The NBA’s trade deadline came and went with little pop and the Dallas Mavericks elected to do nothing. The Mavs have settled into playoff contenders rather than title contenders. It’s cute, nice, harmless and a little sad.
Mavs GM Donnie Nelson told reporters two hours before the trade deadline the team preferred to go with what they have, which is a roster that has earned a 29-26 record. Best case scenario is the Mavs earn the fifth-seed in the Western Conference for a first round matchup against the Los Angeles Clippers and good friend DeAndre Jordan.
Nelson did say the team had inquiries regarding rookie Justin Anderson and young forward Dwight Powell but that was about it. Nelson and the Mavs prefer to keep them both.
The Mavs will not be advancing past the first round. Given the way the Western Conference looks, this is a Warriors, Spurs and Thunder party anyways. This is not an endorsement of the Mavs’ moves over the past three years but acknowledging the large gap that exists between contenders such as the Cavaliers, Warriors, Thunder and Spurs and everybody else; the gap has made a great many teams largely irrelevant this season.
Mark Cuban’s decision to gut the roster after the 2011 NBA title has resulted in the pursuit of big-name free agents who spurned his money. After players such as Deron Williams, Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan said no to Cuban, he immediately went into spin mode to claim that his team was better off without those guys, anyways.
History says he is right, but what does that say about his zeal to want these guys in the first place?
Deron Williams, 2012
This was the guy Cuban gutted his team to sign in the summer of 2012. Instead, D-Will chose to sign a five-year, $98 million deal with the Nets. His stay with the team was unremarkable and it was clear that after a series of injuries he lost the burst at the rim that made him so difficult to cover.
He also has the look of a guy who is comfortable being comfortable. Being The Man is not something he wants to be. Playing ball and cashing big checks are OK.
Last summer, the Nets cut Williams and he signed a two-year deal with the Mavericks. He averages 14.1 points and 5.4 assists per game for the Mavs. He’s a nice player and was never worth destroying a title team to pursue.
Dwight Howard, 2013
Now in his third season with the Rockets, he averages better than 16 points and 11 rebounds per game. The Rockets tried like hell to trade Howard before the deadline but reportedly wanted the sun and the moon in return.
Since he arrived in Houston, the Rockets lost a wonderfully competitive seven-game, first-round series against the Trail Blazers in 2014 and advanced to the Western Conference Finals in 2015.
This season has been a wreck. Head coach Kevin McHale has already been fired and the team is one game under .500 and in eighth place in the West.
The Rockets are Howards third team and by now it’s apparent he is just a guy who finds reasons not to play and has a hard time getting along with teammates unless everything is about him. That is not going to happen when James Harden is a teammate.
You can’t fault Cuban for pursuing Howard’s talents but as a guy he’s a disaster.
DeAndre Jordan, 2015
Cuban had DJ in the bag until he changed his mind to remain with the Clippers. This season he averages 12.1 points, 14.1 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game. Jordan is a rather large child and I would not trust him in big games but those numbers are hard not to love. The guy changes things defensively in a way few man can in basketball.
The Clippers are 36-18 and in fourth place in the West but are also a bit of a mess. The team reportedly kicked around trading Blake Griffin before the deadline.
With all three of these players saying no, Cuban was left to overpay for new his BFF, Chandler Parsons, a nice player in Wes Matthews and acquire the underrated Zaza Pachulia.
It has resulted in a nice team that contends for the playoffs rather than title. It’s cute, nice, harmless and a little sad.