It's been a while since the Dallas Mavericks have escaped an offseason unscathed in the media. After years of getting spurned by big free agents and getting killed for it afterward, the Mavericks are on the opposite end of the public opinion spectrum.
The narrative is no longer that the Mavericks missed out or that they're wasting the last years of Dirk Nowitzki's career. Now the Mavericks are being regarded as a winner of the offseason.
Here's Michael Pina of Sports on Earth with his take:
No team -- save the Cleveland Cavaliers, for obvious reasons -- has had a more pleasantly surprising offseason than the Dallas Mavericks. They filled a glaring hole, added a rising star and filled the margins with cheap, veteran production.
With Dirk Nowitzi still hanging on as a dark horse MVP candidate and Rick Carlisle functioning as the second best coach in the league, Dallas is perhaps once again on the brink of another title run. But how they got here makes things all the more impressive. No disrespect meant to Mark Cuban, Donnie Nelson or the honeymoon effect Carlisle and Nowitzki have on just about every player who crosses their path, but pulling this transformation off was a minor miracle.
There are a few reasons why this offseason could be considered miraculous.
The re-signing of Nowitzki on an insanely discounted deal heads the list. Nowitzki will stay in Dallas for $25 million over the next three years, which is one of the biggest offseason steals we've ever seen.
Consider that fellow free agent and Los Angeles Lakers forward Jordan Hill will make more money than Nowitzki next year, and you can begin to understand what kind of value Dallas got here.
The other big coup was re-acquiring Tyson Chandler. Mavericks management gets to make up for the one notable blemish since the 2011 championship by bringing Chandler back, simultaneously filling a big defensive need.
While Nowitzki's age and Chandler's injury history could come back to bite Dallas, these were risks that were unquestionably worth taking. The Mavericks couldn't waste another season without a legitimate starting center, and Nowitzki had earned whatever kind of contract he desired.
As Marc Stein of ESPN.com reports, Nowitzki was certainly worth much more than what he took:
Sources say that Nowitzki received strong interest in free agency from the Houston Rockets and the Los Angeles Lakers to leave Dallas for max-level money but refused to engage in negotiations with either team.
Nowitzki consented to such a steep pay reduction -- from last season's $22.7 million to the roughly $8 million he'll get for this coming season -- to give the Mavericks added flexibility to strengthen the supporting cast around him.
There's virtually no way you can consider the Nowitzki signing a bad decision, and it's tough to make the case that trading for Chandler wasn't wise, either.
Both are still productive players, and while losing Jose Calderon will hurt, it's smart for Dallas to solidify the paint and then worry about the perimeter later. This is a frontcourt pairing that worked very well not all that long ago.
Here's where it gets a little less cut and dry, though. The signing of restricted free agent Chandler Parsons was viewed as a massive victory, mainly because the Mavericks stole away one of their rival's best players and got younger in the process.
Is Parsons worth three years and $46 million? As of right now, no. While you expect the trajectory to continue upward and for Parsons to improve on his well-rounded skill set, the upgrade may not be felt immediately.
Parsons and Carter had the same player efficiency rating (15.9), and Carter's per-36 average of 17.6 points per game was 1.7 points better than Parsons'. Carter got to the free-throw line more and shot more efficiently from behind the arc, two staples of great offenses around the league.
Obviously, Parsons had a bigger impact playing 38 minutes a night than Carter did in his 24 minutes, and you'd certainly expect Carter to regress and Parsons to progress this upcoming season. The point, however, stands. Parsons may not represent the massive talent upgrade you'd expect from someone making over $15 million a year.
The good news here, though, is that the deal for Parsons won't outlive any of the other contracts on the books. If Nowitzki retires at the conclusion of his contract, which seems likely, Dallas will have a completely clean slate to start with, as Dallas currently has no guaranteed contracts for the 2017-18 season.
It's fair to ask if this offseason would be deemed such a success without Nowitzki's generosity. Parsons could have never received the deal he did, and that's something that probably doesn't escape him.
Here's what he told Tim MacMahon of ESPN Dallas: "That just shows what kind of guy he is. Dirk is a true professional. He’s so loyal to Dallas and this organization. Those are the types of guys you want in the locker room and the types of guys you want to play with."
Credit should be given to Nowitzki, head coach Rick Carlisle and Mavericks owner Mark Cuban for building a loyal relationship and culture where this sort of thing can happen. But did the Mavericks really do enough with the gift Nowitzki presented?
That's hard to say. You'd feel more confident if the starting point guard position wasn't a three-headed monster of Jameer Nelson, Raymond Felton and Devin Harris, if Shawn Marion would return instead of sitting around in free agency or if a better replacement for Carter other than Al-Farouq Aminu and Richard Jefferson was brought on.
Even though that's nitpicking, the margin for error in the Western Conference is incredibly thin. Dallas battled tooth and nail just to make it as a No. 8 seed last year, after all, so every single roster move carries great significance.
With that in mind, it's hard to proclaim that the Mavericks won the offseason, even when excluding LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers from the conversation.
The roster is definitely stronger thanks to the return of Chandler, and stealing away a young talent like Parsons should pay dividends so long as he keeps improving. Still, it's dangerous to assume that nothing was lost with guys like Jose Calderon, Vince Carter and possibly Shawn Marion departing.
The Mavericks did well to improve, but they weren't the only ones out West to do so. This offseason was a great start, but there's still work to be done here.
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