Ah, 2012, the Lockout Season. It began in a rush, with little time for preparation and a schedule crammed so tightly that the Mavs' goals were modest. It's simply survival, to get through the season without major injury, get the team to gel as a group, and make the playoffs, where they'll hopefully be peaking at the right time and able to make a major run at a repeat championship.
That's philosophy has been voiced by everyone from Mark Cuban to Dirk Nowitzki
. It's now Dallas Mavericks
So with that as the hub of the thinking … are there any "spokes'' on this wheel? Extensions of the thinking? Additions to the thinking?
What do we know about the Mavs' plans? What do we think of those plans?
MAVS' TRADES? THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS SAYS …
Off the court, we've been given a declaration last week by Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News that the Mavs' this-year trade agenda is … well, non-existent. There have been no trade talks to date (whereas in other seasons in February they would already be up to their eyeballs in such conversations), he tells us, and he goes on to add that the silence is indicative of the Mavs' disinterest in deadline dealing this season.
Instead, he says, the Mavs' plan is to bypass the trade market and wait until summer, to explore whatever potential opportunities may be available in free agency, the most notable being a chance to land all-star point guard Deron Williams
or all-star center Dwight Howard
, if not both.
IT'S NOT THAT SIMPLE, WE SAY
Is that how it's going to unfold? We love our man Sefko … and we realize that in the case of his note, it was more "typing'' around a quote given him by Donnie Nelson more than it was "crafting'' or "breaking'' story. Nevertheless, from our vantage point, the road ahead is much more complex than that.
It's incontrovertible that the Mavs are committed to having spending room in the summer. DB.com was the first to document the thinking in detail -- see our "3D Blueprint'' exclusive
-- and that piece, we're proud to say, has been the go-to article for countless other media and fan reviews of Dallas' direction.
Deron Williams and/or Dwight Howard are obviously their targets, and would be superb acquisitions. And we accept the report that the Mavs haven't been exploring trades.
But we think that tells us nothing about their trade plans, or lack of same. Here's why.
THREE REASONS THE LACK OF TALKS TO DATE IS MEANINGLESS
The fact that the Mavs haven't been exploring trades – at a point where, in other seasons, they would be intently engaged on that front – is almost certainly a result of Lockout Season circumstances rather than an indicator of their aims. To put it simply, several rules have been altered for this year.
The first one is a rule that prohibits a trade of any player with a new contract (signed since the last season) for a specified amount of time. In prior (and future) seasons, that date was December 15; in this one, it lasts until March 1. Teams simply don't want to be hassled with only having a partial roster to work with – both for themselves and their trade partners – as they talk trade, and the lack of trade talks to date is completely consistent with what we've seen in other seasons prior to that December 15 milepost.
The second is the timing of the trade deadline itself. In most seasons that deadline is mid-February, which explains why trade talks are already intense by this time of year. It's well-known that the vast majority of trades (as well as the talks leading to them) happen in the week or so prior.
This season that deadline is March 15.
The third change for this season is the timing of the All-Star game, which has been scheduled for very late February (a week or more later than usual). That weekend is a prime opportunity for GMs and owners to interact, and it's a breeding ground for trade talks.
Added together, the smart money says trade talks this season should begin to heat up in the first week or so of March, with trades popping thereafter. The absence of those talks right now, rather than being some sort of indicator of disinterest, is more an indicator of "business as usual."
NO TRADE TALKS NOW – BUT WHAT ABOUT LATER?
While the absence of trade talks so far tells us nothing, there still remains the question of whether they will begin later. Could the Mavs' thoughts of free agency cause them to be passive when we get to the trade deadline?
That's certainly a possibility. But it is not a probability.
If we consider the Mavs' track record – and DallasBasketball.com is celebrating its 13th year of considering just that -- "passive" is not the way they play the game. While they don't make a trade every year, they're always in the mix and looking. Always. Circumstances may change, but being aggressive is who they are.
Trust us, they've changed. They will be actively looking. Or as Donnie put it when asked if we should rule them out of the trade mix: "Never say never."
THE UNOFFICIAL LIST OF MAVS' TRADE PLANS
In laying out a list of the Mavs' trade plans, we don't yet have the benefit of many revelations from our Mavs sources. Again, it's simply too early for them to whisper about the whispers. …
But they've intimated to us many times where they hope to be headed. The Mavs want the ability to try to grab one of those prime free agents (Williams or Howard), which means they need to avoid doing anything that will jeopardize their flexibility in the summer.
Meanwhile, they want to give the current team every opportunity to maximize its potential, with the possibility of repeating as champs.
We predicted this by terming it, "The simultaneous execution of Plan A and Plan B.'' Dallas isn't "tanking'' to get better. The Mavs are trying to win to get better now AND trying to get ducks in a row to get better later.
Consistent with those oft-repeated themes, here's two looks at we think they will (and won't) be thinking:
It's important to remember that the Mavs' top priority for the future is NOT cap space. It's to find a way to land Williams or Howard. So if either or both are moved at the deadline, the Mavs will want in.
Could something like that happen? Most NBA observers don't think the Mavs have the right assets to be in the trade mix for either, but you never know. (Hey, until we wrote the 3D Blueprint, most NBA observers didn't think there was any way for the Mavs' to be in the Deron/Dwight chase, either.) The most favorable scenario would arise if Orlando decided to trade Howard and didn't want him to land in the same conference (which is what teams normally do when trading away a star). With LA and Dallas being the only two teams in the West he would sign with (according to his camp's own decree) that would give the Mavs a 50-50 shot at Howard.
And either way it might also motivate the Nets to move Williams before he leaves for nothing in the summer.
In such a scenario, the Mavs have a wide mix of expiring contracts, talented veterans, and promising youngsters, and there would be plenty of ways to put together a package for either player. A deal with Orlando, which wants to stay as talented as possible rather than wallow in development, might include Haywood (the solid veteran center to fill the slot left by Howard's departure) and Lamar Odom
, with talented up-and-comers like Beaubois, Wright, or Mahinmi sprinkled in the mix.
New Jersey would want to rebuild from the bottom, which means they'd prefer something like Jet's expiring plus kids and picks.
In theory, the Mavs could trade for both at once. But they'd gleefully "settle" for landing either.
If (as most expect) the Mavs can't trade for either Howard or Williams, they'll want to keep their summer cap room intact to make a run at them in free agency. The only thing that would change that would be moves by other teams at the deadline that eliminate those possibilities, such as Howard being traded to NJ, or Williams to Orlando.
Assuming that Howard and/or Williams remain in play for the summer, are there any trades the Mavs might consider at the deadline?
We see a number of options, including one big possibility: It involves Lamar Odom … it involves some cap cleverness ... and we have even identified the cities to where Dallas might dump him.
That exclusive analysis comes to Premium Mavs Fans later this week …