Are the Dallas Mavericks Planning on Blowing Up the Roster Again?

Vytis Lasaitis@@LG_MineralFeatured ColumnistJune 17, 2015

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, left, looks on as forward Dirk Nowitzki (41) prepares to sit on the bench during the second half an NBA basketball game against the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday, March 19, 2014, in Dallas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
LM Otero/Associated Press

The Dallas Mavericks have hit an annual roster reset button over the last couple of seasons, refusing to commit to long-term deals. As this summer's free agency nears, another cleanup appears imminent.

Dallas' agenda has been clear: Scavenge the league for another superstar, and keep the books clean if one doesn't land in its lap. When the big names have signed elsewhere, the Mavs have mostly been forced to settle for rejected placeholders on one-year deals.

The signings of Monta Ellis and Chandler Parsons are the latest deviations from this plan, but their contracts were still carefully crafted. Ellis was signed at a discount when his market value was low. And while Parsons' $45 million deal is massive, it only stretches over three years.

Even after making a splash on Parsons, the Mavs have a virtually empty roster going into free agency. Dirk Nowitzki, Devin Harris, Raymond Felton and Ellis (player option) are essentially the only other players with fully guaranteed deals, per HoopsHype.

Apr 26, 2015; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Monta Ellis (11) waits for play to resume against the Houston Rockets as fans look on in game four of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Center. The Mavericks defeated the Rockets
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

However, Ellis is expected to opt out of his contract in pursuit of a more lucrative long-term deal, per ESPNDallas.com's Tim MacMahon.

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If he indeed opts out, it appears as though Dallas is more than willing to cut ties with its starting shooting guard and reshape the roster once again, according to MacMahon:

Ellis should not anticipate that raise coming from the Mavs, who would rather move on than make a major long-term investment in a one-dimensional player whose moodiness and selfishness negatively impacted the team’s chemistry last season, according to sources with knowledge of the front office's thought process.

In an ideal world, Rajon Rondo would have fit better, propelling this roster to an extended postseason run and then re-signing with the rest of the veterans. But Dallas maintained the flexibility to blow it up if things didn't work out, and that's where things seem to be headed now.

It's abundantly clear that this team isn't good enough to compete with the best in the Western Conference, and significant modifications have to be made if that is to change.

Dallas also doesn't have the luxury of tanking a season. It moved its 2016 first-round draft pick in the Rondo trade, and the Mavs owe it to Dirk to put a competitive roster around him in the twilight years of his career.

What's the Plan?

ATLANTA, GA - FEBRUARY 25:  Rick Carlisle of the Dallas Mavericks reacts during the game against the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on February 25, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or
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It's not clear whether the Mavericks will be completely cleaning house. The status of Chandler, Al-Farouq Aminu and even Ellis is still up in the air, but it appears as though they are all backup options if things don't work out in free agency.

The Mavs will go after the Los Angeles Clippers' DeAndre Jordan and perhaps even the Portland Trail Blazers' LaMarcus Aldridge, per MacMahon.

If Dallas can't land either of the two, it's possible that more than just three or four players from last year's team could be back.

Solidity at the center position is key, and Chandler will likely be kept if a major free agent doesn't sign with Dallas. Nowitzki has become a huge liability on the defensive end and needs an elite rim protector next to him.

Aminu is another bench cog that Dallas would probably love to keep around. He quietly developed into one of the most versatile defensive wings in the league last season, and snapping him up at around $5 million per year would be wise.

Apr 21, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard J.J. Barea (5) dribbles against the Houston Rockets in game two of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center. Rockets won 111 to 99. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

J.J. Barea also proved his worth in the postseason. He knows what head coach Rick Carlisle needs out of him, doesn't mind coming off the bench and is an excellent backcourt option if any in the rotation get hurt.

Keeping anyone else wouldn't be smart.

Plan B?

If Dallas is to contend in the West, it has to make at least a couple of drastic changes. Missing out on a superstar will severely hurt those chances, but there are free agents who could bolster this team.

Since the Mavericks seem more than willing to shut the door after Ellis opts out of his contract, they will have an opportunity to completely rework the backcourt. Two-way versatility will have to be at the top of the wish list.

Ellis has done wonders for Dallas as a playmaker. He initiated most possessions and got the machine going, after which the natural actions of Carlisle's motion offense could take place.

But he isn't a good defender, and locking down on that end has to be a priority.

There are plenty of guys the Mavericks could go for. Khris Middleton, Wesley Matthews and Danny Green are just three examples of excellent two-way shooting guards. Green isn't particularly versatile offensively, but he is a fantastic shooter who can drive and kick when needed.

The pool of point guards isn't as deep this summer, but those like Patrick Beverley should be available.

Dallas also has an option to bump Devin Harris into the starting lineup, keep Barea and add another backup behind them. That would leave more room to make a splash at one of the aforementioned wings.

Final Thoughts

Apr 15, 2015; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Monta Ellis (11) during the game against the Portland Trail Blazers at the American Airlines Center. The Mavericks defeated the Trail Blazers 114-98. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

It's understandable to feel a bit giddy about the Mavericks' summer. The possibilities seem endless, but the last couple of years haven't been particularly fruitful on the superstar-hunting front.

Landing a player like Jordan would not only make Dallas better now, but also give the team another young stud to build around when Nowitzki retires.

If Jordan ends up in Dallas, his deal would likely be significantly pricier than what Chandler might be willing to sign for. It would mean that most of the role players from this year would be out, and a complete rework of the roster would commence.

After watching what the Golden State Warriors accomplished this season, it's hard not to admit the perks of consistency. If a group gets enough time to work through its issues and grow as a collective unit, it has a greater opportunity to reap the rewards in the long term.

But the Mavericks are in a slightly different situation.

The clock is ticking on Nowitzki, who will soon be 37. He is still a supremely competent offensive weapon for his age, and Dallas has to do its best to add talent around him.

That essentially eliminates the possibility of adding younger players and allowing the group to grow. The Mavs have to once again thro random ingredients together in a pot, hoping that Carlisle can make things click immediately. It's not fair to the coach or the players, but that's the reality.

If Dallas strikes out on the big names, more familiar faces from last year may return. It would ease the transition into next year, but the Mavericks will still need to make some kind of a major splash to spring back to relevance.

You can follow me on Twitter @VytisLasaitis.


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