Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Trying to understand the Mavs

The Dallas Mavericks have been as active as any team in the league since the beginning of free agent discussions on July 1st, reportedly resigning Jason Kidd (25 million, 3 years), signing the Magic's Marcin Gortat to an offer sheet (reportedly 30 million, 5 years), and now actively looking to acquire the Toronto Raptor's Shawn Marion in a sign-and-trade. Is there any reasoning behind this cluster of moves or is owner Mark Cuban reverting back to his days of collecting as many assets as possible?

Enough has been written about the Jason Kidd signing, so let me summarize: future hall-of-famer, 36 years old, significantly declining, still valuable as a leader, grossly overpaid. Probably covers it all up.

Moving to Gortat. The second year player out of Poland produced very will in a limited role as Dwight Howard's backup in Orlando, averaging 3.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 0.8 blocks in only 12 minutes per game, with a PER of 17.04. Dallas' starting center, Eric Dampier, had 5.7, 7.1 and 1.2 in 23 minutes per game, and a PER of 15.72. Given Dampier's minutes, Gortat is definitely an upgrade, especially considering that he gives Dallas the privilege of never needing to play Ryan Hollins again. Overall, a good signing.

However, Marion starts complicating things. Marion can play as a 3 or a 4, but the Mavs have very good players at both position: former all-star Josh Howard at the 3, and former MVP Dirk Nowitzki at the 4. Where does Marion fit?

I see two options. The first one - Dallas goes small. Dirk at the 5, Marion at the 4, Howard at the 3, with Kidd leading the fast break (something he doesn't do as brilliantly as his reputation suggests, but is still good at). Both Dirk and Marion have had many years of small ball playing with Steve Nash, and I doubt they would be against returning to that style of play. Marion, in particular, may even re-emerge as the all-star he once was, though his recent drop probably has more to do with him than with the systems he played in with Miami and Toronto. However, there is only one problem - the Mavs are signing Gortat. There is no way that Gortat can play small ball - not only is he a traditional center, he doesn't fit in with the potential rotation described above.

Which leads us to only one conclusion: if Marion comes, then Dallas will try to get rid of Josh Howard. The Mavs aren't going to keep 3 very highly paid forwards on the team, and seeing how Dirk is the face of the franchise, and Marion is unlikely to accept a bench role with his history of bickering and alpha dog aspirations, J-Ho is the odd man out. Maybe the Mavs are tired with his injuries and bizarre interviews, maybe they feel they can progress no more with him on their team, but the writing is on the wall.

Of course, this whole article may seems irrelevant tomorrow when Marion talks fall out for whatever reason. Or when the Mavs sign Marion, keep Howard, and implode. But that's just NBA free agency for you. So if - and that's a big if - this all falls into place, don't be surprised when Josh Howard wears a different uniform next season.


  1. What are your thoughts on Howard takers though?

  2. I actually wouldn't be suprised to see him on the Knicks. He's athletic enough to play for D'Antoni, and his contract has a team option for 2010-2011, which fits well with the Knick's bid for Lebron. Not sure NY has the assets to pry him from Dallas though... the other team is probably Portland, who supposedly really want a SF and have the cap flexibility and the assets to to make a deal. Maybe Howard for Outlaw and Steve Blake (just guessing, no inside sources)

  3. Anthony M BurrolaJuly 14, 2009 at 1:59 AM

    I don't think those are the only two options they have. That's what's known as a false dichotomy. I don't see them trading Howard. His injuries may have bothered them, but there's no way you snag an aging Marion to replace a hell of a player when healthy(and still young) in Josh Howard. Cuban seems to be extremely fond of spending money though, that's pretty clear. I think their additions make them pretty formiddable. Why not play Howard at SG and Marion at SF? I don't see it as a problem. Antoine Wright isn't that good.

  4. I don't think Howard is a good enough shooter to play the 2 (32%, 35% from 3 past two seasons). Also, not as young as advertised - he came into the league in the famous 2003 draft, but as a 23 year old. He'll be 30 next April. They probably don't trade him now that they lost out on Gortat, but he's still their second most likely trade candidate after Dampier and his huge expiring contract.