Mavericks must make all the right moves in offseason to climb back to playoffs

Posted Sunday, Apr. 21, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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The best thing about the embarrassment of not making the playoffs this season is that it’s made the Dallas Mavericks turn up their management gear to a higher level — not that it wasn’t high before.

But finishing this non-playoff season with a 41-41 record just shows that the Mavs are only an average franchise. And the Mavs pride themselves on being much, much better than average.

Thus, the climb back to the top — the Mavs were NBA champions in 2011 — starts with making prudent decisions, drafting well and being savvy with the trades they make and the free agents they acquire.

The Mavs can ill-afford to make any boneheaded mistakes involving players this summer. If they do, they might find themselves right back here again next season — watching the playoffs while 16 teams vie for the NBA’s top prize.

“We’ll turn over every rock in an attempt to get where we need to be, which is not where we are right now,” said Donnie Nelson, the Mavs’ president of basketball operations. “We always like players that are veterans; players that are smart and have the ability to raise our collective IQ is also something that’s important to us.”

The Mavs badly need a rim protector and dominant rebounder, and they need a big point guard who can create his own shot off the dribble. They had those two years ago in Tyson Chandler and J.J. Barea, but those two players declined management’s one-year contract offer.

Now, the Mavs find themselves in that same hole again, and they have to shell out some extra bucks to get out of it if they’re really serious about trying to get back to the level they were in 2011.

The financial burden for the franchise falls on the shoulders of owner Mark Cuban since he’s the one who has to write the checks.

“I’m not into winning the summer and looking good and all that kind of stuff,” Cuban said. “We’re doing a lot of things that we think will make us better on the player evaluation side that we’re not going to talk about but we’re investing in.”

In addition to hoping to land free-agents-to-be Dwight Howard and/or Chris Paul, the Mavs have their own free agents to address.

The Mavs’ free agents include O.J. Mayo, Darren Collison, Mike James, Chris Kaman, Elton Brand, Brandan Wright, Anthony Morrow, Rodrigue Beaubois and Josh Akognon. Mayo, who had a player option that could pay him $4.2 million next season, has decided to opt out of his contract, while the Mavs own a team option on Vince Carter.

“We do like a lot of the guys in that locker room,” Nelson said. “Our feelings is that yes, there are guys that we’d love to have back. But we’re in an upgrade league. That’s what we are and it all depends on what’s out there, and obviously every player in that locker room is going to have decisions to make, too.”

The same holds true for the Mavs.

“I’m looking forward to this summer because once again it’s another pivotal summer, and it’s a really important time for us,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “Anything that I can add to what our ultimate plan is, I will.

“Right now evaluating guys who are going to be available in free agency — not just the high-level guys — but the role players. We’ve got to have a list of all the guys that we like from top to bottom, and at the right time we’re going to have to try to pluck those guys and make them Dallas Mavericks while we can.”

Dwain Price, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @dwainprice

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