Dirk Nowitzki, you deserved so much better, but you are now officially on a rebuilding team.
On Wednesday, Mark Cuban basically admitted that his post NBA title-plan was a failure, and this is as close as his toy will turn into a tank.
While under Cubes the Mavericks are the Monet of ignoring the NBA draft, and have misjudged free agents better than any other franchise in sports, yet they know how to pull off a trade.
Cuban may loathe President Donald Trump, but he should appreciate the title of his book, “The Art of the Deal.”
The Mavs’ acquisition of Nerlens Noel is indeed artistic.
There is nothing to dislike about shipping Andrew “I Can’t Go Tonight” Bogut and Justin “You Can Find Me Anywhere” Anderson to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for a center who was the sixth overall pick in the 2013 draft.
While this move does not eclipse the deal of Raef LaFrentz and his untradeable contract in 2003, which will forever remain the greatest Mavs’ transaction in franchise history, their acquisition of Noel is in the same strata.
They basically obtained an extended look at a lottery pick for nothing in return.
He’s got a lot of potential. He’s a rim protector. And he’s long and he can finish around the rim.
Mavs forward Dirk Nowitzki on the team adding Nerlens Noel
Other than moving “Justin Bogut,” the Mavs also shipped a protected first-round pick in the 2017 NBA draft, which if it’s in the top 18 will instead turn into two second-round selections.
The Mavs just got young at the center spot, and later in the day at point guard, too when they asked for waivers on veteran Deron Williams.
Only because the bottom of the NBA’s Western Conference is so weak the Mavs may actually make it to the eighth seed where they will be chum for the Warriors, but this franchise finally admitted what they were doing is not working.
Praise God — the Mavs finally got a little young.
Noel is 22. Leading scorer Harrison Barnes is 24. The team will start the greatest 10-day contract player in the history of 10-day contracts, 23-year-old rookie Yogi Ferrell at the point.
Dirk is 53, or thereabouts, and Wesley Matthews is 30. Guard Seth Curry is 26.
Conceding is not what Dirk ever wanted, but he’s the gold standard of NBA Good Soldier and he will deal with it. His boss was set on doing it one way, and that plan simply bombed.
The team’s post-NBA title concept, which was designed in the winter of 2011, was to rebuild this franchise around big-name free agents with Cuban’s money, Dirk’s talent, and Rick Carlisle, as the draws. The problem, famously, is those free agents only flirted with the Mavs.
In three NBA seasons, Nerlens Noel averages 10.2 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.6 blocks. He’s expected to come off the bench initially with the Mavericks.
In their place the team landed second-tier free agents, like Chandler Parsons, which by now we know is good enough to contend for one of the last playoff spots in the West.
Now they have some pieces who can develop while the Mavs look to find their next Dirk.
In Noel they have a shot at a younger Tyson Chandler, or the center they thought they had when DeAndre Jordan said yes before he said no during free agency two years ago.
Noel has 11 point-10 rebound-1.5-block per game potential; he is the rim protector the Mavs had when Tyson was here, and never replaced when he left.
Noel can be a restricted free agent in the summer, and he was a player the Mavs would have pursued. He was expendable when it became apparent the 76ers could not keep him and fellow bigs Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor all together.
Assuming Carlisle doesn’t hate The Nerlen Wall, expect Noel to become a regular here quickly.
The only rub is that, like Chandler, Noel has had his injury problems; because of a knee injury, he’s only played 29 games this season. As a freshman at Kentucky, he blew out his ACL which forced him to miss all of his NBA rookie year.
That is the only reason to dislike this deal; Bogut simply can’t stay healthy, and finding another Justin Anderson is not that hard.
Historically, the Mavs can find and develop decent wing players; they had Jae Crowder, but lost him in the regrettable deal for Celtics headcase Rajon Rondo.
What the Mavs have now is the closest thing to a rebuild since the first season of Cuban’s tenure, in 2000. Of course, the pieces on that team included a young Dirk, Steve Nash and Michael Finley. There was a genuine direction to that project whereas this feels fluid.
What the Mavs have now are young pieces with upside that can develop; what they don’t have is an adequate replacement for Dirk.
Dirk didn’t want it to go down like this, but this is how it’s got to be.
He’s in a rebuild, which may not be much fun for him but a necessity for his team.