There is no other sports city around that is home to more aggressive owners than Dallas, the home of NFL owner Jerry Jones and the NBA’s Mark Cuban.
Cuban has always been a business over sentiment kind of owner, and a visionary in many ways. His ideas for the Mavericks franchise haven’t always been popular, but they have always been effective in keeping the franchise moving forward. Now, his philosophy is about to drastically change the Mavericks once again.
His decisions to not re-sign Steve Nash in 2004, Tyson Chandler in 2011 and Jason Kidd in 2012 showed that he can be ruthless at times and is a believer in playing the free agent market.
The current Mavericks lineup is a testament to a vision for the life of the franchise down the road. No, the current roster is not built for the long term, it’s built for this season and this season only. It is his way of addressing the expectations from the club’s fans that postseason basketball will be played at American Airlines Center for a twelfth consecutive season without jeopardizing the salary cap freedom he’s set the franchise up to have next summer.
Cuban knows that the window of time remaining for his stud horse, Dirk Nowitzki, is limited. Over the last 12 years, Cuban and the Big German have spelled success for the franchise with the Mavs making two NBA Finals appearances and winning one. Now, a new era of Mavs basketball beckons and few owners in sports could ring it in with more style as next summer his business plan will come to fruition.
If you examine the way the team’s contracts are set up, Cuban has basically created a situation where the Mavericks will have the cap space for a massive rebuild in the summer, most likely starting with the team’s weakest position, point guard.
In a league where point guards rule the day, the current Dallas squad has little to offer at the present time outside of Darren Collison. Two point guards back up the former Indiana Pacer, but neither has stepped up to the plate to give Rick Carlisle the reliable backup he’ll need to have the Mavs be a real title threat.
Collison and first choice back up Rodrigue Beaubois are restricted free agents at the end of the season giving the Mavs the option to keep them if they like. Delonte West was waived earlier this week and the Mavs have team options on third string shooting guard Dominique Jones and 35-year old Vince Carter at the end of the season.
Chris Kaman, Dahntay Jones, Elton Brand, Eddy Curry and a number of bench players who probably won’t see much of the floor have expiring contracts essentially allowing the Mavericks to rebuild with enough cap space to acquire a new center piece as Nowitzki plays a swan song season next year.
If Dallas can bring in recognizable star such as a Josh Smith (free agent), Andrew Bynum (free agent), Monta Ellis (restricted free agent) John Wall (RFA) or Brandon Jennings (RFA) or any piece of a championship puzzle that can be acquired in a trade, then Cuban will have effectively transitioned the Mavericks from the Dirk Nowitzki era to the next without skipping a beat.
For teams around the NBA, there is little that is more frightening than Mark Cuban with money to spend, but sure enough next summer he’s going to have a lot of it. For this year’s squad, the 2012-13 season is essentially a tryout with failure to make the postseason ensuring a player’s future lies elsewhere.
The Mavericks have the pieces in place to make the postseason this year. A strong frontcourt combined with experienced playmakers makes them a tough opponent for anyone, but health concerns could plague the team throughout the campaign. If Dallas can stay healthy in the second half of the season, they could surprise anyone in May.
But no matter what happens, this is the end of the line for the Mavericks as we know them, a team built around its star power forward. If opposing team’s think that next summer could be scary, they’ll just have to take a look at what Dallas has committed to the 2014-15 season at this point to see just how much fun basketball’s most aggressive owner could have in a market he knows as well as anyone.