Offseason In Review: Dallas Mavericks

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

Extensions

  • None

Trades

Waiver Claims

  • None

Draft Picks

  • None

Camp Invitees

Departing Players

Rookie Contract Option Decisions

  • None

For teams residing in the brutally tough Western Conference the margin for error when constructing a roster is paper thin. It’s also a task that, even when making all of the proper moves, can have an incredibly short window for success. This was a lesson that the Mavericks learned quite well after bringing home the NBA title back in 2010/11. Since allowing a number of key contributors from that squad to depart, the franchise hasn’t made it out of the first round of the playoffs. With Mavs icon Dirk Nowitzki inching closer to retirement with each passing minute, owner Mark Cuban and GM Donnie Nelson decided to significantly overhaul his roster this past offseason.

NBA: Boston Celtics at Dallas MavericksOf course, before he could build around Nowitzki, Nelson first had to re-sign the 36-year-old star who was an unrestricted free agent. It was never a matter of if Nowitzki would re-sign with the Mavs but simply a question of how much of a discount he would give them. Many athletes throw out the requisite chatter about winning being more important than money, but most usually end up signing for top dollar anyway. Nowitzki is the rare player who backed up the talk by accepting a ridiculously team-friendly deal, making him an absolute steal on his three-year, $25MM contract.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is the three-year, $46.085MM deal to which Cuban and Nelson inked restricted free agent Chandler Parsons. Dallas had to overpay in order to prevent the Rockets from matching the offer sheet, but one has to think that the opportunity to stick it to Houston GM Daryl Morey, an archrival, clouded the better judgment of the Mavs here.

To say that I dislike this deal would be a gross understatement. I like Parsons as a complementary player, but he is in no way worth the amount he is being paid, and Dallas would have been much wiser to forgo Parsons and pursue Trevor Ariza instead. Ariza has a very similar offensive skill set to Parsons, but is a superior defender, and his four-year, $32MM contract would have been a much wiser long-term investment. Parsons’ contract is virtually unmovable, as Morey pointed out, and will haunt the Mavs for its duration.

Nelson and Cuban also signed a number of veteran players to fill out the team’s depth chart. Nabbing Jameer NelsonAl-Farouq AminuRichard Jefferson and Charlie Villanueva on team-friendly deals were all solid moves, and necessary if the team hopes to make waves in the west. I’m not as bullish about Nelson re-signing Devin Harris for four years and $17.563MM though. It’s too long of a contract for a 31-year-old point guard with his injury history and declining production. This is another contract that will hamper the franchise’s future moves regardless of the fact that the fourth year is non-guaranteed.

Part of the impetus to bring back Harris was the trade the Mavs worked out with the Knicks to reacquire Tyson Chandler, a player that both Cuban and Nelson acknowledged should have been retained after that championship season. To complete the deal, the Mavs shipped out starting point guard Jose Calderon, who was New York’s main target, as well as intriguing young guard Shane Larkin, who only saw limited action during his rookie season in Dallas.

A motivated and healthy Chandler can be a true difference maker for the Mavericks, who sorely missed the big man’s fire and defensive leadership. Chandler certainly seems like his old self thus far, averaging 11.5 points and 10.3 rebounds, a nice upgrade over Samuel Dalembert, who also went to the Knicks as a part of the Chandler trade.

As wise a move as it was to bring back Chandler, it nonetheless negatively affected the team’s depth and production at point guard, and Calderon’s marksmanship, ball-handling, and leadership will be difficult to replace. The trade also meant that Dallas would take on the remaining two years and $7,744,306 of Raymond Felton‘s contract. He has a player option for 2015/16, but unless Felton has a bounceback season this year after he returns from his injury and the subsequent four-game suspension that he must serve, he’s more than likely to opt in.

The Knicks’ motivation to make the trade was as much about ridding themselves of Felton as it was about obtaining Calderon. The 30-year-old Felton was one of the worst starting point guards in the league last year statistically, and he had worn out his welcome in New York. While Dallas may be able to make up for Calderon’s departure in aggregate, the Mavs may live to regret dealing away Shane Larkin, who has quite a bit of potential.

This uncertainty about their point guard situation also led Dallas to re-sign J.J. Barea to a prorated minimum salary contract for the rest of the season after the Wolves waived him just as the season began. To accommodate Barea’s signing the Mavs had to part with another young point guard with potential in Gal Mekel. With Dallas’ veteran roster and the team trying to maximize the time remaining in the league for Nowitzki, going the veteran route makes sense, but it is always a risk when mortgaging the future for the now.

So far the Mavs’ re-tooling has worked out, and the team is off to a 8-3 start to the season. With the west a bit more wide open than expected thanks to the injuries the Thunder have endured, Dallas has a chance to snag a higher playoff seeding than anticipated. But this team isn’t constructed for the long-term, with only three players who possess contracts with no options or non-guaranteed salary for next season. Chandler is set to become a free agent and there are four players (Felton, Monta Ellis, Nelson, and Aminu) who possess player options for the 2015/16 campaign. Nowitzki’s sweetheart deal will help Cuban and Nelson restock next summer, but Parsons’ bloated contract will negate some of that flexibility. It will take quite a bit of luck for the Mavs to advance deep into the playoffs this season, and the team had better hope that the addition of Chandler was worth the hit they took at the point to obtain him.

Photo courtesy of USA Today. The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of this post. Chuck Myron contributed to this post.

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