Since deliberately dropping a basketball atomic bomb on his NBA title-winning roster the one promise Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has made good on is that his team will be flexible. The Mavs are the Leonardo DiCaprio of the NBA — they commit to no one, unless, in the Mavs’ case, it’s a tall German guy.
Cuban’s master plan may actually land the likes of Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan and Portland guard Wesley Matthews, but even those additions are going to keep his toy where he does not want to be, which is right in the middle.
Dirk’s greatness and the ability of coach Rick Carlisle to do his job well created the illusion this team is “closer” than it is.
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What the Mavs need Cuban simply cannot buy — they need a young Dirk. They need the next Dirk. The only way is to draft him. The only way to do that is to rip it down.
Mark, blow it up. Really blow it up. It’s over. It was great. It was a lot of fun, but as long as this is the route the team insists to take the Mavs will remain in NBA purgatory. They will compete, pull a few upsets in the regular season, flirt with getting the sixth seed in the West and get dumped in the first round.
Would you rather do that, or go for it and draft the big fish that you cannot sign as a free agent?
DeAndre Jordan is a big human being dressed as a big fish free agent. He is a younger version of Tyson Chandler, who left the Mavs on Wednesday to go to the Suns for a four-year deal. The same for forward Al-Farouq Aminu, who got stupid money from Portland.
Jordan can rebound, defend, block shots and finish but he has zero genuine offensive game. If he doesn’t have a supporting cast around him offensively, he will be exposed as a defensive specialist.
And that’s fine when that’s all you need out of a player who will get a max contract, but the Mavs will need him to be something he is not. That is usually the danger of free agency in any sport. The money says Big Money Guy X will be more than what he was with his other team.
Basketball-wise, the Clippers are the ideal fit. Jordan is surrounded by scorers and a point guard who can get him the ball.
Jordan is not a go-to scorer, and let’s talk about that free throw percentage. He makes Shaq look like Dirk at the foul line; Jordan’s career free throw shooting percentage of 42 percent makes him a such a liability that late in games just having him on the floor is a problem.
Until the NBA changes the Hack-A-Bad Foul Shooter rules, teams are going to put him on the line whenever they “need a stop.”
Matthews is a nice shooting guard who can score 14 to 16 points a night, but he has shades of Chandler Parsons to his game; he needs someone else to create that space.
If Jordan and Matthews sign, and a couple of other ish veteran free agents are added, the Mavs will field yet another roster that can grind out an above-.500 record, and maybe fend off the Suns and Pelicans for the last seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
This is akin to the NASCAR driver simply turning laps in 30th place because every lap means more money in his pocket,the PGA golfer who is thrilled to make the cut because it widens his wallet.
Even if the Mavs add these guys, there should be no thought of a title.
The only way the Mavs are going to get back to NBA heaven is to go through NBA hell — more commonly called “the lottery.”
There is a perfectly good reason why Cuban would rather admit he is wrong than to exercise the tank option — there is no guarantee the “blow it up” plan works. The Mavs went this route for the entire decade of the ’90s with no success until they convinced Dirk to leave Germany for Texas.
The Milwaukee Bucks, New York Knicks, Charlotte Bobcats/Hornets, the Sacramento Kings are all stuck there. Same for the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Mavs looked like they were there in 2010-11, only they shocked everybody by assembling the most unlikely playoff run of the century. And Dirk was in-his-prime 32.
He just turned 37 and has the look of an aging veteran that knows it’s about that time.
It was great. It was a lot of fun, but it’s also over.
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Twitter: @macengelprof and The Big Mac Blog