Coming off a 49-win season a year ago and adding Tyson Chandler and Chandler Parsons in the process without really losing much, I thought the Mavericks were primed for a Western Conference run.
Not that I figured a trip to the NBA Finals was a real possibility because I didn’t, but with the playoff shortcomings of the Houston Rockets and L.A. Clippers, and a balanced roster plus one of the league’s best head coaches, a Conference Finals trip would not have been a surprise to me.
But of course, a full season later and a disaster of a Rajon Rondo trade (one that I thought would pay huge dividends), Dallas finished with 50 wins, a seventh place finish and their ‘star’ point guard never putting on the uniform again.
And to cap it off, their best offensive scorer, Monta Ellis, will likely opt-out of his contract and seek a bigger deal.
Their key off-season acquisition Chandler Parsons may need microfracture surgery and they dealt a first-round pick for a player (Rondo) that was an awful rental.
So what is this team even going to look like next season?
- Chandler Parsons – $15.3 million
- Monta Ellis – $9 million (player option)
- Dirk Nowitzki – $8.3 million
- Raymond Felton – $4.5 million (player option)
- Devin Harris – $4 million
- Bernard James – $1.1 million (qualifying offer)
- Al-Farouq Aminu – $1.1 million
- Gal Mekel – $947 thousand
- Dwight Powell – $845 thousand (team option)
I think the basketball world would be absolutely stunned if Ellis didn’t opt-out of his team bargain contract and seek something larger on the open market.
I also think the basketball world would be stunned if Raymond Felton didn’t opt-in and take his incredibly overpriced $4.5 million salary for next season for what would very likely be his last in the league making above the veteran’s minimum.
And then of course Dirk Nowitzki has a nice contract at $8.3 million next season but let’s face it, there have been plenty of times where he played to his salary this year and will be 37 years old entering 2015.
The only bright spot about the Rondo trade is that the 2015 first-round pick was conditional and had to fall between four and fourteen in the lottery, which it obviously will not. It is also top-seven protected in 2016 in case next year turns out to be a complete disaster, which could be a possibility given all the roster changes.
So the Mavericks will get to keep their first-round pick this season and select 21st overall. They will also lose Tyson Chandler, Rajon Rondo and likely Monta Ellis from their 50-win campaign so there’s a decent chance that selection at 21 will be playing quite a bit.
They will also be looking at a salary cap of roughly $43 million and approximately $22 million in cap space if you factor in their draft selection.
A couple of prospects I like for Dallas in their draft-pick range are Frank Kaminsky out of Wisconsin, Bobby Portis out of Arkansas and Montrezl Harrell out of Louisville.
Harrell is the smallest of the three at six-foot-eight but certainly has the biggest motor and may be more of a guarantee of being a good pro simply because he’s someone that will work every second of every game. Effort is most definitely a skill. Just look at Kenneth Faried.
Bobby Portis probably has the most pure upside of the three with his all-around skill set. And Kaminsky’s offensive skills are somewhat similar to Dirk’s and could be a nice mentor to have for a few seasons.
As for free agency, with the rumors of LaMarcus Aldridge wanting to return home to Texas, Dallas should and will go after him hard. Considering the roster situation though actually landing him is far from a guarantee.
There have also been reports of DeAndre Jordan wanting to play for Dallas next season. Jordan of course played his college basketball at Texas A&M so perhaps another potential homecoming in the works. Dallas obviously cannot afford both Aldridge and Jordan.
Signing Jordan would mean letting Tyson Chandler go, which is a no-brainer. Quite frankly, Dallas shouldn’t bring Tyson back regardless. Tyson is a 32-year old center much better suited to play with a contending team. And in their current state, the Mavericks are far from a contending team.
Youth movement needs to be a priority for Dallas this off-season and the years to come. I understand Cuban wants to give Dirk a team that can at least compete and make the playoffs for his final two years, but the reality is signing above-average players just to be a low seed in the playoffs is not doing the organization any favors.
Cuban will never do this, but if they strike out completely with the big guns this off-season, a full tank job this season in an effort to get a top pick in next year’s draft would be a home run.
There are three premiere prospects expected to enter the 2016 draft – Thon Maker, Ben Simmons and Skal Labissierie.
Just out of pure respect for Dirk, Cuban would never do that to him. And I get it. But the only hope next season for Dallas is to land an Aldridge or Marc Gasol because if they don’t, they’ll likely be shopping for discount prices with the likes of Omer Asik, Wesley Matthews and Jeremy Lin.
Good luck if that happens.