The Dallas Mavericks have retained their two key free agents, Dirk Nowitzki and Brendan Haywood, and they don't have to waste any more time kidding themselves about the likes of LeBron James, Dwayde, Josh Johnson and Chris Bosh. Now what?
Jermaine O'Neal is headed for Boston. Mike Miller is going to be the fourth ring in the Miami Heat's three ring circus. Miami managed to dump Michael Beasley's contract. Dallas has reported interest in Rasual Butler and Raja Bell for a shooting and wing defending role. They also need a second center to pair with Haywood, as Erick Dampier could be a challenge to get back after his contract asset is used, particularly since Dallas had to publicly assure Haywood that he will be the starter during the recruiting process.
But the big question for the Mavericks revolves around what they will do with their largest trade asset. Several teams with cap space have been left partially to completely empty handed, and some will be moving fast to find consolation prizes. Dallas can offer someone a 'get out of $13 million free' card, but did they hang onto it for too long? Can they really do better than Luol Deng or Kirk Hinrich and a mid-first?
In taking on Beasley, Minnesota might have moved a step closer to moving Al Jefferson, but one would think that all of those teams holding losing lottery tickets are going to be a little more interested in knocking on the Minnesota Timberwolves' door. David Lee has been dealt to the Golden State Warriors, so he is off the market. While Golden State taking on Lee's big contract could make them a little more interested in moving some salary, they aren't going to move Monta Ellis just to be rid of his contract, and they probably aren't going to do that with Andris Biedrins.
Wise money should probably be on Dallas using Dampier to acquire someone who hasn't been widely discussed publicly, but Mavs fans everywhere are dying to know how it will be spent and whether it will live up to the hype. For this team to look appreciably different from the current roster - one that no one mistakes for a championship contender - Rodrigue Beaubois is going to have to become an NBA star...immediately, or something valuable has to be brought in for Dampier and some other pieces.
We know that they will be active. They always are, at least behind the scenes, and even after the big free agents have left the board, they are trumpeting the fact that they are still on the prowl for a big move this summer.
But the Mavericks know they have more work ahead of them.
"We're definitely not done," Nelson said Thursday night. "We're in the bunker with fixed bayonets.
My preference? Unless a Jefferson or Biedrins can be had without giving up key players, my hope would be that they finally find a pure two guard. The roster is certainly missing that complementary star to Nowitzki, but it really only has one huge void, a real live top notch shooting guard.
I threw the word 'huge' in there since I know that many aren't going to love a point guard situation with a 37 year old, two young, raw combo guards, and a JJ Barea - none of whom can even come close to keeping a good point guard in front of them defensively. They won't feel warm and fuzzy about an interior where your defensive alternative to Haywood is, I suppose, Eduardo Najera, and we are counting the time since the Mavericks have had a low post scorer in decades. But those are what they are for this team. Kidd is the starting point guard, and Beaubois is too promising to corner into a small role. Haywood and Nowitzki need to be on the court for the majority of the game because of their respective offensive and defensive importance, so role players will have to fill in for their weaknesses.
But this roster does not have a front line shooting guard. Heck, it doesn't even have a real, live shooting guard, unless Matt Carroll or DeShawn Stevenson count. Jason Terry is still a nice enough player, but at age 33 he creates more matchup problems for Dallas than he causes for the opposition. He will be here for 2010-11 and possibly the last year of his deal, but he can only be effective for 33-plus minutes in certain matchups and only when he is running hot. And his role is very close to being taken over by Beaubois. He may have a couple of rough years in front of him as a still useful player who can't really fill a role on this team but who is too expensive to move to another one.
Caron Butler and Shawn Marion, like Josh Howard before them, are too big and don't quite have the correct skill set to thrive at the two. Marion just isn't very good any more, and Butler is evolving into a less explosive athlete. These guys, like potential free agent target, Rasual Butler, are simply threes.
That leaves the young guys, Beaubois and rookie Dominique Jones.Jones is almost big enough to be legit at the two spot, but 24 teams did pass on that prospect in what Donnie Nelson considered a draft shy of 24 first round caliber players. We will get our first look at Jones today, as the Mavericks begin their summer league schedule (3:00 CDT, NBATV/TXA 21), but until he shows otherwise, Jones must be considered an intriguing long term option while he sits at the end of Carlisle's bench - at least for one year.
Beaubois is the most likely person in our universe to be Dirk's long missing (since Steve Nash left, to be exact) sidekick while Dirk still has enough left in the tank to lead a team deep into the playoffs. To describe his play in some games last year, a new, wonderful word encompassing adjectives like 'dynamic,' 'electric,' and 'dangerous' would have to be created. Something like 'dynangerectric.' But for all of the things he can be, he is not a conventional two. He is a weapon, something that Rick Carlisle can boldly wave around to scare opponents. He is the x-factor without a clear position.
If nothing major is added on the perimeter, Carlisle's best option may be to pair Kidd and Beaubois (and he is already talking about starting Beaubois), and mix and match defensively. And that is fine for this year, sort of, but it falls into the category of making due, not loading up for a championship run. Beyond this season, Beaubois is still thought of by this organization as its potential point guard of the future. He will have his opportunity to begin to show that ability today, as he will run the summer team, and later this summer, as he is expected to run France's national team. The best case scenario would be that Roddy becomes so good at the point that Jason Kidd is a mentor and caddy for him, while the club uses its assets to bring in a quality two over the summer.
I hope that Donnie Nelson & co. find themselves a shooting guard this month, but I suppose more than anything else, I'm dying to know what they are going to do with that Dampier contract that we have heard so much about and on which some have pinned very high hopes.