The Dallas Mavericks are in a unique, yet unenviable position this offseason. Twelve months before the expected free agent bonanza of 2010, they face the prospect of fading completely out of contention, and taking the Dirk era to an unhappy conclusion.
They are also in an unenviable position when it comes to free agents. Their No. 1 target, Jason Kidd, won't offer something new and different. Rather, the Mavs are just trying to hang on to the player who helped them the year before.
While the re-signing of Kidd can be called a triumph, it is a mixed blessing. Without another move, the Mavericks are in the same place they were last year, and only the Rockets are showing signs that they will not be the same or better than last year.
The Blazers, Nuggets and Spurs have taken steps to put them to the next level, while the Lakers are already at the next level.
The Mavericks do not want to be left in the lurch, especially with a rapidly aging, but effective, core.
Assuming they sign Kidd, the Mavericks have a need at the center position and the shooting guard. With Hall of Famers at the one and four, and an All-Star at the three, the addition of two impact players at the off guard and center position will go a long way towards putting the Mavericks back into the race for the west.
Let's look at the two-guard first.
The Pistons might have already done the Mavs' first step for them. They signed Ben Gordon to a big free-agent deal, who also happens to play the same position as Rip Hamilton, another highly-paid and talented two-guard.
So unless they want to have their two highest players playing the same position, one of them has to move. Logic would suggest that the one to move is the older player—the one without the contract with the still-drying ink.
I've alwasy been a Hamilton fan. He's great at creating his own shot, especially off the dribble, which is exactly what the Mavs need from a two-guard. They don't need a Kobe/D-Wade style shooting guard, who will score 30 points on 25 shots.
No, they need someone like Rip, who will score 20 on 10-15 shots.
So what can the Mavs offer for Hamilton?
Detroit could use a backup point guard, with Stuckey taking the reins this season. J.J. Barea, or even new Mav Rodrigue Beaubois could offer a serviceable backup for Stuckey.
Sure, Barea isn't exactly a world-beater, but ask anyone who watched the Mavs regularly last season, there were many times when he came in, slashed to the bucket, made a key defensive stop, or did some other play that got the team and the crowd fired up.
He can shoot from all over as well, which could provide a decent Plan B should Gordon get swarmed, which is most certainly will.
With the impending departure of Rasheed Wallace, and the possible departure of Antonio McDyess, the Pistons are also looking frighteningly thin at in the frontcourt.
And as we all know, a backcourt is only as good as the big men that support it.
The Mavs have a young player on the rise, Brandon Bass, who is in search of both time and a payday. While he wouldn't command more than the midlevel, he is capable of being a starting forward on the right team, such as Detroit.
With his inside presence and good midrange jumper, he provides a formidable threat and would be a nice complement to Gordon and Villanueva, especially when Villanueva inevitably goes down with some sort of injury.
Plus, he has proven he can play the center on a small-ball team, which would be an intriguing possibility with so many good shooters on Detroit.
Hell, the Mavs could even toss in Antoine Wright if the Pistons neded a good backup. While he's not the model of consistency, Wright provides a good bargain for the numbers, especially for a backup shooting guard.
Now that we've covered the two-guard, let's take a look at the center.
Erick Dampier needs to go. His dead hands, inconsistent play, and nonexistent athleticism need to be turned into something.
Since he most likely won't meet his incentives for the 2010-11 season, he is basically an expiring contract, which is appealing to a lot of teams.
Package him together with Jerry Stackhouse ($2 million buyout, non-guaranteed), and Mark Cuban has quite a stimulus package for a team that is hurting financially.
Now that you mention, it I've got two such teams in mind.
New Orleans Hornets Center Tyson Chandler has reportedly been on the block since the draft. With his ability to rebound and finish the alley-oop, he is the polar opposite of Dampier.
Sure, he disappeared until December last season, and I know he has some nagging injury concerns, but I think the Mavericks have a decent backup center in Ryan Hollins to make up for that.
Chandler for Stack/Dampier would save the Hornets some much needed money, which they were trying to do when they tried to dump Chandler the first time.
Plus, I'll admit it, I would get a certain sick pleasure in watching Chris Paul try to feed alley-oops to the lead-gloved hands of Erick Dampier. But that's neither here nor there.
Chandler is a moderately appealing option, but here's my No. 1: Emeka Okafor.
He puts up a double-double almost every night, and while the points don't always come, the rebounds (especially the offensive ones) do.
And that's what the Mavs need from a center: Someone that can finish the fast break, get 10 boards a night, and shoot close shots at a high percentage.
The Mavericks also have a plethora (thats right, I said plethora) of second-round picks, and maybe even a few appealing young high-flyers that the Bobcats could use.
Gerald Green, in a possible sign-and-trade, could provide some acrobatic offense for a small price, and Brandon Bass and/or Antoine Wright (if not gone to the Pistons) could also be appealing to a Bobcats team looking to rebuild and save some coin.
I would throw everything the Mavs have at an Okafor trade, including Terry. Josh Howard and Dirk is where I draw the line.
With Dirk, Terry, Howard, and hopefully Rip Hamilton handling the scoring, he wouldn't need to pour in the points, just lock down the glass.
Now let's look at the starting five for this dynamo: Kidd, Hamilton, Howard, Dirk and Okafor.
That's a starting five that could go to war with a lot of teams in the West.
I would take them over the Spurs with Richard Jefferson. I would take them over the Nuggets, since a healthy Howard and an athletic center could have made the difference against the Nuggs this year.
Sure, the Mavs might not be loaded up for a run at an All-Star in 2010, but unless it's Wade (who might sign an extension soon anyway) or LeBron James (who probably won't come to Dallas), that doesn't bother me very much.
Bosh is most effective at playing the four, which is what Dirk plays. Plus, as much as I like him, I'm still not convinced he can be the best player on a contender, as last season showed us.
Either way, this brings the Mavericks into the the 2009-10 season with each of their major issues addressed, which is more than a lot of teams can say.