The Dallas Mavericks Have a Golden Opportunity in Front of Them
On February 19, 2008, the Dallas Mavericks pulled the trigger on a trade that sent up-and-coming point guard Devin Harris, Keith Van Horn, Trenton Hassell, Maurice Ager, and DeSagana Diop (first round draft picks in 2008 and 2010), and $3 million to the New Jersey Nets in exchange for veteran point guard Jason Kidd, Antoine Wright, and Malik Allen.
The Mavericks made the trade in what seemed like a last-ditch effort to win a championship by adding Kidd to the core of Dirk Nowitzki and Josh Howard.
The Nets made the deal as a part of the rebuilding process, turning the team over to the then-25-year-old Harris in favor of the then-34-year-old Kidd.
Dallas finally made the deal after weeks of deliberation and rumors, even after the first iteration of the trade was nixed when Mavericks' forward Devean George blocked it, saying he wanted to stay in Dallas.
The Mavs found a way to make the trade happen without involving George, and the rest is history.
Kidd was solid, but nothing spectacular, averaging nine points and nine assists this past season.
On the other side of the coin, Harris enjoyed a breakout season in his first full campaign for New Jersey, averaging 21 points and seven assists per game, including his first selection to the All-Star game.
When the free agency signing period begins Wednesday, Kidd is expected to re-sign with Dallas with a reported three year contract worth around $25 million.
On the bright side, Dallas will only be paying Kidd $8 million, as opposed to the whopping $20 million they had to shell out to him last season.
On the down side, barring a Pau Gasol-like trade in their favor, the Mavs are hardly in a position to realistically compete for a championship.
While the acquisitions of players like Marcin Gortat and possibly Shawn Marion have the chance to make Dallas better, it's likely that they would still be on the outside looking in on teams like the Lakers, Celtics, Spurs, Magic, and Cavaliers in terms of legitimate championship contenders.
It's been said that, had they let Kidd sign elsewhere this summer, owner Mark Cuban would have been left with nothing to show for losing out on Harris.
In my opinion, the re-signing of Kidd is just setting the franchise back another three years.
One thing Cuban absolutely cannot be accused of is not being persistent.
Since Dallas blew a 2-0 lead in the 2006 Finals to lose to Miami, there have been rumors and opinions every offseason that Dallas should try and split up the nucleus of the roster and go with a different approach.
Instead of trying to rebuild by moving established talent like Nowitzki and Howard for younger players, the Mavs have changed head coaches (Avery Johnson to Rick Carlisle) and traded away their one young, emerging talent (Harris) in order to get an older player (Kidd).
Fortunately for Dallas, the Kidd contract doesn't at all take them out of the shopping spree that next summer is shaping up to be.
One contract worth $8 million a year isn't debilitating, especially with high priced players like Nowitzki, Howard, Erick Dampier, and Jerry Stackhouse coming off the books after next season.
One problem is, when was the last time Dallas was able to attract a big-time free agent?
The Mavericks acquired players like Michael Finley, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry, Antawn Jamison, and Antoine Walker in trades.
While they will have plenty of money to spend, history suggests that the Mavericks may not be able to pick up as many big pieces through free agency as they expect to in 2010.
We can't say they haven't tried to make themselves winners via free agency.
Just last summer, the Mavs gave a full mid-level contract (worth about $32 million over five years) to center DeSagana Diop.
Diop was traded for spare parts to Charlotte in the middle of last season.
It's been reported that Dallas is expected to sign another center to a full mid-level contract Wednesday, that being Marcin Gortat from Orlando.
While Gortat is an intriguing prospect, he's nothing close to a sure thing.
Dallas claims to be consistently working toward a championship, but their continuous less-than-spectacular transactions suggest otherwise.
The Mavericks should have let Kidd walk and focused their efforts in other areas, including trading their tired rotation of veterans for younger players with a chance to improve and grow together.
There is serious demand for lucrative contracts that are expiring after this season.
Teams are trying to get as far under the cap as possible so that they can all make a run at LeBron James or Dwyane Wade, etc.
Dallas should take advantage of this and rebuild in a different way.
There's always risk in blowing things up and trying to rebuild, but there's also risk in letting a player like Nowitzki walk out the door for nothing and hoping you can get Chris Bosh or Amar'e Stoudemire instead.
There is an abundance of young talent in this league waiting to be tapped, and the Mavericks have plenty of trade chips to offer in order to bring some of them to the Lone Star State.
The teams that aren't saving money for free agents are the ones that are losing huge wads of it each year, like the Hornets, for example.
Chris Paul can be had for the right price. The same can be said for David West.
The Charlotte Bobcats aren't rolling in cash, either.
Players like Gerald Wallace, Emeka Okafor, and Boris Diaw are almost certainly available to the highest bidder.
The Mavericks have a golden opportunity in front of them.
They have the ability to get younger, better, and more exciting right away, while other teams sit on their hands in anticipation for next summer.
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