NBA Playoffs 2012: 5 Top Priorities for Dallas Mavericks After First-Round Sweep
After their first-round exit, the Dallas Mavericks will be at home for the remainder of the NBA playoffs. Joining only the Miami Heat, the team that beat them in the 2006 NBA Finals, the Mavs became only the second squad to get swept in the first round following a championship the previous season.
Naturally, the head-scratching from fans and players alike is set to begin. However, there were unmitigated circumstances and differences between this year's team and the one that won the championship just last June.
The loss of major contributors Tyson Chandler and J.J. Barea hurt. So did the ineffectual play of Lamar Odom, who basically stole his $8.9 million salary from Mark Cuban this season. And the 66-game schedule certainly played no favorites with the champs, who were the oldest team in the league.
Even with this failed title defense behind them, there are more questions than answers than ever before for Dirk Nowitzki and Co. Here are the top five priorities this offseason to help Dallas return to championship form as soon as possible.
5. Re-Sign Rick Carlisle
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This might seem like a no-brainer, but Mark Cuban has once before let a quality coach with a great regular-season record leave town (Avery Johnson). However, Johnson was on the short end of the NBA Finals stick, and also the coach of the infamous 2007 team that lost to Golden State in the first round.
Rick Carlisle has brought a defensive identity to the club, he's always quick to protect and appreciate his players no matter the situation, and he's the best fit to run this team in the near future.
Sure, he has flaws (see Rodrigue Beaubois' playing time), but he has a championship ring, which is a hard thing to do as an NBA coach. One of the first things Mark Cuban should do is make sure he gets Carlisle a new contract, one that reflects the quality work he's done in his first four seasons with the club.
4. Retain Their Draft Pick
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That pick was then sent to the Houston Rockets in the Derek Fisher-Jordan Hill swap, so Dallas will eventually have to answer for the pick. Right now, though, the Mavs have the option to keep the pick, since they are in the 17th slot heading into the NBA draft.
With the current roster situation, the need for some young talent to match up with teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder and the fact that this is one of the deeper drafts, talent-wise, in recent memory, Dallas would be wise to keep the draft pick and give it to Houston another day.
Right now, every position on the roster except power forward is in need of an immediate upgrade, so why not try to fill some of those voids with a young player? From center to shooting guard, this team hasn't had a young star since drafting Josh Howard in 2003. This could be the draft to reverse that.
3. Allow Jason Terry to Walk
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I'll be the first to say it: I love Jason Terry. Even though he spent five years in an Atlanta Hawks uniform, most people will remember him for the jump shots, big-mouthed statements and airplane arms he made famous in Dallas.
As tough as it is for some to fathom, the right move is to allow Terry to find a place of employment elsewhere, especially considering his recent comments about how Game 4 against the Thunder could be his last ever in a Maverick uniform.
Considering his $11.5 million salary this season, Terry likely still counts himself in the upper echelon of guards in the NBA. He might be, but not at that price. Dallas has $44 million over the next two years invested in Dirk Nowitzki, and it can't afford to retool and keep that kind of weight on the roster.
Also, it's time to find out if Rodrigue Beaubois and Dominique Jones can play. It was fine leaving them on the bench when Terry was a fourth-quarter assassin and the team was a title contender, but now this is the chance to allow the young kids to get consistent time on the court.
Terry is an integral part of the history of success in Dallas. His jersey will likely hang in the rafters, alongside Dirk Nowitzki, Brad Davis, Rolando Blackman and Jason Kidd. However, his time in Dallas needs to end now before the Mavs give him a contract they regret.
2. Get Rid of Lamar Odom/Brendan Haywood
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The photo to the left might not be technically accurate, but it's an accurate description of these two players' seasons for the Dallas Mavericks. Haywood couldn't keep anyone in front of him long enough to stay on the court, and Odom left his game in LA, still in the yellow and purple he made a name for himself with.
Haywood is the prime amnesty candidate for this summer. That would rid the Mavericks of $27 million over the next four seasons and give them enough space to make a play for a max free agent. After his postseason performance (13 total rebounds in four games), it's time to part ways with the man Dallas once thought to be the best center in franchise history.
As for Odom, it's futile to talk anymore about his season struggles. He shouldn't have shown up if he weren't mentally able to participate, end of story. He did, though, and he gave fans false hope all season by playing well in about one out of every five games.
While he can be bought out for $2.4 million, Dallas would be wise to trade him. Even if the only thing it could get is a trade exception and late-first- or second-round draft pick, it would be worth the deal.
Both were disappointments in Dallas this year, and that should be enough to sell/dispose of your No. 7 and 33 jerseys, Dallas fans. Neither will be back.
1. Land a Star Player
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Let the chase for Deron Williams begin.
In a season that will likely go down as one of the most disappointing for fans, those same folks will disregard 2011-2012 if Dallas can land Williams, the local product and consensus top-five point guard in the league.
In Dallas, Dirk Nowitzki needs a co-star. Spin in any way you want. Whether you claim Dirk can't play at an All-NBA level anymore (which is completely untrue—check the second-half and postseason stats), the Mavs just need a solid free agent or Dallas needs an eventual replacement for Nowitzki, now is the time to act.
Much speculation was made that Dallas would try and land both Dwight Howard and Williams this summer. With Howard only available via trade, that isn't happening. There are no guarantees Williams is itching to return to his hometown, either.
Elsewhere in the market, unrestricted free agent Goran Dragic will be a hot name. Restricted free agents Eric Gordon and Roy Hibbert are also upgrades in positions of need for Dallas. If the Mavs can't land Williams, they'll have to do something with a lesser talent or upgrade through a trade.
Whatever the case may be, the writing has been on the wall for this summer for quite some time in Dallas. It's always been about landing another star to play alongside Dirk Nowitzki, the first during his time in Dallas if you remember that Steve Nash wasn't an All-Pro player until he bolted for Phoenix.
If they can't, expect another first-round-loss season. If they can, exciting things could be in store for the franchise, especially moving forward post-Nowitzki, whenever that may be.