NBA Free Agency 2012: Why the Dallas Mavericks Are a Playoff Lock with OJ Mayo

Nikhil DilipCorrespondent IIIJuly 17, 2012

MEMPHIS, TN - MAY 13:  O.J. Mayo #32 of the Memphis Grizzlies reacts after making a basket and drawing a foul from the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game Six of the Western Conference Semifinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs at FedExForum on May 13, 2011 in Memphis, Tennessee.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Combo guard OJ Mayo recently tweeted that he will sign with the Dallas Mavericks, and though this offseason did not go as expected for Dallas, the team is still a lock for the postseason with Mayo in fold.

Yesterday, the team traded for point guard Darren Collison from the Indiana Pacers (via ESPN). The team claimed the recently-amnestied Elton Brand off waivers on Friday to bolster its frontcourt (via ESPN).

Though Dallas won the NBA Championship in 2011, general manager Donnie Nelson and team owner Mark Cuban decided to relinquish key pieces, including reigning Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler, Caron Butler, and JJ Barea. The Mavericks front office knew that with an aging core, including now 34-year-old Dirk Nowitzki and now 39-year-old Jason Kidd, the team would not be able to compete for much longer, so the front office gambled and saved their money for the 2012 offseason, when Chris Paul and Dwight Howard, who eventually opted in to their respective contracts, were expected to join Deron Williams in the free-agent class.

The team attempted to sign Williams, a Dallas native, last week, but Williams opted to return to the Brooklyn Nets.

Though the team seemed to strike out in free agency, it made several shrewd moves that will put it atop the NBA standings soon again.

The Mavericks' backcourt will boast Collison and Mayo, two of the best young guards in the league. Collison emerged on the NBA stage as a rookie, staring 37 games for the New Orleans Hornets while Paul was out with an injury.

New Orleans dealt him to Indiana, where he was the starting point guard for two years. However, the Pacers re-signed sixth-man George Hill, who was acquired for the draft rights to Kawhi Leonard, the 15th overall pick in last summer's draft, on draft night. It now appears that Hill is the starting point guard of Indiana's future, so they traded him along with Dahntay Jones to Dallas for Ian Mahinmi.

Mayo was the subject of numerous trade rumors over his four seasons for the Memphis Grizzlies, and though he finished second in Rookie of the Year voting to Derrick Rose in 2009, the former third overall pick has seemingly regressed every season. Much of this is due to reduced playing time, as the team designated Tony Allen as its starting shooting guard after he signed with Memphis in 2010.

Head coach Rick Carlisle will likely start Shawn Marion and Dirk Nowitzki at the forward positions. The two were key pieces on the team's championship in 2011. Marion played an instrumental role in limiting LeBron James to 18 points a game. Nowitzki was named the NBA Finals MVP after averaging 28 points and eight rebounds over the course of the playoffs.

Dallas signed center Chris Kaman to a one-year deal, and the former member of the Los Angeles Clippers and New Orleans Hornets will probably start at center. Though Kaman is 30 years old, he was an All-Star just two years ago and can still provide a team with 10 points and seven rebounds on any given night.

The Mavericks were seventh in the Western Conference last season and will likely hover around that same position for the 2012-2013 campaign.

Though teams such as the Minnesota Timberwolves and Golden State Warriors have improved in the West, the Mavericks are still in the playoff hunt next season.

The Mavs have perimeter scoring threats in Darren Collison and Dirk Nowitzki (who we all know still owns a beautiful perimeter shot), a penetrating guard in OJ Mayo, perimeter defense in Shawn Marion, consistency at the pivot position in Chris Kaman, and a solid post presence off the bench in Elton Brand.

Though its core is certainly aging, there is no question that Mayo makes the Mavericks a lock to make the playoffs next season.