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After winning the title in 2011, the Dallas Mavericks gambled on their ability to attract marquee free agents (i.e. Deron Williams and Dwight Howard) around whom to build for the future...
And lost, though not as big as you might think.
True, the Mavs certainly didn't come out as winners when D-Will opted to re-sign with the Nets and Dwight, after opting in with the Magic, wound up as the Lakers' next great big man.
Nonetheless, kudos to GM Donnie Nelson for making the best of what might've been a bad situation and cobbling together a roster that can both compete for a playoff spot now and provide financial flexibility in the near future.
The additions of Darren Collison, OJ Mayo, Chris Kaman and Elton Brand, while not particularly needle-moving in any individual sense, served to reload the roster around Dirk Nowitzki. Collison is a solid young point guard who's performed well as a starter—13.6 points, 5.9 assists—for the Hornets and the Pacers. The same goes for Mayo, a gifted scorer who fell out of favor with Lionel Hollins in Memphis, but will have a golden opportunity to replenish his stock at shooting guard in Big D.
Up front, Kaman is a productive pivot whose familiarity with Nowitzki dates back to their days as teammates on the German national team. And Brand, while a far cry from the All-Star of yore, is still a capable rebounder and midrange shooter.
Better yet, these four are all (essentially) playing on expiring contracts, meaning that each will have that much more motivation to put forth his best effort for his own sake.
Even with these additions, the Mavs are a long way from contending for another title and could collapse if Dirk's knee proves to be a bigger problem than originally anticipated.
That being said, this team, as currently constituted, should be good enough to crack the playoff picture in the Western Conference before splashing cash at big-name free agents—Chris Paul? Dwight Howard? James Harden?—once July of 2013 rolls around.