Few teams have found themselves out of the playoffs just 2 years removed from an NBA title, and the Dallas Mavericks are one of those few teams. 2 years ago, the Mavericks upset the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals to win their first ever NBA Championship. With Dirk Nowitzki at the helm, Tyson Chandler anchoring the middle, and J.J. Barea slashing and attacking the basket, the Mavericks seemed to be a team poised to make at least a couple more good runs at a championship. They all seemed to be buying into head coach Rick Carlisle’s system that focused on playing good defense as the foundation, which was a drastic shift from their days with Don Nelson, where the goal was to see which team could first reach 130 points. But now, they seem to be worlds away from being the team that they were in 2011, and with Dirk Nowitzki 2 years older and 2 years closer to retirement, many feel that the Mavericks are closer to re-building than they are to contending again.
But Mavericks owner Mark Cuban doesn’t see it this way at all. Recently, Cuban told ESPN Dallas that he has a 2 year plan to get the Mavericks back into the mix as a legitimate title contender. The plan largely revolves around freeing up cap space and luring a big name free agent like Dwight Howard and Chris Paul to come play with them for this season, and then the following season having enough cap space to add other necessary pieces to make a run at a title.
I admire Cuban’s commitment to his franchise and determination to get his team back into the mix, but I’m highly sceptical of his chances of pulling this off. Chris Paul is very happy in Los Angeles with the Clippers, and the Clippers just fired Vinny Del Negro to basically satisfy Chris Paul. I don’t see Paul leaving Los Angeles any time soon. As for Dwight Howard, he could be lured to the Mavericks given his bad experience with the Lakers, and his desire to join a contender. If the Mavericks can come off as a viable contending team with his presence, Dwight Howard’s chances of joining the Mavericks could be pretty good. The problem is does adding Dwight Howard really make them a contender? Howard is a bit of a head case, and hasn’t improved his game as much as everybody in the NBA thought he would over the past couple of seasons. Still, Howard would provide a much needed upgrade in the paint in terms of defense and with Dirk Nowitzki being more of an offensive piece, Howard could fit in nicely off of his defense alone.
But even if Howard does improve in a Mavericks uniform, there is more that the Mavericks will have to add to make their team contenders again. I don’t want to entirely doubt Mark Cuban here and say that he can’t get his team back to their 2011 state in 2 years, but I will say that if he wants to do it, he’s going to have to do more than just pull a few strings. He’s gonna have to find guys do to the jobs once done by J.J. Barea, DeShawn Stevenson, Jason Kidd, and Jason Terry, which won’t be an easy task.
Ben Parker–Follow me on twitter @nba_lord
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