Offseason In Review: Dallas Mavericks

December 14 2012 at 8:53pm CDT By Chuck Myron

Hoops Rumors is in the process of looking back at each team's offseason, from the end of the playoffs in June right up until opening night. Trades, free agent signings, draft picks, contract extensions, option decisions, camp invitees, and more will be covered, as we examine the moves each franchise made over the last several months.

Signings

Trades and Claims

Draft Picks

  • Jared Cunningham (Round 1, 24th overall). Signed via rookie exception.
  • Bernard James (Round 2, 33rd overall). Signed via minimum salary exception.
  • Jae Crowder (Round 2, 34th overall). Signed via cap room.

Camp Invitees

Departing Players

Rookie Contract Option Decisions

It didn't take long for the Mavericks offseason to become about Plan B. Dallas-area native Deron Williams announced his intention to re-sign with the Nets on the third day teams could negotiate with free agents, and that reshaped the entire summer. Regardless of owner Mark Cuban's contention that the team is better off without D-Will, or whether Cuban submarined his team's efforts to sign the point guard by skipping their meeting with Williams to tend to his reality show "Shark Tank," the Mavs had to move on.

The post-Williams strategy appears similar to what governed the team's moves before last season, when they dumped multiple parts from their 2011 championship team to clear enough cap space to go after Williams. The Mavs have a preponderance of expiring deals that set the team up to make a run at another star next summer. It's a risky move, considering Dirk Nowitzki is 34 and already showing signs of breaking down, having missed the first month and a half of the season following arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. And, as I outlined in August, it will be tough for the Mavs to make the numbers work if they want to go after Dwight Howard, the biggest name scheduled to hit free agency this summer. Chris Paul would be a little bit easier to swing, but there's no guarantee either of them are willing to turn back on their apparent satisfaction in L.A. A flurry of rookie-scale extensions at the October 31st deadline this year knocked many of the cheaper would-be restricted free agents out of the market, so the Mavs might just be better off sticking with the team they assembled this summer.

The key piece has turned out to be O.J. Mayo, who was signed for a relative pittance after the Suns, who appeared to be Dallas' primary competition, took a pass on him. It's not often you can acquire a former third overall pick just a few months shy of his 25th birthday, but that's what the Mavericks did, and he's become the team's leading scorer in Nowitzki's absence. Mayo had been relegated to a bench role by the Grizzlies, who went so far as to fail to tender him a qualifying offer this summer, eschewing their right to match other offers for him. While that may have been as much about cost-cutting as anything else, it reflected a down market for Mayo, despite the fact he posted career highs in PER (14.7) and win shares per 48 minutes (.094) last season. Cuban, a devotee of advanced metrics, no doubt took notice. While odds are slim that Mayo will exercise his player option for next season, the Mavs would at least have to be considered one of the frontrunners to re-sign him if they want to do so.

Dallas signed Chris Kaman to a one-year deal that gives him close to twice as much as Mayo is getting this season. That doesn't seem like an overpay, especially considering the more lucrative long-term deals that other teams handed out to JaVale McGee and Omer Asik, far less polished centers. Kaman is quietly off to a strong start, increasing his scoring average to 14.2 points per game, second on the team behind Mayo, and posting a career-high 17.9 PER. The true test for Kaman will come when Nowitzki returns and the two big men are forced to mesh, but the Mavs GM Donnie Nelson has expressed confidence about their fit. 

The Mavs created the cap room necessary to sign Kaman when they amnestied Brendan Haywood. They also used the amnesty system to pick up Elton Brand from the Sixers. Between Kaman and Brand, the Mavs have plenty of size inside, just as they had when Haywood and Tyson Chandler teamed with Nowitzki for the title-winning squad in 2011. It's a little surprising that another team didn't put in a higher bid for Brand, who put up 11.0 points, 7.2 rebounds and an 18.0 PER as the starting power forward for the Sixers last season, and it's even more puzzling considering teams didn't have to commit to him for more than one year. He's one reason why the Mavs haven't completely fallen apart with Nowitzki out.

Trading Lamar Odom to the Clippers also represented a fortunate turn for Dallas, since the team would have been on the hook for his partial guarantee of $2.4MM if they couldn't find a trading partner. Considering Odom, who spent his lost year in Dallas pining for a return to L.A., probably wasn't amenable to the vast majority of NBA cities, Nelson and company wisely negotiated with one of the L.A. teams. 

The Mavs thought they had found a starting point guard in the trade with the Pacers that netted Darren Collison, but he's already been replaced in the starting lineup by Derek Fisher. It's early yet, and most of Collison's numbers are up over last season, so it might be premature to say this didn't work out for Dallas. It seemed to make sense to go with a 25-year-old over incumbent Jason Kidd, who's 39. Kidd probably wouldn't have minded a role as Collison's backup, but the Mavs clearly had no interest in matching the three-year deal for more than $9MM he got from the Knicks. Kidd's surprisingly effective play in New York this season isn't helping matters, but even if Collison doesn't work out, the move was low-risk. Collison will be a restricted free agent this summer, and Dahntay Jones, the other player the Mavs got in that deal, can also come off the books in unrestricted free agency, even if he's somewhat overpaid at $2.9MM this season. Acquiring both Collison and Jones was preferable to the four-year, $16MM deal the Pacers gave Ian Mahinmi as part of that trade. 

While the team's parting with Kidd was somewhat acrimonius, Cuban said recently that he would have liked to have kept Jason Terry around but "couldn't make the numbers work." He's likely referring to the number of years, which was three, that Terry got from the Celtics as opposed to his annual salary, which averages $5.225MM over the life of that deal. If the Mavs had convinced Terry to take a one-year deal, however, they probably wouldn't have signed Mayo, so parting ways with Terry was probably for the best as far as Dallas is concerned.

The Mavs probably aren't going to win the title this season, and they'll have difficulty upgrading the roster next summer. Before the season, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle likened his team's chances to those of a wild-card team in baseball and football that counts on a strong playoff run to overcome an up-and-down regular season. Those teams don't emerge nearly as often in the NBA, but the 2011 Mavericks are probably the closest example of that kind of team the league has had in recent years. Nowitzki, Mayo and Kaman give the team plenty of offensive firepower, and they have the size that's traditionally been necessary to win in the postseason. That may have changed when the small-ball Heat broke through last season, but the Mavs are hoping the 2013 playoffs have more in common with 2011 than 2012.

Luke Adams contributed to this post.

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