Hoyt: So you broke the news to Mr. Costanza? Could you tell the court, please, what his reaction was?
Wilcox: I would describe it as restrained jubilation. -- Seinfeld
Jason Kidd is a first-ballot Hall of Famer. In his two stints in Dallas, he did enough to one day have his jersey retired in the AAC.
That being said, his decision to sign with the New York Knicks was one of the best things that could have happened to the Mavericks. Going into his 19th season, he's become a liability, as the strengths of his game no longer outweigh his weaknesses.
At this point in their careers, Delonte West (if he is re-signed) and Rodrigue Beaubois are both significantly better options at the point. And while Kidd will be missed in the locker room, his presence couldn't convince Deron Williams to sign and any gains from his leadership wouldn't have justified taking away minutes from either of the Mavericks other two PG's.
The 38-year old Kidd no longer has the foot-speed to stay in front of the league's faster guards; in the Oklahoma City series, he started games on Thabo Sefolosha, the Thunder's worst offensive player. Nor is Kidd good enough on offense to justify leaving his defense on the floor. As Sports Illustrated writer Zach Lowe has repeatedly pointed out, he is such a non-entity on offense that teams often leave him wide-open driving lanes to the basket, daring him to look for his own shot.
He's still an excellent passer, but he no longer has the foot-speed to draw double teams and create shots for other players. His only value on the court is as a stand-still jump-shooter who makes crisp passes around the perimeter.
If you ignore the names on the back of their jerseys, he's not nearly as valuable as West or Beaubois. Both have the quickness and ball-handling ability to slash to the rim, taking around a quarter of their shots in the paint. In contrast, 95% of Kidd's shots came from the perimeter last year.
One of the most valuable parts of Dirk Nowitzki's game is his ability to force a big man to defend all the way out to the three-point line, stretching the defense and creating driving lanes for his guards. The Mavericks, in playing two jump-shooters in Kidd and Terry, too often left points on the board last season. There's a reason starting JJ Barea, who had the speed to drive to the basket, changed the 2011 NBA Finals, and it wasn't because Dallas was inspired by Barea's leadership.
Athleticism was Dallas' most glaring weakness last year; Kidd, Terry, Vince Carter and Brendan Haywood might as well have been playing in cement shoes against the Thunder. The Mavericks are already at an athletic disadvantage with Dirk on the floor, playing four more ancient players next to him is a recipe for disaster.
Rick Carlisle proved he couldn't objectively evaluate the talent of his veteran players in that series. He stubbornly stuck with Kidd and Terry to the very end, never even giving his reserves a chance despite ultimately being swept. In his press conference after Game 4, Carlisle gushed over Kidd and Terry, as if receiving tens of millions of dollars to play a children's game for a long time was some incredibly noble act that guaranteed them minutes regardless of their ability to perform.
Now he has no choice but to play his younger players.
West, an athletic 6'3 185 combo guard with a 6'6 wingspan, is one of the most underrated players in the NBA. There are no holes in his game: he can create his own shot, make plays for others (3.2 assists on 1.7 turnovers), shoot from the perimeter (36%) and defend both back-court positions. He was the second-most effective player on LeBron James' Cleveland Cavaliers teams, and he would be a huge bargain on a contract similar to what Kidd received (3-years $9 million).
Beaubois, meanwhile, is ready to have the training wheels taken off. Just because Carlisle was irrationally attached to his veteran guards doesn't mean Beaubois should be considered a failure. His per-36 minute averages were excellent in 2012: 14.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists on 2.2 turnovers.
Dallas doesn't need another PG, not when they have two guards in the prime of their careers with assist-to-turnover ratios of better than 2:1. West's injury history is a concern, but his broken thumb last season came on an incredibly fluky play. The biggest worry about Beaubois is his shaky three-point shot (28%) last season, but his 84% free-throw percentage and 36% career three-point percentage indicate there's nothing fundamentally wrong with his jump-shot.
Defensively, the perimeter trio of West, Beaubois (6'9 wingspan) and Shawn Marion would be one of the most versatile in the NBA. And if the Mavericks switched Wright, who averaged 1.9 blocks in 16 minutes a game last year, into the line-up for Haywood, they would have one of the most athletic starting 5's in the NBA.
It's not a title contender, but that team, if it can stay healthy, will make the playoffs. Haywood and second-round pick Bernard James would give Carlisle different defensive looks at the center position against bigger front-lines like the Lakers or the Grizzlies, while first-round pick Jared Cunningham would give Dallas more athleticism from the perimeter.
The team still needs to add another versatile 3/4 player like Anthony Randolph and a 2/3 like Brandon Roy or CJ Miles to provide depth with Vince Carter, but it's hardly the disastrous situation many in the media are making it out to be. All three players would also come fairly cheap and allow Dallas to maintain flexibility headed into 2013, when a young and exciting team that still had a superstar might be more attractive to free agents.