The 2014 NBA trade deadline is Thursday, Feb. 20 at 3 p.m. ET. Countless teams will weigh the possibility of executing a deal to improve their short or long-term futures, and the Dallas Mavericks are not exempt from that thought process.
The question is, do the Mavericks need a trade before the deadline passes?
As of Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014, Dallas has crafted a record of 28-21 overall, 17-8 at home and 11-13 on the road. With this success, the Mavs are at the heart of the postseason hunt.
Rick Carlisle's crew is battling the red-hot Memphis Grizzlies for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference. Not too far out of reach are the narrowly leading Golden State Warriors at No. 7 and Phoenix Suns at No. 6.
With just over two weeks remaining before the trade deadline passes, it's time for Dallas to determine how far it plans to go in 2013-14.
When a team is missing a player that signed elsewhere in 2011, finding his replacement is the most glaring need imaginable. That's the case for Dallas with former center Tyson Chandler.
The Mavericks have done a dreadful job of finding a rim-protector to take on the defensive responsibilities alongside Dirk Nowitzki. Samuel Dalembert was signed to fill that void during this past offseason, but he and his backups have been underwhelming as defenders at the center position.
With this being established, the Mavericks must weigh the possibility of trading for a defensive force down low.
According to NBA.com, Dallas is 22nd in the NBA in points allowed in the paint per game. While one player may shoulder the blame in the average case, that doesn't apply to this batch of Mavericks big men.
NBA.com shows that Dalembert is allowing opponents to shoot 51.7 percent when he meets them at the rim. By that same measure, Dirk Nowitzki checks in at 51.9 percent, Brandan Wright lets up 56.1 percent and DeJuan Blair allows an even more concerning 57.1 percent.
What this all adds up to is the Mavericks having no alternative to an underperforming signing in Dalembert. Until the Mavericks are able to generate a greater defensive impact from the players that are currently in place, a trade will serve as the only possible remedy.
It doesn't take a stat sheet to come to the conclusion that the Mavericks have a lackluster tandem of defenders at the starting guard spots. Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis are playing cohesively on offense, breeding efficient results, but defense has never been their respective strong suits.
Shawn Marion is still effective at the 3, but Dallas needs an upgrade in the backcourt with defense serving as the focus.
The return of backup guard Devin Harris should help on defense, and Jae Crowder has displayed signs of becoming a well-rounded contributor at the 3. Without a player who can help Marion contain the Western Conference's elite scorers, however, the Mavericks will struggle come the postseason.
That is, if Dallas makes it to the playoffs.
The Mavericks are 15th in opponent three-point field-goal percentage, which isn't a terrible ranking. The true problem is the defensive fundamentals of Calderon and Ellis.
Neither have proved capable of locking down an opposing playmaker, and that's been a driving force behind Dallas' inconsistencies. With the trade deadline approaching, the Mavericks must seriously consider acquiring a defensive-minded guard.
Offensively, Calderon is shooting an insane 44.4 percent from beyond the arc and Ellis is averaging 19.5 points on 46.5 percent shooting from the field. Defensively, the two are less than reliable when defending the pick-and-roll and coming off of screens to defend shooters.
Their struggles have been overblown in 2013-14, but Dallas must at least consider a trade for a defensive improvement to help their starters.
Potential Trade Targets
The most important question here is simple: Who would the Mavericks target?
In terms of the high-profile candidates, Dallas' most likely pursuits include Omer Asik of the Houston Rockets, Avery Bradley of the Boston Celtics, Andre Miller of the Denver Nuggets and Evan Turner of the Philadelphia 76ers. Asik would fill the hole down low, while Miller and Turner have their merits along the perimeter.
Unfortunately, none of those players would be easy to acquire, and all four come with risks.
Sean Deveney of Sporting News reports that the 76ers are aggressively pursuing a trade involving Turner. Despite his breakout campaign, he's yet to solidify his spot within the Sixers organization due to his defensive shortcomings.
Establishing that Turner won't do much for Dallas on defense, he could be the Mavericks' small forward of the future with Shawn Marion hitting 36 this May.
According to Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post, the Nuggets are focused on trading Miller. He's not a great shooter and his defense is suspect, but he's a valuable playmaker who has postseason experience and an offensive game that would be intriguing alongside Ellis and Nowitzki.
Unfortunately, Dallas can all but eliminate the Miller trade talk when weighing the fact that Calderon and Devin Harris are better fits than the Nuggets veteran.
As for the trades that Dallas should be aggressive in pursuing, Asik and Bradley would be dream acquisitions. Asik has been heavily involved in trade rumors since July, and his $15 million salary in 2014-15 is enough to warrant the belief that Houston will trade him before they pay him such a lofty amount to be a backup.
Sean Deveney of Sporting News reports that Asik is likely to finish the season in Houston, but if Dallas believes in his ability to play a Chandler-esque role, dealing for him is worth pursuing.
The true steal would be Bradley, who could be on the way out of Boston. The main reason for his potential departure is the Celtics' desire to rebuild.
Susan Bible of Basketball Insiders reports that Danny Ainge wants to trade Bradley, but Chad Ford of ESPN Insider (subscription required) reports that the Celtics are driving a hard bargain. The question is, do the Mavericks have enough to catch Ainge's eye?
At this point in time, it's quite unlikely.
The Mavericks should execute a trade at the 2014 deadline.
None of the realistic and rumored targets would propel the Mavericks into championship contention. Asik would be the closest thing to it, but the Mavericks would have to give up a very talented asset in order to acquire that interior force.
The same could be said about Bradley and Turner.
The truth of the matter is Dallas needs to start building for the future, and it isn't guaranteed a high enough draft choice to land a franchise player. Dallas could pursue such a player in free agency, but patience hasn't paid off in recent offseasons.
The reality is the players that the Mavericks are most likely to target haven't yet appeared on the rumor mill. Assuming the Mavericks execute the proper deal, finding the ideal player could lead to instant gratification or the long-term improvement of a team with multiple aging stars.
It's hardly a dream situation to be in, but the Mavericks' current ceiling is that of a team that makes the playoffs but misses out on competing for a title. More importantly, Dallas' current basement is that of a team that finishes with a late lottery pick.
In both cases, the Mavericks will fail to win the championship and be far removed from franchise-player territory in the draft. That stuck-in-the-middle position is the primary reason that Dallas has been unable to return to the promised land.
In order to build a brighter future, the Mavericks must alter their future with a trade before the deadline passes on Feb. 20 at 3 p.m. ET.