Last summer, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban joked about the state of his team.
"We're rebuilding. Right?" Cuban comically asked, per Tim MacMahon of ESPN. "There's no question about it. If we were in the East, we would not be rebuilding. We'd be handling things completely different. I think I'm going to kidnap [commissioner] Adam Silver and not let him out until he moves us to the Eastern Conference.”
Unfortunately for Cuban, that didn’t happen.
"Given where we are, given where the Warriors are and what's happening in the Western Conference, it kind of sealed what we have to do,” he said at the time.
The Mavs are experiencing the pains of their rebuild and are currently 17-36 on the season. But, they’re in an odd place.
It seems as though they will build around rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. Harrison Barnes also seems to be someone that can be a part of the team’s long-term future. Yogi Ferrell and Max Kleber could also develop into starters.
But, a large percentage of the roster includes aging veterans. Along with future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki, J.J. Barea, Devin Harris, Wesley Matthews, Salah Mejri and Josh McRoberts are all over 30 years old. That's generally never a good recipe in a league that's becoming faster, stronger and younger.
A major aspect of Dallas’ front office strategy involves the concept of loyalty. Unlike most franchises, the Mavericks have a proven history of being loyal to their players, which is very rare. Although a winning culture was established in Dallas during Nowitzki’s prime, even resulting in a championship, it has since faded.
In the present day, the devotion by the front office to the players might have to come to an end if Dallas expects to complete their rebuild anytime soon.
"Winning is always the foundation to loyalty," Cuban recently told Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News. "Every player knows what the goal of our organization is -- to win championships. … Unfortunately, that means trading or releasing players we really care about. [And] it's very hard to make decisions on what to do or not to do.”
Selfko reported that the Mavs are willing to trade anyone except Smith Jr., Barnes or Nowitzki.
"To me, loyalty is being respectful of players, being honest with them -- knowing that we will be there to provide help and support long after their careers are over," Cuban explained. "As the Mavs rebuild, the decision process isn't just about talent. It's about culture, chemistry, effort and who the player is off the court and in the community. … All are of huge importance to [the management team].”
Therefore, if Dallas makes a trade, it won’t be done without a lot of thought.
"We won't make deals just to make deals," Cuban stated. "We will make trades that we feel are necessary to put us back on the championship path. Unfortunately, during a rebuild like we are going through, almost every player is going to feel some stress as we head into the trade deadline. It was the same last year. … The goal is that it won't be the same next year.”
Veteran players react
Despite the fact that Dallas needs to get a lot younger, that doesn’t mean that the team’s veterans will want to leave. Perhaps due to the culture that exists in Dallas, it doesn’t seem like anyone really wants to leave, even if it would mean joining a contender.
"He's loyal to a point where, like myself and J.J., we're not really looking to go elsewhere," Harris said. "We came back here for a reason. And we showed loyalty by sometimes taking less than other places to come back to a place where we wanted to go.”
"It's greatly appreciated because -- obviously, we want to win -- but we came here because we want to be part of this family. And he reciprocates that with his loyalty,” the point guard added.
"It doesn't come up, but we know," Barea admitted. "We definitely appreciate it, and he appreciates it, too. Mark is a smart guy. He knows the type of people we are, and we love it here. Me, Devin, Dirk, we wouldn't change this for anything. And he understands how much we like it here.”
When asked if he understood that other teams would be interested in acquiring him, Barea responded, "No question. But I'm happy where I'm at. You've heard me say it before, this is my home away from Puerto Rico.”
A new dawn
McRoberts, Harris, Nerlens Noel, Seth Curry, Mejri, Ferrell, Jeff Withey, Kyle Collinsworth, Antonius Cleveland, Gian Clavell, Jalen Jones and Johnathan Motley all have expiring contracts and will become unrestricted free agents this summer.
That means that Smith, Barnes, Nowitzki, Matthews, Dwight Powell, Barea, Dorian Finney-Smith and Kleber will be the only players under contract heading into next season. It’s worth noting that the Mavs hold a team option on Nowitzki’s $5 million salary for next season.
Out of those players, it seems as though Matthews and Barea would be the most attractive trade assets available. But, Matthews is making over $17.8 million this year and is slated to make over $18.6 million next year. Therefore, it may be a bit difficult to offload that salary. As stated above, it doesn’t seem like Barea wants to leave, but he comes at a more affordable $3.9 million salary this year and a $3.7 million mark next season.
Powell is making just over $9 million this year, will make $9.6 million next season and holds a player option of $10.2 million for the 2019-2020 campaign. He stands to be the only other player that Dallas would have interest in moving due to his lack of production despite his expensive salary.
Realistically, if the Mavericks shed Matthews’ salary for an expiring contract and offload Powell and Barea for players with expiring contracts, they could enter the summer with around $36 million in guaranteed salaries for next season. Not only would that allow them to sign two max players if they can make stellar free agent pitches, but they could potentially land a number of talented difference-makers in multi-year deals. With multiple draft picks also upcoming, a new age of Mavericks basketball could be here sooner than expected.News Now - Sport News