Report Card Grades for Dallas Mavs' 2014 Offseason so Far
An offseason around the Dallas Mavericks is never dull.
And hey, even if it was a one-in-a-million shot that LeBron might sign with the Mavs, at least they were in the conversation. That's a lot more than most teams in the NBA can say.
But the goals this offseason were simple. The Mavs need to make the most of Dirk Nowitzki's last few effective years, and that meant improving the roster. Though getting back to the playoffs last season was a big step, Dallas couldn't afford to be complacent.
And complacent they weren't.
The offseason thus far has been active, thought at times very surprising. Some surprises were good, others not so much. But good or not they'll each get one of those lovely A through F grades.
Hopefully quite a few more A's than F's.
Trading for Tyson Chandler
Even though he was only in Dallas for one season, Tyson Chandler turned into the one that got away. His defense and leadership were instrumental in the 2011 title, and then he was gone. And none of the other big men Dallas brought in could fill the void Tyson left.
Once the Mavs tasted the good stuff, going back to the mediocre stuff just wasn't going to cut it.
So the organization pulled the trigger on a big trade that saw Jose Calderon, Shane Larkin, Samuel Dalembert, Wayne Ellington and two second-round picks go to the New York Knicks in exchange for Chandler and Raymond Felton.
Dallas gave up a lot, but they also got their man. The question is, did they give up too much?
Chandler is 31 and going into his 14th NBA season. Last year was pretty rough for him as he played in only 55 games and put up the worst stats he's had since 2009-10. He didn't look himself on the court either, as his activity and focus seemed to go in and out.
But Dallas has made a habit of rejuvenating the careers of fallen angels. Be it Monta Ellis, Jason Terry or even Tyson Chandler once upon a time, the Mavs know how to get these guys back on track.
And even just a year ago, there was no way Dallas was getting Tyson Chandler for the package they offered. The Knicks might even have been insulted to get an offer like that for the 2011 NBA Defensive Player of the Year.
So this seems to be a bet from the brass that the Mavericks can yet again work their healing ways with a guy who has lost his way. If that confidence is backed up by substance, the move is a prudent one.
And considering their track record in this department, the risk is well worth it.
Missing out on Carmelo
Yet again, Dallas set its sights on a big-ticket free agent and yet again it fell short.
The pursuit of LeBron was extraordinarily unlikely to yield anything fruitful, so not nabbing him isn’t really a failure.
And in hindsight it might seem that way with Carmelo Anthony as well. It could be that Anthony never really gave Dallas a chance after meeting with them for only two hours, and really was just considering New York, Chicago and the Lakers. If that’s the case then Dallas isn’t really at fault for missing out because it was never in the game.
But that’s not what this is. The Mavs struck out again on bringing in a big star, plain and simple. They wanted Carmelo and he got away. So yes, they were in the conversation which is more than most NBA teams can say. But this is the latest in a growing list of stars who have opted to go elsewhere.
It’s unclear what this means. Maybe players feel they can’t be the face of a franchise with Cuban as the owner, maybe Dallas isn’t enough of a destination, or maybe there's some other reason stars won't decide to be a Maverick.
But at the end of the day, the Mavs fell short in their pursuit. And though their contingency plan seems to be coming together nicely, which saves this grade a little bit, a contingency plan isn’t quite as nice as the original plan.
Signing Chandler Parsons
Now before anyone goes and freaks out with the thing about how Dallas overpaid Chandler Parsons, just stop. Free agency in general is a crapshoot. Some guys go for underperceived value, some guys get way above what people think they're worth.
That's just the nature of the beast.
And with restricted free agency, the player almost always gets a little extra. If the Mavs had given Parsons market value, the Houston Rockets probably would have matched and kept him. But Dallas had to get wily with the offer to force Houston to give him up.
Exactly how wily? Well according to Rockets GM Daryl Morey, Parsons’ contract is one of the most untradeable he’s seen.
According to an article by Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle, Parsons’ contract dictates he cannot be traded before Jan. 15, 2015, and after this season Parsons must sign off on any trade he’s involved in. Additionally, the third year of his contract is a player option, meaning if he’s traded the team who gets him has limited control of him.
Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Houston valued roster and cap flexibility too much to match the deal. So as long as the Mavs don’t plan on trading Parsons, they should be fine.
Parsons is exactly the type of offensive player the Mavs could use. He can space the floor, opening up space for Dirk to operate, and his passing ability will help establish a flow on offense. And at 6’9” he has nice size on the wing.
That being said, he tried on defense. He just, well, he wasn’t very good at it. The good news is that he’s only 25 and an athletic player, so that part of his game could develop.
As long as he doesn’t play matador defense, he’ll be just fine on this team.
Coming into free agency, the Mavs had a lot of their own guys to look after. The list included Shawn Marion, Devin Harris, Vince Carter and Dirk Nowitzki, all of which were thought to be prime targets for the front office.
Unfortunately, Mavs fans have to wave goodbye to Vince Carter who signed a three-year $12.2 million deal with the Memphis Grizzlies. And after all the other moves this offseason, there doesn’t seem to be enough money leftover for Shawn Marion. Though there is a $2.7 million cap-room exception available, that would be significantly below market price on Marion.
But hey, it wasn’t all bad.
That big German guy signed an incredibly team-friendly deal. As reported by ESPN Dallas’ Tim McMahon, Nowitski’s three-year $25 million contract makes him the fourth-highest paid player on the team.
If that’s not team-friendly, who knows what is.
And though it’s not quite as splashy, Dallas also re-signed Devin Harris. He provided a nice spark off the bench for the Mavs this past season, and with Dallas’ guard rotation relatively thin, he’ll be in high demand this upcoming year.
Oh, and his deal is also team-friendly.
Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News reported that Harris got a four-year, $16.5 million deal, with the fourth year being partially guaranteed. Given what Harris provides and how the free-agent market has looked this summer, that deal is a steal.
So yes, the Mavs lost some key cogs in Vince Carter and Shawn Marion. But replacing those two with Chandler Parsons is an upgrade. And finding another good point guard at the price Harris signed for would be insanely hard.
And Dirk signing for less than $9 million per year is just crazy. Eddie Sefko also reported that both the Lakers and Rockets made near max offers for Nowitzki’s services.
He left tens of millions on the table and had just one thing to say about it.
This offseason didn’t go quite as planned.
If the Mavericks had their way, Carmelo Anthony would be coming to Dallas to team up with Dirk, and they’d all of a sudden be mentioned alongside the top dogs of the conference.
That was the best outcome.
But how events actually unfolded aren’t too bad either. Tyson Chandler is back, and Chandler Parsons is one of the biggest free agents the franchise has signed. Dirk signed for a ridiculous discount, and Devin Harris, a key cog, signed a cheaper deal too.
Considering how badly things could have gone, that’s not a bad backup plan.
Dallas should be better than last year with the Parsons and Chandler upgrades. And that’s really what the offseason was all about. The No. 8 seed was nice, but it’s about getting the most out of Nowitski’s final years. And that doesn’t mean snagging the final playoff spot and getting bounced again in the first round.
Only time will tell if that part will change, but as far as the offseason goes it has been a success.