With the trade deadline looming, the Mavs are currently on the right side of the playoff ledger, but it's close. Only a handful of games separate Dallas from the Memphis Grizzlies, Minnesota Timberwolves and Denver Nuggets, all of whom are champing at the bit to take over that No. 8 spot in the ridiculously tough and deep Western Conference.
Throughout the 2013-14 campaign, Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis have led a stellar offense, which needs to put up points in bunches to counteract the ill effects of a porous defense.
Basketball-Reference shows that Dallas ranks No. 4 in offensive rating, scoring 110.4 points per 100 possessions. Unfortunately, the defense—which gives up 108.6 big ones over the same span—leaves the Mavs all the way down at No. 24 in defensive rating.
It's a strange balancing act, but it's one that could be fixed by the trade deadline's flurry (one can hope) of activity.
The Mavericks could use another big man, and the perimeter defense is particularly bad. But without many draft picks to its credit, the team is left trying to swing expiring contracts that have value and young players with untapped/unproven potential.
Will anything happen? If the Mavericks want a guaranteed spot in the postseason or anything more than an inevitable first-round exit, it needs to.
Evan Turner has enjoyed a bit of a breakout season during his latest go-round with the Philadelphia 76ers, though his efficiency still leaves something to be desired.
The Ohio State product has averaged 17.9 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game, but the most impressive part of his development has simply been his aggressiveness. Especially with Michael Carter-Williams on the floor, the swingman has attacked the basket with relentless fury.
That said, Turner's defense still leaves something to be desired. It's for that reason that you should greet the Mavericks' involvement in trade rumors with a heavy dose of skepticism, particularly if it's Shawn Marion going back to the Sixers.
Nonetheless, Sam Amico of Fox Sports tweeted the connection between the two teams: "Chatter around #NBA lately is #Mavs to explore deal for #Sixers G/F Evan Turner. Name of Mavs' Shawn Marion, out w injury, also mentioned."
ESPN Dallas' Tim MacMahon also buys into the Turner-to-Mavs rumors, but he suggest a different route of acquisition after revealing that the Sixers are looking primarily for future assets:
Remember, the Mavs are handcuffed when it comes to trading first-round picks. That’s because they still owe Oklahoma City a first-rounder (top 20 protected through 2017), a pick that has bounced around the West since the Mavs made the Lamar Odom deal.
Shane Larkin is the most attractive young asset on the Mavs’ roster, and his trade value hasn’t exactly soared this season. Plus, the Sixers have two promising young point guards on the roster in Rookie of the Year frontrunner Michael Carter-Williams and 21-year-old backup Tony Wroten.
Never say never, but for the Mavs to get in the mix for Turner, it’d probably take finding a third team that was motivated to trim payroll.
This is the route that should be considered more likely.
Trading Marion for Turner would be a swap that sets the Mavericks back defensively. And that's an area in which they can't afford to get any worse.
If Mark Cuban and Co. really do covet the services of the former Buckeye, a third team presumably would have to get involved.
Historically, the Mavericks have been quite active at the trade deadline. They look to make changes that boost the team's chances, even if they're risky endeavors or moves seemingly devoid of impact.
And even if big deals aren't happening, the little swaps still manage to occur.
Last year, the deadline move involved trading Dahntay Jones to the Atlanta Hawks for Anthony Morrow. Pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but at least they got a deal done. That's more than can usually be said for most NBA teams.
However, there are multiple reports that Dallas may consider holding steady in 2014, declining to make any splashes at the deadline in favor of continuity. Here's one from Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders, who notes that the Mavericks are one of the teams on the fence between being on the move and staying put:
There is a clear need for some frontcourt help. They could also use another impact scorer from the bench, but even with needs and ending contracts that could be swapped to fill them, the Mavs don’t seem to be players. The Mavericks have a reputation for shaking every tree in the league so maybe that happens after the All-Star break, but Dallas does not seem as interested in change as they have been in years past.
Sometimes the status quo works.
The largest reason behind this philosophy, for Dallas at least, is that there's already been too much change in recent months.
"We’re always looking to better the team any way we can," Donnie Nelson, president of basketball operations, told The Dallas Morning News' Eddie Sefko. "That said, with nine new faces on the roster, we’re not looking to change for the sake of change. Would we prefer to win a few more games? Absolutely. But are we in the playoff race? Yes, and we feel like we haven’t played our best basketball yet."
They may be in the race now, but it'll be tough for them to remain there given the strength of the Western Conference and the inherent flaws in the current roster. The Mavericks better hope Nelson is right, because they'll need to prove they haven't played their best basketball yet.