Why Don't Free Agents Want to Sign with the Dallas Mavericks Anymore?

Jesse DorseyFeatured ColumnistJuly 11, 2013

DALLAS, TX - APRIL 15:  Dirk Nowitzki #41 of the Dallas Mavericks passes the ball against the Memphis Grizzlies at American Airlines Center on April 15, 2013 in Dallas, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Dallas Mavericks' most recent free-agency whiff came Wednesday evening when ESPN's Chris Broussard reported via Twitter that Andrew Bynum would be signing with the Cleveland Cavaliers, not the Mavericks. The question arises then: What's wrong with the Mavericks?

There once was a time when Mark Cuban could waive his checkbook around all summer long and free agents would come running.

They weren't all magnificent signings, however, but they were free-agent signings nonetheless.

Cuban and the Mavericks would put together a trade for a player and hang onto him no matter his suitors. Free agents left Dallas only when the Mavericks were through with them.

In the past two seasons, Dallas has not only missed out on big-name free agents, but it lost its own as well.

Over the course of just a year, Jason Kidd signed with the New York Knicks (which created an awkwardness between him and Cuban), Jason Terry moved on to the Boston Celtics, Chris Kaman jumped over to the Los Angeles Lakers, O.J. Mayo signed with the Milwaukee Bucks and the Mavericks may not yet know that the Los Angeles Clippers announced that they've signed Darren Collison.

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Beyond that, they willingly let Tyson Chandler sign a big deal with the Knicks back in 2011, killing any chance of their championship squad winning another.

In that same time period, they whiffed on Dwight Howard (twice), Deron Williams and Andrew Bynum, while landing the likes of Kaman, Mayo, Elton Brand, Brendan Haywood, Jose Calderon and Wayne Ellington.

The most telling moment of the past year came when they gave Calderon a four-year, $29 million deal, their biggest acquisition of this summer.

Back in 2004, Steve Nash's contract was up and he was looking for a multiyear deal so he and Dirk Nowitzki could ride horses into the Dallas sunset together.

Nash wanted a full six-year extension to his contract, but Cuban looked at the 29-year-old point guard who put his body in harm's way daily, and the thought of risking six years on him made the man recoil in horror.

He let his point guard go (writing a 4,000-word blog post a few days later) and Nash signed a six-year deal with the Phoenix Suns. From there, Nash averaged 18 points and 11.4 assists over that six-season span.

Last year, Cuban admitted he was wrong about Nash. He didn't admit that his mentality was wrong, only that he was wrong about Nash.

So here they are this summer, grasping at straws every step of the way, only to give a 31-year-old (knocking on the door of 32) Calderon a four-year deal.

It's not nearly as long (although both contracts would have run into the same age), or for as much money, but Jose Calderon is not nearly Steve Nash.

As Dallas gets spurned left and right for the free agents that could bring the team back into the playoffs, it's becoming more and more desperate, leading to the team abandoning its principles and signing Calderon to a four-year deal.

So why is this happening? That is to say, what's so wrong with the Mavericks that no top-tier free agents wish to come their way?

To put it simply, they're not a very good team.

While the Mavericks are good enough to compete for the eighth seed and likely finish somewhere around .500, there's not much to be done to their roster that would make them championship contenders yet again.

While pitching the team to free agents, Dallas had a 35-year-old Dirk Nowitzki to boast about, along with Shawn Marion and Vince Carter, who are 35 and 36, respectively.

Beyond that, the team has Jae Crowder, who might have a fine career, a few rookies who aren't entirely intriguing, and a mountain to climb in its own division.

When Dwight Howard compares that list of players to a Houston Rockets team full of young, dynamic players who could be his teammates for the next five years and beyond, why would he ever pick the Mavericks?

The same goes for Bynum and the Cavaliers. Sure, Nowitzki has won a championship and is a former MVP, but he's not a 21-year-old phenom like Kyrie Irving.

Perhaps it's time to blow it all up, trade away the tradable players (even Dirk) that remain and join the tank train.

If the Boston Celtics taught us anything this summer with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, it's that no player is safe from being traded, even if they've played for the same team since 1999. 


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