Would signing Anthony improve their odds of making a realistic championship run?
As long as they answer in the affirmative, then the reward is absolutely worth the risks involved with chasing the 6'8" scoring machine.
That's a question the public can ponder in the coming days, but Dallas appears to have already reached its conclusion. The Mavericks, who will be making their best sales pitch to Anthony on Wednesday, are convinced they need to go "all in" on the Anthony sweepstakes, according to ESPN.com's Marc Stein:
Mavs all in on pursuit of Carmelo Anthony and Dirk will be star face of Dallas' recruiting team Wednesday when its pitch follows Rockets— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) July 1, 2014
Despite the massive implications such a signing would hold, the motivation to participate in the latest "Melodrama" is a rather simple one.
Assuming LeBron James stays based in South Beach, no available player could push the Mavs' ceiling higher than Anthony.
Comfortable operating on the low block, behind the three-point line or anywhere in between, the seven-time All-Star is as versatile as scoring savants come. This past season, he held top-50 efficiency rankings as an isolation player (0.96 points per possession, 37th), a pick-and-roll ball-handler (0.86, 44th), an off-screen shooter (1.05, 30th), an offensive rebounder (1.19, 38th) and a post-up scorer (1.02, 18th), per Synergy Sports (subscription required).
Of course the Mavericks would love to have Anthony. Any team in its right mind would.
For Dallas, though, the need to land him is higher than most. Not only could he add a new element to this already explosive offense—the Mavs put up 109.0 points per 100 possessions last season, tied for the second-most in the NBA, per NBA.com—he'd also help ease the superstar burden felt by the 36-year-old Nowitzki.
In return, the Mavericks could offer Anthony a stable, supportive organization, a shot at championship contention and surely a boatload of money. As CBS Sports' Matt Moore explained, the mutual benefits for this potential pairing are numerous:
The Mavericks need someone to take the reins from Nowitzki as the franchise star. The Mavs present a totally professional organization with a brilliant coach, aggressive management, and an innovative marketing team. Dallas isn't New York or LA, but it is a major market with a huge foothold and of course, no state income tax.
Also working in Dallas' favor is the fact it secured a spot on Anthony's cross-country recruiting trip. The Mavs need a seat at the table to take the pot, and they have one.
Now they have to figure out their best hand to play.
According to ESPN Dallas' Tim MacMahon, they're going with a "five-pronged pitch" hitting on the following elements: "1. Play for an elite coach ... 2. Play with a selfless star ... 3. A quality supporting cast ... 4. A proven front office and culture of winning ... 5. A plan for the future."
Expect the Mavs to invest a significant amount of their pitch to the first part of that equation, coach Rick Carlisle. He's a tactical genius in every sense and one of the franchise's biggest strengths in the eyes of owner Mark Cuban.
"I don't want to throw anybody under the bus, but their coaches are not as good as Rick Carlisle," Cuban said during an appearance on 103.3 FM's ESPN Dallas Gameday, via MacMahon.
Carlisle should be a major boost to the Mavs' chances, but Nowitzki's selflessness could wind up being their trump card.
Though his star might not shine as bright as it once did, the former MVP still holds that status in the NBA. For evidence of that fact, look no further than the 21.7 points a night he put up this past season with a sizzling .497/.398/.899 shooting slash to boot.
A 7-footer with legitimate three-point range (38.3 percent for his career), Nowitzki is a unique weapon in a league littered with larger-than-life specimens.
He's also more than willing to share the spotlight. He attempted only 15.9 shots a night in 2013-14—fewer than players like Thaddeus Young (16.2), Ryan Anderson (16.1) and Josh Smith (16.0)—letting teammates Monta Ellis (15.6), Vince Carter (10.0) and Shawn Marion (9.3) hunt for their own offense.
Allowing others to help shoulder the scoring burden paid major dividends late in games, as the Mavericks didn't have to rely on Nowitzki to be their closer.
The clearest sign of his selflessness, though, comes in his unwavering loyalty to his franchise.
He had committed to taking a "significant pay cut" in May 2013, per MacMahon, but he's found a way to provide the Mavs with even more flexibility. As sources told Stein, Nowitzki and the Mavericks "have mutually agreed to put off the finishing touches on their weeks-long negotiations until after the chance to make their recruiting pitch directly to Anthony."
Nowitzki will still get his money, but he will neither squeeze every penny out of Cuban's pocket nor force the franchise to pay him until it's done frying bigger fish:
Don't forget Mavs and Dirk already have good idea of ballpark on deal given fact sides discussed extension last month before June 30 buzzer— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) July 1, 2014
The supporting cast might seem like the toughest sell considering what the Mavericks are reportedly up against. They don't have a James Harden-Dwight Howard duo to sell like the Houston Rockets, or a three-headed monster of Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson like the Chicago Bulls.
They do, however, have some intriguing pieces in place, as MacMahon explained:
The Mavs can make the case that a Monta-Melo-Dirk trio would be the NBA’s most explosive one-two-three offensive punch. They certainly will make the case that adding Anthony to Nowitzki and center Tyson Chandler, his former New York Knicks teammate, would give the Mavs the best frontcourt in the league.
Anthony would have a defensive insurance policy in Chandler, along with offensive safety valves in Ellis and Nowitzki. Depending on how the Mavericks build the rest of their roster—they could face the departures of free agents Carter, Marion, Devin Harris and DeJuan Blair—their arsenal could grow even stronger.
The Mavs will need nothing more than a stat sheet to point toward their culture of winning. They've averaged 53 wins over the last 14 seasons, a stretch that has included a pair of NBA Finals berths and the 2011 title. That number is even more impressive than it sounds, considering it's dragged down a bit by the lockout-shortened, 66-game 2011-12 campaign.
And Dallas' plan for the future? Well, that grew even more appealing after the six-player trade that brought Chandler back to the franchise.
"He will be a free agent again next summer," Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News wrote of Chandler. "That means the Mavericks figure to have maximum money in 2015 to pursue free agents again. And next summer’s crop could be huge with Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge and Marc Gasol headlining that class."
The Mavericks' sales pitch should register well with Anthony, provided he's willing to listen.
For Dallas, chasing Anthony is absolutely the right move it can make.
"When you have a player of Anthony’s ability — he’s averaged 28 points the last two seasons and led the league in scoring two years ago — and you have money to get his attention, you take a big swing and hope for the best," Sefko wrote.
With the Mavs clearly swinging for the fences, what are the chances they actually make contact? After all, they've made a habit of chasing big names—Deron Williams in 2012, Dwight Howard and Chris Paul last summer—and have yet to walk away with one.
Which team has the best chance to sign Carmelo Anthony this summer?
Will this time be any different? That's hard to say, although it doesn't look great for Dallas.
"The Knicks remain the clear favorite to sign Anthony," Frank Isola of the New York Daily News reported Monday. Chicago can keep Anthony inside the path of least resistance that is the Eastern Conference, while the Rockets can offer him superstar running mates the Mavericks simply do not have.
Dallas, though, isn't out of this race. No one is until Anthony decides he's found the best spot to put pen to paper.
As long as Anthony's still floating in free-agent waters, the Mavs have to keep their boat nearby. Any chance to catch a big fish is one worth taking. There aren't enough risks to outweigh the potential reward.