In the midst of what has now turned into a four-game losing skid, one ugly truth has become more apparent than ever.
Despite Jason Terry arguably playing the best ball of his career, Jason Kidd exceeding all of his critics' expectations, and Dirk Nowitzki continuing to play like...well, like Dirk Nowitzki; these Dallas Mavericks are not good enough to contend for an NBA title.
In fact, they are barely good enough to contend for a playoff spot.
With just under half of the '08-'09 season completed, the Mavs have a mediocre 22-17 record. They are sitting at fourth place in the Southwest Conference and ninth place overall in the Western Conference, just one spot out of playoff contention.
Ordinarily, it would be premature, and even pessimistic, to suggest that it is time to blowup a team that is still very much in the thick of things. However, the Dallas Mavericks are not your ordinary team.
Just three years ago, the Dallas Mavericks finally emerged as one of the NBA's elite teams by knocking off the San Antonio Spurs and Phoenix Suns en-route to the franchise's first ever NBA Finals appearance.
Despite giving up a 2-0 series lead and ultimately falling to the Miami Heat in heart-breaking fashion, the Mavericks gave their fans reason to hope for the future.
Two years ago, the Mavericks picked themselves up off the mat and took the NBA by storm. In a season that saw the Mavs win 67 games, good for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference and the overall best record in the NBA, it looked as if nobody could stop the Mavericks in their fight for redemption.
As luck would have it, however, the only team to own a regular season winning record over the Mavs that year, the Golden State Warriors, was the same team to draw the eighth seed in the West. They became the first ever No. 8 seed to knock off a No. 1 seed in a seven-game series, and the Mavericks once again ended their season in heartbreak.
One year ago, after a disappointing first half of the season, the Mavericks made what may go down as one of the most infamous trades in NBA history. In return for Kidd, Malik Allen, and Antoine Wright, the Mavericks sent Devin Harris, DeSagana Diop, Trenton Hassell, Maurice Ager, Keith Van Horn via sign-and-trade, two first-round draft picks and $3 million in cash to the New Jersey Nets.
It was a trade that could only be considered a success if the Mavericks won, and won now. One year later, despite Kidd's superb play, the trade is a disaster.
The Mavericks are floundering. Harris is almost assured his first all-star selection and looks to be one of the great up-and-coming point guards in the league. Perhaps most disconcerting is that, with a lack of draft picks and few attractive tradable parts, the Mavericks have almost no way of building around their current nucleus.
This leaves the Mavs with only two real viable options:
The first and easiest option is to stand pat. The Mavs can stick with their current roster in hopes that something suddenly changes within the organization.
More than likely, the Mavs will continue to be a good, but not great, team. They will win some big games, lose some big games, and will likely squeak their way into the playoffs, where they will win one series at most.
The second option is harder. It is by far the more painful road. However, it is also the road that is not only best for the team, but best for everyone involved.
It is time for the Dallas Mavericks to trade Dirk Nowitzki before its too late.
For any Mavs' fan, this is the last thing that they would want to do, but it is the only thing that makes sense. He is the only name on the Mavericks' roster that has enough trade value to help this team reach long-term success.
Terry is a great player, but he is a role player. Kidd is getting up in years, and although he has performed better with the Mavericks than anyone could have ever hoped, there will always be the question about how much longer he can keep it up. Josh Howard has done just about everything he can in the past year to hurt his trade value.
What the Mavs need is good, young players to start building on the next era of Dallas Mavericks basketball. The only player on this current roster that will be able to help the Mavs get what they need is Nowitzki.
Perhaps more importantly than all of that, however, is the future success of Nowitzki. One of the hardest workers in the league, a great teammate and a leader by example, and one of the most revolutionary players ever to step foot on the hardwood, it is hard to argue that anyone deserves to become an NBA Champion more than Nowitzki does.
It has become apparent that he will not win a championship with Dallas. This team's window has shut and has probably been shut for some time now.
It is time for the Mavericks to consider trading Nowitzki to a contender, and let him have a chance at winning a title. It is time to bring in some younger players and try to build this team back up to championship quality.
Although a tough and painful choice to make, a Nowitzki trade could very well be what is in the best interest of the team, the best interest of Nowitzki, and in due time, the Dallas Mavericks' fans as well.
It is time to let Dirk go.