With the Mavs talent base around Dirk Nowitzki rapidly diminishing, they need to do everything in their power to keep their new SG around for the long haul.
It's very possible nothing much good will happen for the Mavericks this season. Dirk hasn't started practicing and he can't play until he practices. If the Mavericks are 7 or 8 games below .500 when he gets back, it's pretty likely they'll miss the playoffs. Especially as he'll need some time to play himself into shape.
Still, this could be the year Dallas finally finds a number two scorer to help Dirk out.
OJ Mayo has come back to earth a bit, lately. I think it's his ankle which, since he's been doing a lot of damage in isolation and seems to have less and less help each game, is capable of really messing with his game. Some people might say it's reversion to the mean and there's no doubt that his shooting percentage from three was bound to come down to Earth.
But the truth, sad or otherwise, is that the Mavericks have never had a second scorer this gifted in Dirk Nowitzki's tenure. Sure, since he's tweaked his ankle, he hit 13 or less in three straight games. Sure, his inconsistent free throw shooting is an extreme variation from what Mavericks fans are used to.
But anyone who saw him in OT against the Warriors knows what a quantity Dallas has stumbled upon. Three sub-par games in a row or no, OJ remains both a gifted three-point shooter and a gifted isolation scorer. There are nights when he is the only Maverick player who seems like he deserves to be in the NBA.
Dallas must keep him. If Mayo keeps this up, he may command as much as 10 or 12 million dollars on the open market. Sacrifice, rather than making people content with less, has a way of hardening their desire for more. Two straight miserable Mavericks years will have Mavs fans eyeing a max player or bust even more so than they do right now.
It is true, too, that paying OJ 10 million will complicate the Mavs ability to get a marquee free agent next summer. However, it's not as much as you would think.
Next year, Dallas has less than 40 million in committed salary. Adding 10 million on top of that probably would end the Mavericks quest for a marquee free agent next year, as the salary cap has been roughly 58 million for the last few years.
But did you know that they currently have zero dollars in committed salary for 2014? The only contract they had going beyond 2013-2014 was Brendan Haywood's. The only commitment they do have is a team option on Jared Cunningham.
And the short, sharp truth the Mavs don't want to face is that their swings and misses at big name FAs have been doubly devastating because while paying Dirk and Marion's salary, it's almost impossible to build a good team in the mean time. They had to get down so low to make a pass at Deron Williams, the end result is what you see here. They can't keep any expendable players, and they can't keep even a mid-first round draft pick.
That math should have been added on to the feasibility of making a big play, and it wasn't. Instead of signing Derek Fisher, how much might the Mavs quest for a backup PG right now be helped by having young talent like Corey Brewer, Rudy Fernandez or Jordan Hamilton? How much might their position be helped if, rather than trying to entice Williams with the money that five or six teams could also have offered, they'd tried to have the non-Dirk talent to make him think it was worth it? Hell, even Jason Kidd didn't think the Mavericks were worth signing with this year.
It is not time for the Mavericks to stop hoping for a savior. At this point in Dirk's career, there's nothing else they can do. But when the price for that attempt, year after year, is these kinds of teams, that's the surest possible way to repel free agents anyway.
Nor does it look like any of the marquee free agents for next off-season are available, or if they are (i.e. Andrew Bynum), the juice might not be worth the squeeze.
If Dallas is willing to spend just one year away from the great free agent hunt, they can sign OJ to whatever the market bears, sign Dirk to 10 million for the 2 or 3 years he wants to stick around for his next contract, do whatever seems right with Marion at that point and start 2014 with 20 million in committed salary to two great players and 38 million to fill out the rest of the roster.
The Mavericks cannot afford to let another great player go in hopes of a greater prize, while becomes less and less of a desirable destination the more they wait. This is the right move, and the right player, despite his flaws.