Thursday, July 09, 2009

The Mavericks Summer Plan Unfolds

shawn-marion-matrix-wallpaperIt would appear whether we are in love with this idea or not, the Mavs are going to get this Shawn Marion deal done this morning. Mark Cuban was serious about being aggressive this summer and this represents a pretty bold stroke. After a few days of coming to terms with this happening, I think I do like this deal on the surface - because the Mavericks are clearly better today when they were yesterday. If that is the bar that we use to measure this, then this summer is a complete success.

Marcin Gortat (assuming that is as done and dusted as we are led to believe) makes the center position clearly superior to anything we have seen in years. Imagine the premise of Erick Dampier as a back-up center! Now, he makes sense on the roster.

Shawn Marion gives you many things you didn't get at small forward last year on many levels. He defends well (although I don't believe quite at 2005/2006 levels), he rebounds very well, he scores, he scores above the rim, and he certainly will be on the receiving end of 100 lob passes from Jason Kidd this season.

I think the draft gives you a young PG or two to develop, but I would imagine barring something pretty shocking, with Kidd and Barea you were well squared away there already (for the short term).

So, what gives me pause? Why do I say things like, "I like the trade, but I don't love it"?

Well, a few concerns:

1) - I have never come to terms with the insanity of Marion's final days in Phoenix. With 2 years left on his deal for $34 million, he routinely complained and pouted because the Suns would not give him the 3-year, $60 million dollar extension he so desired. Could you imagine Marion with 3 years left on his deal for $60 million? Talk about immovable. And to imagine a guy with $34 million coming his way where he is neither the best player (Steve Nash) nor the 2nd best player (Amare), and complaining? Let's just say I have a rough time understanding his logic and ultimately, his forcing the Suns to trade him. At best, he appears delusional and at worst, he could be one of the great ego-maniacs in the NBA (with a pinch of sorriness).

2) - He is 31 years old. As someone who has gone to great lengths to suggest that our basketball team is becoming very old, I would likely be a hypocrite if I didn't see this as another "older" addition. On the other hand, if you were going to get someone over 30, I would imagine a human jumping-jack like Marion will appear a bit younger than he is when he is going right. He plays above the rim. He will not be 32 until next May. If you are playing in a 3-year window, you are getting his 31, 32, and 33-year old seasons for this run (and 34 and 35, too). Not a horrible gamble, but it is worth noting that the Mavs have just added more "experience".

3) - Who is willing to swallow some pride and take a lesser role? Marion is a forward. Dirk is a forward. Josh is a forward. They have all been to All-Star games. There are times where they can all be on the court at the same time, but who can handle the ball well of that trio? Ummm. Who can guard a legit shooting guard (Kobe or Manu)? And no, Josh has proven he cannot, unless you don't mind his foul trouble putting him on the bench 6 minutes into each half. So that means if those 3 are on the court at the same time that you would need Kidd to guard Kobe or Manu - at his age, I would not pull this trick out of the bag very often - until May.

My point is, that if this is your 2009-10 Dallas Mavericks, then I still see a very odd mix of players where you still do not have that elusive shooting guard who can play on both ends of the court. Either Jet Terry gives you great offense and no D, or Antoine Wright (who appears gone in this trade) or Quinten Ross and friends give you D, but no O - save for the wide open, spot-up 3. I do understand that Denver, for instance, had a shooting guard who starts and doesn't shoot much (Dahntay Jones - who ironically just signed with the Pacers), but they have a PG who shoots. I think it would be very difficult to have Kidd, Wright/Ross, and Gortat/Dampier all on the floor at the same time and have a prolific offense over the long haul with 3 guys who don't score.

If only they could take one of their two starting small forwards (Marion and Howard) and flip him for a both-ends-of-the-court shooting guard, right? The summer isn't over.

Are they better? Yes. Are they improved enough to win their division and thus top the Spurs and Hornets over 82 games? I like their chances better than I did. Are they good enough to win the West and then a title? I certainly still hold doubts.

And I said when the summer began, I did not want them compromising their ability to play in the summer of 2010 if it did not make them a strong Title contender. So why did they do it?

They didn't.

David Lord of demonstrates in this essay why the Mavs are still in the mix in 2010, and cannot trade Dampier before then ...Must read material, if you ask me.

I would bring some text from that piece over here, but there is no way to summarize what he wrote in a few paragraphs. But, the bottom line - assuming all of his ducks are in a row, and they usually are - is that the Mavs can have their cake (get Marion and Gortat and get in this thing right now) and eat it, too (Still be players next summer in a very interesting market) via a sign-and-trade with Dampier next summer to land a very large fish.

That story he wrote on Tuesday was interesting then. But, Lord's piece got even better on Wednesday, when word broke that the NBA Cap is going way down next summer . Really? So, those teams that thought they were set up with cap space to bid might be mistaken.
The shrinking salary cap could also affect the potential spending sprees of teams that have geared themselves for the expectant 2010 class. For example, the Knicks would have just under $24 million in committed contracts if they do not retain the restricted free agents David Lee and Nate Robinson and do not shed the contracts of Eddy Curry and Jared Jeffries.

Even if they signed James, they would have little left to offer a second franchise-type player. If the cap drops to $50 million, the Knicks would have only about $6.4 million to offer another player.

What does all of that mean? Cap space may be impossible for many - and the sign and trade may be the way players move next summer. And two expiring deals like Howard and Dampier could certainly equate to gold for Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson. Especially Dampier's which losing a bench center at that age for a Top 20 NBA talent (who knows, Top 10?) would not hurt your team at all.

So, in conclusion - Marion is not without warts. The Mavs don't completely make sense in the traditional basketball mold of having all of their positions covered. And most importantly, they could still have another strike up their sleeve.

But, wow. This is not going to be another summer of "liking our guys" and standing pat. This is looking at the team that was beat handily by the Nuggets and trying to figure out what could change the unchangeable. Cuban and Donnie are dealing. This is exciting stuff.

And even more exciting, they appear to be ready to deal again in 2010.

A few quick hits on the Mavs believed to be involved not nicknamed the Matrix:

Devean George: Traded to Toronto, and I am not concerned about that at all. He really owned a bag for much of his stay, and the fact that he was included in this deal knocked it up a half letter grade for me.

Antoine Wright: It appears he was also traded to Toronto. This gives me pause, because I cannot promise Ross is a better defender at the 2. I thought Wright had some guts and some upside, but now he will be off to Toronto, remembered best for his Game 3 moment with Carmelo and the non-call.

Kris Humphries: Big, muscular, and tough bench guy (yes, and white!) who likely spells the end of Brandon Bass. I would be lying if I claimed I could tell you much about him. But energetic is used to describe his fine work (Gortat, too!). I guess I need to watch more Raptors games.

Greg Buckner: We know him and his game, but the word is that he will be released here after he is given some money. So, don't go buy a Buckner jersey.

No comments: