For all NBA fans—and particularly Mavericks fans—their Christmas wish has come true, but there's still plenty of shopping to do to stock the space underneath the tree.
We're a week away from the official start of free agency, and while the champion Mavericks have several decisions to make, there is none bigger than deciding about their defensive cornerstone Tyson Chandler.
For a 29-year-old with 10-plus years of experience and several injuries behind him, Chandler couldn't be entering a better space to sign his last large contract. Unlike several teams courting him, the Mavericks know exactly what he means to their team.
But Chandler, along with Nene and Marc Gasol, is among the top free-agent centers on the market, and is probably one of the top five in the league. Size covers up a lot of holes in the NBA, which is why contenders and non-contenders alike will be after Chandler's services.
For all intents and purposes, the Dirk Nowitzki era of the Dallas Mavericks will last through the 2013-14 season. That's when Dirk's current contract runs out. But if we're talking realistically, he probably has one or two seasons left performing at his current level.
Tyson Chandler is sure to be offered four years from many teams, meaning if the Mavericks sign him for four or five, they are locked in to Tyson Chandler for the remainder of the Dirk era.
The question is: Should they?
Starting in the 2012-13 season, when Jason Terry and Jason Kidd come off the books, the Mavs have $43.8 million committed in salaries. That gives them ample cap room to chase a marquee free agent in the Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, Deron Williams class.
What approach should the Mavericks take with Tyson Chandler?
But the summer of 2010 and subsequent developments have shown that players often have their own desires as to where they land, and with the possible exception of Howard, none have expressed interest in Dallas.
But there are pieces that can be moved around. Names such as Rajon Rondo, Russell Westbrook and others are already rumored to be on the block, and who knows who will become available in the next few years?
Is an injury-prone center who just led your franchise to the championship worth going all-in on for the next few years? And what if signing the same center means that contributors like Caron Butler and JJ Barea leave?
To answer the second question: Yes, the Mavericks were able to win without Butler, and while JJ Barea provided the spark that helped the Mavs keep the Heat at bay during the finals, his skill set is replaceable.
If it's a choice between Chandler and those two, I choose Tyson Chandler.
But if Tyson will be the center through the rest of the Dirk era, then the Mavs need to make sure they have talent to replace Butler and Barea—and eventually Kidd and Terry.
Corey Brewer, Rodrigue Beaubois and Dominque Jones are interesting pieces, but their development might take longer than the Mavs afford to give.
But if Beaubois can duplicate what the Mavs got from Barea (which he should, given his better shooting and defense), then they already have most of their championship core coming back for next year.
Brewer seems to be an heir apparent to Shawn Marion: What he lacks in freakish athletic ability, he makes up for with intelligent play and better outside shooting.
And Jones, while raw, can be the kind of slashing guard that Barea was.
So I think the Mavs should sign Tyson Chandler, within reason. I wouldn't go much higher than $13-14 million per year (a raise over last year—after all, the man did win a ring). I wouldn't put it past some teams to offer him that, and while it would be disappointing to see him go, it's not worth the Mavs leveraging the next five years on the toes and legs of Tyson Chandler, especially when large luxury tax penalties come into play in two seasons.
The Mavs' window to get Dirk more rings is now, and we know Chandler is capable of holding up his end of the bargain. Let's just hope the price is right.