning millions in endorsement deals in the big market of Dallas, it’s probable that they would be willing to make their contracts amenable to the remaining salary space that Dallas had to offer. (Similar to what James and Bosh did in Miami.) Whatever the stars don’t earn in salary, Mark Cuban can surely be clever in compensating for in another way. (Stocks, yachts, private jets…)
STEP FIVE: LURE VETERAN ROLE-PLAYERS
The Mavericks don’t have to be done just because they have three superstars. Dallas would instantaneously become a destination for veteran free agents in search of a championship ring. (Similar to what Shane Battier is doing in Miami.) Former superstars would be willing to take a discount and sign for the veteran minimum if it meant joining the best team in the league. This means the likes of Grant Hill, Tracy McGrady, Jermaine O’Neal, or Marcus Camby (all expiring contracts) might be lured with the veteran’s minimum to provide role-player minutes in backup.
With a potential lineup of Williams, Beaubois, Carter, Nowitzki, and Howard, the Mavericks would immediately become the most dangerous and exciting team in the league to watch.
By letting his key players leave last off-season and compromising the 2011-2012 season, Mark Cuban gave himself an opportunity to build a dynasty. I guess Cuban knew exactly what he was doing after all… I can’t that say I’m surprised.
Jacob Eisenberg writes for The Fan Manifesto. He can be followed on Twitter @Eisenberg43. Email him at email@example.com.
Originally Published on TheFanManifesto.com on 03/05/12