The Dallas Mavericks are playing a dangerous game with the “keep the powder dry” plan. Cap space sounds like a good idea, but if free agents are not willing to come to the Mavs, it makes no difference in wins and losses.
Why would free agents not want to come to Dallas? The Mavs have recent success, a superstar in place, and a top-level head coach. They also have a first class organization, with a private plane, custom-made sideline chairs, and famously the best towels in the NBA. The night life isn’t what it is in Miami, New York, or L.A. but it’s not exactly Milwaukee either.
So with all those positives, why are the Mavericks not more attractive to free agents? Well the first answer is easy, the Mavs lone superstar is aging, and possibly already not the player he once was. Above and beyond that though, is the fact that Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson have shown no loyalty to their own players in the Cuban era of the Mavs. Young free agents see an older Dirk, and think, “when this guy goes, what reason will Dallas have to be loyal to me?”
Steve Nash and Tyson Chandler are the obvious examples of this trend, but we will explore a timeline of players who the Mavs probably owed a new contract to, but choose to go a different direction.
Nick Van Exel: Traded Aug 18th 2003 after scoring 12.5 ppg and being the heart and soul of the Mavs playoff run. Clutch player and the Mavs’ first tough guy.
Raja Bell: Not resigned in 2003 after scoring 3.1 ppg and showing ability as a defensive stopper. Scored 11.2 ppg in the next season with Utah and became known as an elite defensive player.
Antwan Jamison: Jamison scored 14.8 ppg and grabbed 6.3 rebounds while playing only 29 mins a game. Jamison was not only wronged in being traded to Washington, but in being asked to take a bench role behind volume shooter Antoine Walker.
Steve Nash: The most famous example of Mavs disloyalty, Nash was let go in the prime of his career after scoring 15.5 ppg and having 9.5 assists per game. Nelson and Cuban worried about paying Nash after he was unable to guard Tony Parker in the playoffs.
Michael Finley: Finley was amnestied after a down season, scoring only 15.7 ppg, the lowest in his Mavs career. Nelson probably got this right as Finley was never the same, but Finley was the first big deal of the Cuban era, and Dallas wanted out early.
JJ Barea: 9.5 ppg, 3.9 apg and turning around two playoff series (including the Finals) wasn’t enough to get JJ a new deal with Dallas.
Caron Butler: Yes, Butler was hurt for the Mavs’ Finals run, but he was averaging 15 ppg and 4 rebounds a game before his injury. The Mavs looked almost unbeatable with him in the lineup. Still, he was not resigned – even at a reduced number.
Tyson Chandler: The perfect complement to Dirk, Chandler was not seriously considered by the Mavs despite his emotional leadership and a Defensive Player of the Year type performance.
DeShawn Stevenson: Stevenson was not great in the Mavs’ Finals winning season, but he took on tough guards, and hit big shots to take pressure off Dirk and Jason Terry. Unlike his other champion teammates, he was not signed to a big deal, and he was not even offered a deal from Cuban and Nelson.
Jason Terry: The Mavs let Terry walk, despite his long, successful partnership with Dirk, two Finals appearances, and averaging 15.1 ppg in his final season. Terry signed a deal with Boston for the mid-level exception. He deserves to have his jersey number retired here, and he deserved to be treated better by the organization.
History tells the story. Cuban and Nelson have been praised continuously for remaking the team several times around Dirk and maintaining Dallas as a contender. But the message to free agents is clear: “Come to Dallas, play well or even win a championship – but if you deserve a new deal, there’s a good chance the Mavs won’t give it to you.”