Dallas Mavericks 2012: How to Prepare for Life After Dirk Nowitzki

Ross Bentley@@imrossbentleySenior Analyst IAugust 27, 2012

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - APRIL 28:  (EDITORS NOTE: ALTERNATE CROP) Dirk Nowitzki #41 of the Dallas Mavericks warms up before the game against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs on April 28, 2012 at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Oklahoma City defeated Dallas 99-98. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using the photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
Brett Deering/Getty Images

Ever since he joined the team in 1998, Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks have been synonymous with one another. 

However, there will come a day, perhaps soon, where Dirk will no longer put on his No. 41 jersey every night for the team he has spent his entire career with.

For fans of the team like myself, this may be a difficult thought to process. After all, in the last 14 years, we as fans have seen Nowitzki transform himself from an awkward 7'0" rookie, to one of the greatest players in NBA history.

No player in history has been able to duplicate Nowitzki's shooting ability at his 7'0'' frame; he has transcended the game for big men since becoming a superstar.

Nowitzki is an eleven-time All-Star, former MVP, NBA Champion and Finals MVP, and the 19th leading scorer in NBA history with over 24,000 points. His career accomplishments are unparalleled and his spot in the Hall of Fame is guaranteed.

However, Dallas must start preparing for life without Nowitzki now, as opposed to starting from scratch when he leaves. 

Although he is still a dynamic player, Nowitzki is 34 years old. His best days may very well be behind him, or at least they will be very soon. Whether it is in two, three, or five years, Dallas will have to build their team without Nowitzki leading the way, and Mark Cuban and company know that. 

But how can a franchise possibly hope to replace a transcendent superstar like Nowitzki? The chances of the Mavs landing the lucky ping pong ball some year in the near future and drafting one of the leagues next great players seems unlikely, so instead, they will have to use trades and free agency to try and replace Nowitzki.

Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson have spent the last two off-seasons facing much criticism about how they are building their team. Coming off of the teams first championship two years ago, Dallas let players like Tyson Chandler, JJ Barea, and DeShawn Stevenson walk, despite being crucial parts of the championship unit.

This year, Jason Terry, Jason Kidd and others have departed and the Mavs roster looks drastically different than it did when they held up the Larry O'Brien trophy. 

They did it all presumably in the hopes of landing another superstar to play alongside Nowitzki for the remainder of his Mavericks career.

Dallas's pursuit of Deron Williams failed, and it looks as though Dwight Howard won't be a Maverick anytime soon either. Still, Cuban has shown he will use all his resources to bring another star player to Dallas sooner or later.

In the NBA, the fact of the matter is: you need superstars to win. That's why the Mavericks number one goal to prepare for life without Dirk and secure his heir apparent. 

Someone needs to take the reigns when Dirk steps aside if the Mavs are going to remain a championship contender.

While O.J. Mayo is nice, he doesn't have the star power to carry a roster. Shawn Marion may have been able to put the team on his back in his prime, but he isn't at the same level he was when he was an All-Star. 

No one else on the Mavericks roster has superstar potential at the moment, so acquiring another is a must for the future.

Whether it be convincing Chris Paul to jump on board next offseason, or landing a blockbuster trade down the road, Cuban and the Mavs front office must pick up another All-NBA caliber player to replace Nowitzki.

But that's not it.

As great as Nowitzki has been in his career, the success of the Mavericks over the last decade has been because of one thing—consistency.

From Steve Nash, to Michael Finley, to Jason Terry, Dallas has always provided Nowitzki with a running mate, or two or three, who could help take the load off of him.

Look at the NBA's best teams right now. The Heat have LeBron, Wade, and Bosh. The Thunder have Durant, Westbrook, and Harden. The Lakers have Kobe, Gasol, Nash and Dwight Howard. 

In today's NBA, it takes more than just one player to win. 

Even in 2011, when the Mavericks pulled off their unlikely first championship, Dirk got plenty of help from guys like Shawn Marion, Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, and Tyson Chandler among others.

Nowitzki was far and away the best player, but the 2011 Mavericks were a complete team in every sense of the word.

Building a championship team means putting together a roster of not just one, but twelve players who all contribute to a common goal. 

In order to secure help for the rest of the roster, Dallas must draft and spend.

And do it well.

The Mavs haven't had the greatest draft picks as of late. Here's to hoping that Jared Cunningham, Jae Crowder, and Bernard James break that trend. They need to start doing a better job of building up the rest of their roster with a mix of young players that they draft. Part of it is that Dallas has had fairly consistently low draft picks.They may want to think about shaking things up in the next few seasons and trading up into the lottery.

They also must continue to spend money wisely. Many teams get stuck with over-bloated contracts they signed for average players, and that results in the inability to pick up key free agents when they truly need them.

I believe in this offseason, Dallas is going in the right direction with the acquisitions of O.J. Mayo, Darren Collison, and Chris Kaman, but once Nowitzki leaves, they must continue to spend money on players who fit the Dallas system and not get baited into picking up too many bad contracts.

While Nowitzki still has his All-Star talent, Dallas can still make a run at another championship.

However, the Mavericks must also start preparing now so they are not left in total shambles when Nowitzki decides to hang it up.

Too often teams rely on their star player to do everything, and then when their skills decline or they leave, they are stuck with nothing.

If the Mavericks want to avoid this fate, they must acquire another star, draft smart, make big moves, and continue to spend wisely in free agency.

If Dallas does all of this, they will still be among the leagues premier franchises when Dirk Nowitzki calls it a career.