Last offseason, after two straight years of holding out for a franchise player to gobble up their cap space, the Mavs seemingly gave up. Deron Williams said no, Dwight Howard said no, Chris Paul didn’t even show up to the table – the superstar route just wasn’t happening. The Mavs conceded, signing Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis to long-term, non-superstar deals.
Dallas was chided for twice giving out the exact kind of contract that general consensus recognized as the league’s most toxic. Cuban, in turn, offered a response via his blog:
“I see quite a few teams taking what appears to be the same approach to building a team. I can understand why they are taking this approach. In the current CBA the value of a player chosen in the draft can be considerable because of the defined contract terms. And if you put together some great young players, it is very enticing to want to keep those players together for a long period.
But I also know that even if you have the worst record in the NBA, you may not get the top pick and even if you do, there is a material chance you pick the wrong player , or it just happens to be a draft when there are not any IDENTIFIABLE superstar potential players at the top of the draft.
In other words , while it may be popular i think the quantity of teams taking the same approach makes it more difficult to build a team in this manner.”
You could easily build a convincing counterargument as to Cuban’s idea’s effectiveness, especially when brought to life using Calderon and Ellis as vessels, but the premise is pure capitalism. There is no single, definitive way to win a title – and who knows this better than Dallas, who won the big one in 2011 in delightfully Dirkian unique fashion. Rather, the trick is building the best team among 30 within a defined set of rules and restricted amount of resources. If the 2013 league frowns upon $10 million players so much that you can acquire them for $8 million, stocking up on that market inefficiency can, in a roundabout way, be a boon.
It was an interesting thought process, borne partially out of a the basic premise that you can’t tank with Dirk, partially out of an economically driven perspective on a league-wide tilt. The results themselves were mixed – a good season in the deep West and an impressive showing against the eventual champions, but with a glass ceiling nowhere near actual contention – but given how the Mavs were just one year deep with this new strategy, the experiment had earned itself more time.
And yet, a year later, they seem to have pulled the plug. Dallas’ moves this summer touch every part of the transaction spectrum except high-money, non-all-star veterans in free agency. They re-signed Dirk Nowitztki for the elderly superstar hometown discount, traded for Tyson Chandler, a near-max contract that compensates for age-driven sub-max contributions by expiring this summer, and re-signed Devin Harris on the cheap, with a 3 year, $9 million deal that should prove a bargain. And now, with a middle finger pointed towards Houston, they nabbed Chandler Parsons with a mammoth 3 year, $46 million offer sheet that the Rockets declined to match.
Parsons is very clearly outside of the Monta/Jose contract group. His new deal is the sort teams simultaneously try to obtain and avoid, a young, athletic contributor with upside, but he had to be overpaid to reach restricted free agency’s terminal escape velocity. The gamble may turn out fine, and it’s easier to make on a 3 year deal, but it’s a gamble nonetheless, and it’s certainly not a market inefficiency.
Dallas has no obligation to take a one-summer strategy and extend it for a decade. Perhaps they believe Parsons is good enough for a singular change of course. Perhaps Dallas just didn’t find anybody in the 8 to 10 million range that they truly believed would be good value. Perhaps they’ve reneged on the strategy completely – after all, Calderon was expunged in the Tyson Chandler trade. Perhaps they’re just throwing spaghetti at the wall and writing blog posts to try and figure out what will or won’t stick.
Whatever the reason, strategic or anomaly, it adds another dimension to both the on-court and behind-the-scenes Mavericks. This new Dallas lineup offers some interesting possibilities, but still seems to be on the fringes of contention, if that. The Mavs know that, and have some cap flexibility to deal with it. If they once again strike out on superstars, their Plan B could teach us a lot about the way Cuban sees a rapidly changing NBA market.