With the draft quickly approaching and less than a month until NBA free agency, the Dallas Mavericks are on the cusp of a busy offseason. The norm for the franchise, since the beginning of this century, is to build around superstar Dirk Nowitzki.
Nowitzki, who turns 35 on June 19, is coming off two disappointing seasons that you can put an asterisk next to. 2012: hungover from winning the championship. 2013: knee injury to start the season. Those who watched Nowitzki in 2013 had to feel bad for him; his brilliant performances were meaningless as the team around him fell short countless times.
Nowitzki has gotten better throughout his career. When healthy, he has spent summers, including years past the age of 30, working on different aspects of his game. This past year he went back to shooting the three, hitting 41.4 percent from behind the arc, best among power forwards. He's given so much to owner Mark Cuban and the Mavericks over the course of his career, including winning a championship without a superstar roster.
Now it's time to get Dirk help.
Two years removed from an NBA title, Nowitzki still has gas left in the tank. Even a future Hall of Famer can't do it all by himself. To make sense of this, look back at the 2006 Dallas Mavericks. The starting lineup consisted of Adrian Griffin/Devin Harris, Jason Terry, Josh Howard, DeSagana Diop and Nowitzki. Besides Nowitzki, none of the starting lineup had been in an all-star game.
Fast forward to 2011.
He had an All-Star point guard, an All-Star forward, and an All-Defensive Team center. Nowitzki, the 2011 NBA Finals MVP, was still responsible for leading and carrying the Mavericks to the first championship in franchise history, gaining respect around the league.
Now look at the present day Mavericks.
Shawn Marion's days as an All-Star are long gone. Vince Carter is too inconsistent, Chris Kaman struggled to stay in games and Darren Collison is not the point guard this team needs. At this point of his career, Nowitzki can't win a championship on his own.
Dallas needs its three.
Nowitzki is the first piece for the Mavericks, and his commitment is still strong.
Brian Gutierrez, of ESPNDallas.com, says Nowitzki isn't done.
The commitment can already be seen. Nowitzki has started his offseason workout regimen. No, he’s not touching a basketball yet, but he’s making sure his legs are healthy and strong in order to avoid repeats of the last two seasons...
...Nowitzki’s secret is he still loves the game and it simply doesn't feel like work to him.
Gutierrez also stated that Nowitzki is "still willing to put the work in."
Nowitzki wants to continue to compete. He plans to take a huge pay cut this year to make it easier for the addition of two more superstar competitors. In a league where teams need three big stars, the Mavericks have two spots to fill.
Now Cuban must go out and reel in two superstars, or superstars in the making. Otherwise Nowitzki's remaining years of commitment will be put to waste.
So who can the Mavericks get?
It all rides on how serious Mark Cuban is with the "two-year plan." On teams that Nowitzki has come up short with, he was missing a top point guard and a top center.
Chris Paul is the only choice the Mavericks should look at for point guard this summer. He's the best free agent available; he's a superstar. And, according to Dirk (see video), Paul is "the complete package."
DeMarcus Cousins, a superstar in the making, is a center the Mavericks talked about bringing in during the 2013 season. However, rumors of the Cleveland Cavaliers offering their No 1. overall pick for the center don't bode well for Dallas.
If the Mavericks can't figure out a miracle deal for Cousins, Andrew Bynum is a dark horse candidate. A force in the NBA just a year ago, Bynum could come in cheaper than imagined. For him, it's just whether or not he'll work hard enough to get back to the his playing level before his injury.
And then there is Dwight Howard. Taking away from Cuban's two-year plan, bringing in Howard and Paul would make the Mavericks an immediate contender in 2014.
About that two-year plan Cuban has?
"Maybe Dirk would re-up at a discount," Martin wrote. "Maybe some other veteran stars would take pay cuts to play with LeBron and CP3 in the Metroplex."
What is your dream lineup for Nowitzki?