Can Mark Cuban Make 2013 Free-Agent Splash After 2012 Whiff?

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Can Mark Cuban Make 2013 Free-Agent Splash After 2012 Whiff?

How many mulligans can Mark Cuban and the Dallas Mavericks take before Dirk Nowitzki has fizzled as a championship-caliber franchise player?

We might find out this summer.

According to ESPN's Chad Ford, the Mavs are shopping the No. 13 pick in the 2013 NBA draft in an attempt to clear cap space for signing one of the league's marquee free agents:

Attempting to pry either Dwight Howard from the Los Angeles Lakers or Chris Paul from the Los Angeles Clippers will be a chore enough in its own right—even more so when factoring in Dallas' spotty history in free agency.

The Mavs failed to lure Deron Williams back to his hometown last summer, perhaps in part because Cuban was off filming an episode of Shark Tank in LA, according to Mike Mazzeo of ESPNNewYork.com.

The Mavs' case isn't helped by the team's poor treatment of its own free agents over the years.

In 2004, Dallas balked at matching the Phoenix Suns' offer to Steve Nash, only to see the point guard with a bad back blossom into a two-time MVP.

A similar story played out in 2011, when the Mavs had the opportunity to retain the core of their championship team (most notably 2011-12 Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler) but opted not to in preparation for the more restrictive statutes of the new collective bargaining agreement.

That most recent move was made (presumably) with the hope of landing D-Will and, if that fell through, one of the two between Howard and Paul. Both superstars would have to relinquish a significant portion of their potential earnings to sign a four-year deal with Dallas; however, between the two of them, Dwight would probably have the easier time making up the difference with a second max contract down the line.

After all, he'll always be tall and strong, whether or not his back heals completely, while CP3 has long been undersized and continues to skate by on a bum knee.

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Perhaps the more pertinent question is, do the Mavs offer either Howard or Paul a better chance to win a championship in Dallas than in LA?

At present, Dallas' roster consists of three big names who are past their respective primes (Dirk Nowitzki, Vince Carter and Shawn Marion), three guards in their mid-20s who are bound to seek out bigger paydays (O.J. Mayo, Darren Collison and Rodrigue Beaubois) and three guys who just finished their rookie seasons (Jae Crowder, Jared Cunningham and Bernard James).

That's hardly title material, especially when you consider that Dallas will likely cut ties with that second group and seek to do the same with Marion.

Granted, the ceilings that Howard and Paul are up against in LA at present aren't entirely championship caliber, either.

The Lakers scrapped their way into the seventh seed this season and will return in 2013-14 with a roster that's old, injury prone, defensively deficient and highly overpaid.

The Clippers, meanwhile, enjoyed the finest regular season in team history, only to see the team's hopes for bigger and better things in the postseason derailed by (among other things) Vinny Del Negro's poor coaching, the childish behavior of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan (via T.J. Simers of The Los Angeles Times) and the inability of anyone other than Paul to contribute with any consistency.

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That being said, the Clips will have some flexibility to retool their roster again this summer and will welcome in a new coach after parting ways with Del Negro, according to Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times.

As for the Lakers, they figure to give it another go with Kobe Bryant (once he returns from his torn Achilles), Steve Nash, Pau Gasol and perhaps Howard—which still looks good on paper, assuming injuries don't derail the whole deal again. Even if things don't pan out for the Purple and Gold next season, they can look forward with confidence to the summer of 2014, when they'll be flush with cap space with which to attract more big names.

At this point, Dallas' biggest advantage may well rest with its organizational stability. Head coach Rick Carlisle, who's among the most respected at his position in the NBA, isn't going anywhere. Neither is Donnie Nelson, who's worked closely with Mark Cuban since Nelson's father, Hall of Famer Don Nelson, first came aboard in 1997.

That beats the uncertainty inherent in the Lakers, whose ownership situation remains in flux after the death of Dr. Jerry Buss, and in the Clippers, which seem destined to all but hand over the reins of their latest coaching search to CP3.

Is that enough, though, to convince one of the NBA's elite to leave the sun, fun and surf of southern California for the dry heat and wide expanses of northeast Texas? What if you throw in the savings on income taxes, which (admittedly) would be mitigated somewhat by the higher property taxes in the Lone Star State?

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That might be enough to attract a borderline All-Star (Josh Smith, Andre Iguodala if he opts out, Al Jefferson), a niche guard (J.J. Redick, Tony Allen, Monta Ellis) or a high-risk, high-reward prospect (Andrew Bynum, Brandon Jennings, Tyreke Evans).

But a bona fide superstar? A perennial All-NBA performer? A franchise cornerstone? I have my doubts.

As should Mark Cuban.

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