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No Deron = Better Mavs? 12 Pro-Cuban Points
Having spend the last few pieces on DB.com beating Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban about the head and shoulders for his comments regarding everything from Jason Kidd in the rafters ("No chance,'' he says) to DeronQuest ("We're better off without him,'' he says) ... Cuban's position -- especially on the latter subject -- merits an alternative look.
What is his thinking? Is he simply being "glass-is-half-full,'' as I have suggested? Or "sunshine-pumping''? Or a contrarian in the face of conventional observation of his team's direction?
So here, we take a very educated guess (sprinkled generously with "maybes'' but backed by a few hours of DB.com interviews) at "The 12 Things Mark Cuban Might Be Thinking That Could Make Him Right'':
1. Maybe the decision to go all-in on D-Will was a tough one in-house.
What if all along, Mark Cuban had some reservations? What if, when I write that Dallas spent two years with its eye on Deron Williams, that the "eye'' was not pointed there exclusively and/or that the "eye'' belonged to people in the organization but not necessarily to Cuban?
What if Cuban himself is fine with being spurned by Deron because to him, it was 51/49 whether to bother chasing him in the first place? And the "49 choice'' was, to him, essentially always just as "optimal''?
2. Maybe Cuban has a different appreciation for 'moving pieces' than his personnel people do.
Personnel people tend to be linear thinkers. "Here's our eval of the player, we like the player, go get the player.'' Cuban is nothing if not non-linear. He possesses an undeniable skill for seeing personnel a few steps ahead of the average scout ... and maybe some in the organization didn't project the options and success with amnesty (in the form of Elton Brand), trades and free agency ... the latter two coming with the double threat of bringing pieces that would either contribute in a big way this year and going forward or would make great trade chips.
This doesn't make Cuban right (yet). But I promise you it is the vision with which he views deals, basketball and otherwise.
3. What if by "better team'' he means "better franchise with more upside''?
I still contend that Cuban's position is like that of a guy who gets turned down to dance by the homecoming queen ... and then tells all his buddies he never liked her that much anyway. But what if Cuban's view is wider than this ... that by "team'' he doesn't mean "roster'' but rather "franchise''?
Our David Lord has outlined this numerous times: Once you give Deron the max, this year's roster is Dirk/Deron/'Trix and small pieces. And next year, you are locked into a $55-mil commitment to five players ... and maybe no assets to make a deal and maybe only the MLE by which to acquire help. I contend that before you get three stars, you must get two. But Cuban considered that pinch before (I think) and is certainly ballyhooing it now.
More breakdown on this below ...
4. What if Chris Kaman comes to Dallas with something to prove?
I'm going to do a Premium piece on this because of how convinced Mavs people -- Cuban and more -- are that a Kaman re-ignition is about to happen. I believe Cuban believes he as an owner is going to be made to look very, very smart regarding the Kaman signing especially as it relates to replacing Big Wood.
5. What if coaching makes O.J. a star?
There are those in the organization who have long thought O.J. Mayo is not quite the "superstar'' he envisions himself to be. But what if it is Cuban's view that what Mayo needs to realize his potential is natural maturity and a top-notch coach? Did he ever have a Rick Carlisle in Memphis?
Cuban can make the argument that a mature O.J. starting at the 2 is -- regardless of whether he becomes a star -- better than anything Dallas has lined up there in years. Indeed, statistically, we've made the same argument, even daring to favorably compare his numbers to Jet's.)
But you watch: This year, early on, Cuban will be on that StairMaster thing and he will disagree vehemently with my belief that developing OJ into a standout is not an optimal plan compared to the optimal plan that was DeronQuest. Cuban will note that O.J. will want to stay in Dallas, will want to succeed in Dallas, will demonstrate his high qualities as a person in Dallas ... and that he really wants to be a star.
And I admit, as a Mavs follower, it will be fun watching to see if O.J.'s desires come true.
6. Maybe Darren Collison was a system victim.
Funny thing: Collison averaged nine assists as a starting rookie in New Orleans. He goes to Indy and has continued success, but his assists go way down and the starting job eventually goes to George Hill. Why?
Basketball people tell me the Pacers altered their system and their PG's role, favoring an offense that dumped the ball into the post (requiring less PG creativity) and asked the PG to serve as a second option and a scorer. That fit George Hill, so he got elevated. It didn't fit Collison, so he got shipped to Dallas for a bag of magic beans.
Cuban's Mavs engineered a deal in which they got a point guard something for nothing ... rather than getting a point guard for $73.5 million. Cuban the businessman obviously admires what was accomplished there, assuming the gap between Collison's play and Deron's play isn't huge.
7. Maybe the business savvy of getting Brand makes for the deal of the summer.
What if in an era where, more than ever, it's not just about "shopping'' but rather about "smart shopping,'' Cuban sees Elton Brand as the steal of the summer?
Cuban is a huge advocate of advanced stats, and is prepared to tout the fact that Brand last year posted some of the best plus/minus performance of anyone in the league. We've crunched our numbers to prove he is a great post defender. And he joins Kaman as someone who can score, block shots and also has something to prove.
I think Cuban is big on this ... Finding it easy to sour on the guy who is golfing in The Hamptons during basketball-decision time while never having won anything ... and finding it easy to locate the positives in the veteran who immediately rolls into Dallas and asks for a copy of Dirk's keys to the AAC basement.
8. "Re-ignition'' as a specialty.
Ask this front office about its own reputation and you know what you hear? "We're good at re-igniting careers.''
See Caron. See Peja. See DeShawn. See JJB. Yes, even see Tyson. All guys rebuilt in Dallas, all champions.
They aren't infallible here; privately, they will admit they failed on the Haywood re-ignition. But Cuban is very secure in believing his people and his culture make for a damn good track record of turning throwaways into successes.
Great scouting, great coaching and great organizational vision has made for great individual success stories in Dallas. Were any of those players Deron-good, though? Maybe not.
But what Cuban is thinking is how to be 2011-Mavs-good, not Deron-good.
9. Cuban's famous "organic management'' position.
I first wrote about this 13 years ago on DallasBasketball.com, and it might explain how Cuban isn't fully flipping from the belief in how to engage in competition in a SuperTeam Era ... he's just being "organic.'' The circumstances flexed, so he flexes with it.
Take those re-ignited pieces and look like "The 3D Blueprint''? Maybe not. Take this roster and make it perform like the 2011 Mavs or the 2004 Pistons team? (Prepare to hear both of those comparisons if this year's Mavs get off to a competitive start.)
Cuban's mind is open to the possibilities. And so his efforts are, too.
10. The Ben Franklin List
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones made note of this the other day, a technique we've all used, apparently invented by Ben Franklin: When making a tough decision, you scribble out the "pros'' vs. the "cons'' in two columns, and then compare.
Now imagine Cuban spreadsheeting his roster the same way ...
Thinking of them as "pieces'' as well as "players,'' again see yourself as Cuban. Consider a situation with Dirk, Deron, 'Trix, Roddy B, DoJo, Kidd, Wright, Mahini and minimum players ... because that's what this roster would've looked like this year, right?
Now, you're Cuban and you Ben Franklin the thing:
The Deron Mavs veteran depth chart looks like this ...
or ... The Re-Ignite Mavs vets depth chart ...
If you are Cuban and you are Ben Franklining it ... do you now feel some justification in going on the radio and stating "We're better off without Deron''?
I already know that the coaching staff is indeed excited about having players who can fit into the team concept of defense at least as well as last year's group did, and maybe bigger: Is leaps and bounds better offensively.
On that Deron/Dirk team, who else was going to score? With the Re-Ignite Mavs, who can't? This is a collection of double-figure scorers waiting to happen, balanced burden taken off the shoulders of The UberMan.
If it's Deron/Dirk, they are together at the beginning and end of games and they are the only scorers. When was to play without the other, he'd be the team's lone scorer.
I hear so many people talk of Cuban "wasting a Dirk year'' and I understand why Cuban is so insulted by this. He knows, likes, values, loves Dirk at least as much as any critic does. I'm sure he believes that this roster actually lengthens his career because it demands a bit less of him.
This year, the scoring options allow Dallas to rest Dirk in ways they never could before. Last year, opponents didn't need to guard Big Wood, barely needed to guard Kidd and didn't much respect 'Trix as a traditional scoring threat. That was Dirk's burden. Cuban thinks the burden's been lifted.
11. What if it became clear to Cuban that Deron didn't fit into the Mavs culture?
A dangerous area. It can devolve into a spittin' match. It is about whether Deron is truly a winner, truly a leader ... Cuban isn't speaking aloud on this subject, and what we have on record is Dirk and Donnie saying only positive things in this regard. ... But I believe this is in Cuban's head and I believe he's convinced himself that Deron is not ideal to Dallas' "culture of winning.''
Revisionist history? Maybe. But it's more about the future now. Time will tell whether Deron leads Brooklyn to a culture that is in any way as positive as the one that's existed in Dallas for a decade-plus.
12. Won't it always be about chasing a flawed superstar?
I say yes. I say that Deron is flawed and Dwight is flawed and heck, Dirk is flawed, too ... but those sort of studs make for the best path to excellence.
What is Mark Cuban saying? What is Mark Cuban thinking?
That "Plan Powder'' is about roster-building and Asset Management using every possible stream. It's not "all eggs in one basket,'' but rather flexible eggs and infinite baskets.
Cuban thinks, I am sure, that he is rebuilding the foundation with assets. There will be more acquisitions that are made possible by flexibility ... But that flexibility would've evaporated had Deron signed here.
Look back at that second Ben Franklin list. It's awfully shy of tradeable assets and maybe, in Cuban's 49-percent view on DeronQuest, he realized all along how difficult it might be to add another stud until the club re-ups Dirk's deal two summers from now.
But with Dallas' current roster? It appears to be a competitive one; we see the Mavs as competing for the fifth spot in the West while ESPN has them in the ninth spot (point being, who knows!?) ... But without debate, in Collison, Mayo and Kaman the Mavs have the "pieces''/"players'' advantage. They can excel here ... and/or they are extremely tradeable.
Meaning, in Cuban's mind, he's rebuilt his foundation for Asset Management ... has done it within the "Plan Powder'' constraints of the new CBA ... and has a team that is just as competitive as a Deron/Dirk team to boot.
We can debate the last point. I know that Cuban is not trying to deceive himself here because as he recently told DB.com, "Now, can we do all that and beat the big boys? That remains to be seen.''
I'm glad to give you that quote because it's not sunshine-pumping and it's not delusional. It's Cuban's hopeful. It's What's Cuban's Thinking. I believe it's only fair to explore his thinking and believe it's acceptable to consider his position if only because he's earned the right -- by virtue of his passion, his commitment and his Larry -- to be considered.
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