In a season in which the Golden State Warriors wreaked offensive havoc, and did so at a historic level, there was actually a point when the Dallas Mavericks were by far the most potent offensive team in the league.
In fact, in late November, the Mavericks were on pace to smash a nearly 30-year-old mark for offensive rating set by none other than the “Showtime” Los Angeles Lakers. Anytime your name appears on lists among the greatest teams of all time, you are obviously doing something right. Take a look at where the Mavs fit in with these historic heavyweights early in the season.
|Los Angeles, 1986-87||115.6|
Of course, this all changed just before Christmas when the Mavs acquired what they thought was an early present in the form of a top-tier point guard, Rajon Rondo. After bringing Rondo into the fold, the Mavs offense fell off significantly, and any hope of all-time offensive dominance quickly disintegrated.
All you have to do is take a look at their output before and after the trade to understand the devastation Rondo brought upon the Mavs offense.
Put simply, he just didn’t make sense in their system, and the Mavs suffered as a result. Gone was their ability to quickly engage in offensive sets, and to move the ball around the perimeter capitalizing on defensive weaknesses caused by advantages in angles from incredible floor spacing. Rondo simply doesn’t operate like that. Instead, more often than not, he walked the ball slowly up the court, allowing the defense to get set, and preventing Rick Carlisle’s tactical halfcourt brilliance from shining.
But, Rondo wasn’t only bad for the Mavs in a basketball sense. He also became a distraction and a negative force in the locker room. There’s no need to retread history here. His constant head-butting with Carlisle are now set infamously in basketball lore. Ultimately, his behavior would lead to him being removed from their lineup in the playoffs under the guise of a mysterious back injury, which wasn’t so mysterious at all for those who could connect the dots.
While the Rondo experiment was a unbridled failure, it’s hard to criticize Mark Cuban for taking a risk on bringing in what he believed to be the final piece of the championship puzzle. His heart was undoubtedly in the right place, even if his head may not have followed suit.
Now, the Mavericks enter an offseason filled with questions about where this team is headed. Cuban won’t allow this franchise to reach a downtrodden status, and as such you almost bank on some bold changes coming.
All season long, even after bringing in Rondo, their weaknesses rested exclusively on the defensive end. As dominant as they were on offense, they were equally as bad at stopping their opponent, especially on the perimeter.
Through most of the season, the Mavs hovered right around 20th in terms of overall defensive efficiency, but even that number is a bit deceiving. The Mavs were an absolute sive in terms of giving up three-pointers. Teams shot 36.4 percent against them, and only three teams gave up three-pointers at a higher rate; the Minnesota Timberwolves, Orlando Magic and New York Knicks. Not exactly great company.
They also gave up 103 points-per-game, a rate only exceeded by five other, non-playoff, teams. Clearly, this is an issue they need to address in the offseason.
Also, as part of the Rondo trade, the Mavs gave up some key pieces from their bench, greatly reducing their depth. Jae Crowder and Brandan Wright were both key contributors and have since gone on to carve out incredibly valuable roles on different teams. The Mavs will also need to focus on replenishing their depth.
Where Do They Go Now?
Heading into the offseason, the Mavs only have $44 million on the books, and that includes $8.7 million owed to Monta Ellis who has a player option. It would be shocking if Ellis opts out of his deal with the Mavericks, especially with the massive influx of TV money coming in 2016. He will likely play out his contract and test out free agency next summer.
Even with him back in the fold, the Mavs have a lot of money at their disposal, and if anyone has ever proven they are willing to spend money to win championships, it is Mark Cuban.
The Mavs will undoubtedly have their eye set on two of the big name free agents hitting the market this summer, LaMarcus Aldridge and DeAndre Jordan. Either would be a fantastic addition to this roster, but Jordan is a better fit. Aldridge’s skill set overlaps with Nowitzki’s a bit too much for my liking.
The Los Angeles Clippers should also be looking to create any salary cap flexibility they can, and if the recent rumors about them swapping Tyson Chandler and Jordan hold any weight, it would make sense that they bring in the cheaper option in Chandler.
The Mavericks’ biggest need will clearly be at the point guard position. Devin Harris is a really good backup caliber point guard, but he isn’t a starter in this league, and Raymond Felton is well, Raymond Felton.
One name that has been inextricably linked to the Mavs for much of the latter half of the season is the Denver Nuggets’ Ty Lawson, who has made his wishes to join the Mavs very public. The problem there is that they don’t have a lot of assets to make a potential deal with the Nuggets. However, with Lawson becoming more of a hindrance to the Nuggets’ rebuilding process by the day, the Nuggets may ultimately decide to sell low on him.
The only other options on the free agent market in terms of point guards, are Goran Dragic (player option), Reggie Jackson (restricted) and Brandon Knight (restricted). I honestly don’t see any of those players leaving their situation, and so the Mavs may need to put all of their eggs in the Lawson basket if they want to truly contend.
One thing is certain, the Mavs will spend money this summer to bring themselves back into the forefront of championship contention conversations. They will likely bring in at least two big names to make a splash, and then spend the rest of their money on players that can add depth to their roster. Think Mike Dunleavy, Omri Casspi, Darrell Arthur or Kosta Koufos, players of this ilk.
While this is a big summer for this franchise, since taking over ownership of the Mavs in 2000, Cuban has only allowed this team to miss the playoffs one time. I don’t see that trend changing anytime soon. Cuban will do what it takes to ensure the Mavs are legitimate threats to win it all next season, and you can take that to the bank.