Mark Cuban has recently stated on the record that the Dallas Mavericks are not particularly interested in using the trade market to better themselves. Cuban and the Mavericks are brilliant for making this statement only under the condition that they are completely lying. The Mavericks are just coming off of a close loss to the rival Lakers, whose recent struggles foreshadow future issues in Dallas.
Lamar Odom's world was shattered when he discovered the Lakers tried to trade him to the Clippers for Chris Paul after his best season. The trade was vetoed, leaving Odom to come back to unwelcoming arms. The apparent damage done forced L.A. to ultimately trade Odom to Dallas for nothing but cap space.
The Mavericks can see the problems in L.A. correlated to trade rumors and players' egos. If Dallas is considering trading a player like Jason Terry or Shawn Marion, the fan base could turn quickly on the organization before any trade is actually decided. It's always wise to play your hand close to the vest, even at the expense of blindsiding a player.
Hopefully the Mavericks are simply maintaining anonymity, because if they are truly happy with their roster's chances this season, then the possibility of a second championship in Dallas is looking very slim.
The Mavericks have begun to improve after a slow start; after winning seven of their past nine games, Dallas is looking at a fourth-place record of 21-13. Nothing to sneeze at—a four seed in the playoffs is not the element of change necessary in Dallas; their record is not the concern either.
Should the Mavericks make any changes to their roster via trade?
It's the manner in which Dallas has finished games—the Mavericks have been finding ways to lose the games in which they outperform the victor and win the games they should have no remote chance of winning. The inconsistency in play has made it incredibly difficult to judge exactly how good this team is and how they can improve.
If there is one more lesson to learn from the Lakers, it is the danger in relying on the proverbial “switch flip” when playoffs role around. Dallas needs to be a better team right now, and they can capitalize on their rapidly improving play on the trading block.
The Mavericks are just about all inconsistent performers; with the exception of Dirk Nowitzki's recent play, any one of the Mavericks could be seen as either invaluable or worthless. Looking closely at the perceived value of each player on the roster compared to their true value, the players with the most disparity are the ones most worth shipping out.
Looking at simple +/- statistics, the players silently bringing the Mavs down become more apparent as their offensive and defensive liability is represented. Sentimentality aside, the players who shine through as weak links in the chain are Brendan Haywood, Jason Kidd, Shawn Marion and Lamar Odom (Vince Carter is nearly always a weak link, but has a no-trade clause in his contract).
Odom's flaws have been well-recognized around the league and despite recent improvement, he does not have much perceived value at this moment in time. Kidd and Marion are recent NBA champions with years of playoff experience under their belts, but they're simply in decline.
Both Marion and Kidd are core starters, and the removal of both players may harm the team's identity, so the Mavericks should look to trade one of them with Haywood and possibly a bench contributor like Rodrigue Beaubois to get a better player in return.
The Mavs do not need a blockbuster trade, but can instead acquire a multitude of near-stars to support Dirk Nowitzki in his last couple of runs at another title.
The players around the league worth a look are young backups sitting behind even younger stars; ranging from Ramon Sessions of the Cavs to Michael Beasley of the Timberwolves, these players would instantly contribute with a growth in minutes and would at least match the poor production of Kidd and Marion.
These changes would also improve the cap space of the Mavs to make an even stronger run at a title in 2013.
The bonds of a championship team are its greatest weakness the following season, and Mark Cuban would be wise to recognize this sooner rather than later. The Mavs are not dominating teams left and right and should look into breaking the feast or famine aspect of their roster.
The Mavericks know they need to change things around, but have few players that are even able to be traded (nine including the untouchable Dirk) and need to consider restructuring in spite of last year's success.