Let's be blunt. Let's describe this 2012 Mavericks roster by what many believe it to be: a temporary-but-competitive filler until something bigger-fish comes along. The Mavericks have yet to hit on the goal of acquiring a player capable of taking the best-player baton from Dirk Nowitzki. "Plan Powder'' is the centerpiece here as we understand/debate the merits of the Mavericks maintain that same strategy and trying again next year for Big Fish. Maybe the Mavs will lure in Dwight Howard or Chris Paul or Andrew Bynum or so on and so forth.
DONUT 2: But what if ...
And the Dallas Mavericks have certainly left the door open to operate on such a basis. The proof is in the one-year contracts: Chris Kaman, Elton Brand, Delonte West, Darren Collison and Dahntay Jones are among the contractual short-termers. So perhaps one might look at these additions as putting a formidable playoff team on the court as way of keeping everyone (fans, Dirk Nowitzki, the pesky media) happy until next year when they can really mold their team around another superstar.
Our "Plan Powder'' label really needs to catch on. Two words, and it says it all.
But the problem with that plan is that sometimes it doesn't work. You know, because Dallas just tried it and, well, it didn't work.
So maybe the Mavs -- or, better said, the coaching staff -- is prepping a contingency plan. Maybe that plan, such as it is, is currently enveloped inside the existing roster. Maybe Dirk might find his second fiddle during the 2012 season. ... either because one is developed or because one must be settled upon.
DONUT 3: "Dirk & The Merry Minimums'' ...
Years ago, Mavs owner Mark Cuban chided the Lakers for having assembled a roster he called "Kobe & The Merry Minimums.'' It was funny and accurate and it was a poke at the Lakers while they were (so very temporarily) down.
That was a different time and place, a different CBA, too. But look at the Dallas roster now and see who is laughing now (at least in a dollars-and-cents sense) ...
DONUT 4: Who needs tickets? ...
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DONUT 5: Dollars-and-cents sense ...
Let's begin with a where-they-stand look at the Dallas Mavericks ledger as it relates to who is on the roster and what their salaries are for the upcoming season:
DONUT 6: If only this was easy ...
The thing about supremely-talented impact players is that they rarely come into the league and immediately dominate. Russell Westbrook was impressive as a rookie, but he was no lock to become the player he is now. (Indeed, folks in the Mavs personnel dept. once thought Roddy B had the chance to match Westy. No more.) Tony Parker was on a championship team early in his career, but didn't blossom into an All-Star immediately. Does anybody remember how many points Kobe Bryant averaged his rookie year? Let the record show: 7.6.
DONUT 7: High ceilings? ...
The Mavericks will enter into 2012 with three young players whom all have yet-to-reach ceilings in this league: Darren Collison, O.J. Mayo and Jared Cunningham. These names don't get a lot of airtime on ESPN and in the cases of at least Mayo and Cunningham, they shouldn't.
But none of these three players have entered their prime, obviously. And all three ought to become even better players than they currently are.
The questions: Can Rick "Coach 'Em Up''? Will "Be Ready'' accelerate their curves upward? How much better can those three be?
DONUT 8: Does Collison have "star potential''? ...
We have already written about the Pacers-eye belief in the potential of Darren Collison. We make the case that as far as on-court performance goes he has the skills to match up with Jeremy Lin. And Lin has "star potential,'' right?
DONUT 9: Mayo on the side ...
As we've detailed in our Premium piece on his acquisition, O.J. Mayo may be the best bet to leapfrog to the status of "Dirk sidekick.'' (Note that we're not so zanily optimistic to pretend he's a potential baton-grabber.) He was touted as "the next Lebron James'' when he was in high school. He's not the next Lebron James. But what if he's rookie-year good? Mayo averaged 18.5 points per game (remember Kobe's 7.6 and know that 18.5 points per game in Dallas would make him Jet-like).
In his second year Mayo averaged 17.5. Strangely he dropped to 11.3 and 12.6 in his third and fourth years. It is fair to at least assume that the drop off might have something to do with his team (and its development) rather than simply an anomaly in which a player actually gets worse in his third and fourth year?
Just last spring came a showcase game against a hated foe ... watch for a minute as you see O.J. beat OKC by doing so many little things and so many big things so well ...
While the hype Mayo had six years ago has all but faded away, the fact remains that the Mavericks just signed a 24-year-old shooting guard with great strength and athleticism, terrific range on his jump shot and who has proven to be an underrated perimeter defender. He is, maybe, a highlight reel waiting to happen ...
DONUT 10: And yet another "Westy play-alike'' ...
And then there's Jared Cunningham. He's an athlete. He's a really good athlete. He likes to take the ball to the basket. He's quite fun to watch on YouTube, too. Oh yeah, and Rick Carlisle compared him to Russell Westbrook.
Will internet videos and out-of-context comparisons lead to any NBA success? It doesn't work that way, no. But it's hard not to read Carlisle's quote and not get at least a little bit excited about the kid's potential.
Are we betting on the Westy thing? "No'' on that one, too, frankly. But it's August so are we letting ourselves dream about the potential? Darn right.
You might say we should've learned our lesson on Roddy Beaubois. ... and if you have lost patience with Roddy B and if you are sorry you bought that FREE RODDY B t-shirt ... well, we understand. But he is also only 24 years old.
What are the chances that just one of these early-20's kids might blossom? Just one?
The Mavs have planted seeds here. They've planted affordable seeds. They could use a magic beanstalk. Cuban talks of Mavs depth, but here's the truth: Right now, Dallas has a great No. 1 player and really, in Marion, Kaman, Brand, Delonte and more, some fine No. 3, 4, 5 and 6 guys.
Forget the baton-taker. They're still looking for a No. 2. And as solid as this 15-man roster looks ... and even if this 15-man roster is shuffled a bit (don't they need a shooter and one more banger at center instead of all these combo guards?) ... the structure of this thing is "Dirk & The Merry Minimums,'' hardly the classic way to find star quality.
We could spend all day waiting for Dwight Howard. Or, actually, all year. But while the Mavs plot and while we daydream, it's also worth contemplating the potential "Be Ready'' development of new Mavs that might mean improvement over last year. Does Dallas have four players who will be better this year then they were last year ... and better the year after next?
Is there someone here who can grow? Right now, that seems the optimal way of making the best of "Dirk & The Merry Minimums'' and maybe building it into "Dirk & The Beanstalk.''