If you just looked at the Dallas team from last year, the team that just got bounced in four, you would be forced to conclude the Mavericks have a lot of needs.
Number one would be center, the more frustrating because the Mavs had the answer to that problem and let it get away (and there is zero chance the Mavericks will be starting 2012 with a better center than they had in 2011, despite what may happen in the summer of '13).
Second would have to be an athletic 2-guard. Dallas' (often) starting 2-guard last year, yes, was the only player on the Mavericks who occasionally drove, but let's just say that it's not 2003 and leave it at that.
However, of the 15 players on their roster last year, they have exactly 8 who are currently signed on for another year, one of which is Lamar Odom. Two are centers, one is a PF, two are SFs (though one is Kelenna Azubuike), and two are whatever Rodrigue Beaubois and Dominique Jones are (a 2-guard forced to play point and a terrible basketball player, respectively). The odds are 50-50, too, that one of those centers, Haywood, will be amnestied. Whatever needs the Mavericks had this year, they'll probably have more next year.
To my mind, this constitutes a problem. If Dallas would like to re-up Ian Mahimni this probably won't be too hard but Ian is, in a few words, brutally bad at times. If they want Kidd around for another year or two at the minimum, that will probably be possible, but no point guard out there scores less often. They could easily get Brian Cardinal back to back-up Dirk, but unless his three-point shot also returns, there really isn't that much point.
For all I know, the Mavericks plan to make Kelenna Azubuike and Yi Jianlian a big part of what they're doing, going forward. For all I know they're planning to amnesty Marion, not Haywood, because while Marion is a much better player, he plays a position that's more easily replaced.
There is an an additional and under-reported issue to all this. Delonte West and Vince Carter were relatively decent players willing to sign with the Mavericks for one year for different reasons, but they both wanted to play with the defending champs. It's not quite as enticing to play with the seventh seed who got swept, and exposed, and has even less impact players in hand.
Here's what we're looking at: Mark Cuban would love to sign just Deron Williams, let the team be terrible next year, and still have plenty of cap space for the summer of '13. Those of you who have been paying attention know that Erick Dampier was supposed to be Dallas' big cap savings, then Tyson Chandler was. Last summer, Cuban turned down the opportunity to acquire Al Jefferson for nothing before eventually acquiring Chandler in order to keep cap space.
The problem is that if Cuban doesn't sign Williams, he doesn't have a team to offer to any free agents who might be willing to take a discount. Conversely, if he doesn't have a team to offer Deron Williams, it's not 100% clear why the Mavericks should be more enticing than the Nets. Better organization? Of course. Better pedigree? Absolutely. But Williams is 28 and Dirk going to turn 34 in a month.
Williams says he wants a contract early, and the Mavericks are much more sellable to free agents if they can get him first, so that seems like the obvious first move. However, I don't trust Cuban to be willing to put together a "win now" presentation and that's really the only selling point he has: they can't wait too much longer on Dirk's career, they don't have anybody else, and they will be offering less money and fewer years than Brooklyn.
However you look at it, the Mavericks face an enormously tough rebuilding challenge in the offseason that only gets tougher if Cuban is committed to hanging on to cap space, as he likely will be. Moreover, beyond Deron Williams, the free agent crop isn't exactly inspiring.
Dallas will have a top 20 pick for the first time in a good while (#17). With that, as well as some cash on hand, we'll see how flexible they can get to address more needs than they've had in the last decade.