I covet basketball players. LeBron and Wade, of course, but players like John Salmons, Al Jefferson and Emeka Okafor have also been on my list for players I would like to see on my beloved Mavericks.
Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood are two of those players as well, and now they're both part of Cuban's boys.
But at what cost? Haywood cost them Josh Howard (which I am actually OK with), and he will cost them another $55 million until age 35 or so.
And Chandler required the biggest chip of all: The vaunted Erick Dampier expiring contract. Going into the summer, my wildest fantasies included Dampier being turned into LeBron James. While it was technically possible, we have learned that it wasn't in the cards much at all.
While I didn't react well (I may or may not have left several Mel Gibson-style messages on friends' phones the night of July 8), in the end, the Mavericks made a smart move, getting bigger and securing some financial flexibility for the future.
We learned in the NBA Finals that size still matters most. The Celtics were six offensive rebounds away from winning game 7 on the road. The loss of Kendrick Perkins in the low-post doomed them more than any brick from Ray Allen could have.
The Mavericks, who entered the off-season with no center to start next season, now have an abundance of them. More importantly, Brendan Haywood and Tyson Chandler are defensive-minded centers, helping the Mavs make up for Dirk's lack of defensive presence.
Now, the Mavericks have a front line that can, on paper, stand up with the Lakers. All of a sudden, Bynum, Odom and Gasol are outdone by Haywood, Chandler and Dirk.
Let's call Dirk and Pau a wash (Pau's a better passer; Dirk's a better scorer) and stack up Odom and Bynum vs. Chandler and Haywood. Who knows if Bynum will ever be healthy, but since Chandler has also had health issues, we can call those two equal as well.
Haywood is much more consistent than Odom, though Odom possesses his own unique skill set. When it comes to defense and a low-post presence, Haywood is superior.
Thanks to Shawn Marion, the Mavs had good luck containing high-scoring wing players last season. Kobe, LeBron, Wade, Brandon Roy, and Kevin Durant all had sub-par games each time they played the Mavs. Shawn Marion, who is an underrated defender, is the primary reason for that.
The question is: have the Mavs moves made them more of a contender? Yes, they have. They haven't lost any meaningful contributors and they've improved where they needed to. Add a second-year improvement from Rodrigue Beaubois and the X Factor of Dominique Jones and the Mavericks are looking good going into the Fall.
They didn't make a big move; just a few small ones designed to bolster areas in need. There's another Western team that seems to do that, and they're always praised, and they're always contenders: The San Antonio Spurs.
In the coming weeks, I'll be going more into detail about what the Mavs are depending on to compete with the Lakers for the West, but as the trade dust settles, one thing is clear: The Mavs are bigger, and they'll be back this year.
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