What a difference a week can make.
At this time just one week ago, teams from all around the NBA were confident that they would be able to land all of their top free-agent targets in the NBA offseason. Now, after the free-agency period has gotten well underway, some teams are coming out clear winners and losers.
For the Dallas Mavericks, however, it remains to be seen on which side of that fence they will land.
For the second year in a row, the Mavericks made a serious push for a superstar free agent but came up short.
The Mavericks were one of five teams to get a face-to-face meeting with the former Lakers center, but they were quickly eliminated when it came time for Howard to make his final decision. The All-Star center struggled between going to Houston or staying in Los Angeles.
From the Mavericks' perspective, it was an obvious blow to a franchise desperate to add another big name alongside an aging Dirk Nowitzki.
What was a championship team just two years ago has become a roster stalling in mediocrity after missing the playoffs for the first time in 12 seasons.
Still, the Mavericks weren't going to let the Dwight Howard miss stop them from trying to put together a winning team for the 2013-14 season.
Dallas has its sights set now on another former Lakers big man to potentially bolster their frontcourt next season.
ESPN's Marc Stein is reporting that the Mavericks, along with the Cleveland Cavaliers, are the top contenders at this point to sign former All-Star big man Andrew Bynum, who last played for the Lakers in 2012.
The Mavericks will be sure that Bynum's knee (which caused him to miss the entire season while under contract with the Philadelphia 76ers) is up to snuff before they make an offer. However, if the Mavs do go in that direction and it works out, it could give them what they were looking for.
When Bynum is healthy, there are few better big men in the NBA. He showed that while with the Lakers in 2011-12, when he averaged 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds per game, also making the Western Conference All-Star team.
With Nowitzki and Bynum, the Mavericks would have potentially the best frontcourt combo in the West. That could elevate them at least into the playoff mix next year.
Still, Bynum's signing isn't a done deal. The Cavaliers and Hawks are also pushing for him, and if Bynum does sign, there is every chance his knees could give out and it could be a enormous waste of money for Mark Cuban and the Mavericks.
Nevertheless, Dallas seems determined to sign a big name, and Bynum is one of the only ones remaining in the market.
But what about the rest of the Mavericks' roster?
Dallas hasn't been totally quiet in free agency. The Mavs went out and signed two veteran guards for next season.
First, the Mavericks finally were able to snag Spanish point guard Jose Calderon to a four-year, $29 million deal. Calderon has been a target of the Mavericks for several seasons. They will now look to him to lead the Mavericks offense for next season, replacing former Mavs starter Darren Collison.
Along with Calderon, Dallas inked a deal with Devin Harris earlier this week, as reported by Tim MacMahon of ESPN Dallas.
Harris was the Mavericks' starting point guard when they reached their first-ever NBA finals in 2006. He was traded to acquire Jason Kidd in 2008. Since then, Harris has played for New Jersey, Utah and Atlanta. He has had five up-and-down seasons. He was at his best with the Nets in 2009, when he averaged over 20 points per game and made the All-Star team.
Last year with the Hawks, Harris averaged 9.9 points and 3.4 assists while primarily coming off the bench, proving he can still be an effective player.
While many Mavericks fans may be wondering how Harris fits with a Dallas team that already is deep at the point guard spot, it is important to note that Harris won't be playing point for all of next year.
This year with the Hawks, Harris split time evenly between point and shooting guard. He is an excellent defensive player who is certainly capable of guarding most NBA shooting guards despite his small size.
Harris may even be the Mavericks' starting shooting guard next year. With O.J. Mayo moving on and Vince Carter likely to remain in a sixth man role, Harris could take the position of starter playing alongside Calderon, instead of playing behind him.
Regardless, with the signings of Calderon and Harris, it would certainly appear that the Mavericks are done building their backcourt for the 2013-14 season.
In addition to the two new signings, Dallas brought in Israeli point guard Gal Mekel and drafted Shane Larkin out of Miami (FL) and Ricky Ledo out of Providence. Add them to a returning Vince Carter and Josh Akognon, plus Shawn Marion and Jae Crowder at small forward, and the Mavericks seem pretty much set in that area going into next season.
With only a few roster spots left, Dallas should be focusing on getting a few more big men.
After all, Dirk and 2012 second-round pick Bernard James are the only players on the roster who would qualify for playing either the 4 or 5 spots.
Along with Bynum, there have been rumors swirling about the Mavericks' other potential options at that position.
No coach has gotten more out of Jermaine O'Neal in his career than Rick Carlisle, and it seems as though the two have the potential to be reuniting late in O'Neal's career in a Mavericks uniform.
O'Neal isn't bad for a backup center, especially if the Mavericks can get him cheaply and on a one-year contract.
Although it was unlikely, any chance of the Mavericks retaining Chris Kaman were thrashed today, when he announced he would be signing with the Los Angeles Lakers (h/t USA Today), taking another name off the Mavs' list.
Although Kaman won't be returning, there is still potential for two of Dallas's frontcourt players from a season ago to come back to the team.
Meanwhile, Brandan Wright could still be a possibility for re-signing with the Mavs. Wright was a very good offensive weapon off the bench last year and could be better suited to playing as Dirk's backup at power forward instead of playing the center position.
Signing Wright won't be easy, as there may be several teams out East who would like Wright to jump conferences next season.
While the Mavericks have spent the first week of free agency pursuing Dwight Howard and rounding off their guard play, it remains to be seen who they will have in the paint for next year.
Until all the pieces fall into place, it is impossible to determine how good the Mavericks will look on paper going into next season.
However, if Dallas fails to sign Bynum, it seems likely that it will miss out on one of its main offseason goals; signing a big name to help it compete in the deep Western Conference.
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