Present-Day Cost Of Keeping Mavs Gang Intact

Tyson Chandler. JJB. Caron. Jet. Haywood. Corey. Ian. What if, two years ago, Mavs management would've ignored its fiscal instincts and 'kept the championship team together'? A dollars-and-sense look at where Dallas would be right now ... in Tuesday Mavs Donuts:



DONUT 1: Keeping the Title Team Together: Two Years Later ...

Two years ago the Dallas Mavericks won their first NBA Championship in franchise history. It was pure bliss for Mavs' fans everywhere.

Since then things have not exactly been all that great, at least in terms of the standards of the organization. The season after the championship the Mavericks sneaked into the playoffs as an eight seed only to be swept by the Thunder. This season they didn't even make the playoffs.

And for almost two years now, the prevailing notion and understood reason for their lack of success comes down to one criticism: Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson should have kept the championship team together instead of letting key contributors walk away.
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DONUT 2: Good is better than not good ...

There is great merit to this argument. The simple logic that talented players were removed from a very good team and that team was considerably worse over the next two years at least proves something. But you can't look at the claim so simply (well, you can, but I'll explain to you why you shouldn't).

DONUT 3: Long-term deals under that CBA ...

The fact of the matter is that Mark Cuban didn't look Tyson Chandler, J.J. Barea, Caron Butler and company in the faces, point at the door and say "it was nice knowing you guys." Those players were approached by other teams with long-term contract offers, which the Mavericks felt they were unable (unwilling) to match.

So let's eliminate one silly notion: don't kid yourself into thinking that the Mavericks could have convinced players from the Championship team to stay for a year or two (you know, while they were still in their primes) and then everyone would just part ways in an amicable manner. In fact, DB.com reported that the Mavericks tried to convince Tyson Chandler to do just that. Though TY disputes this news, we still believe Chandler was offered an extremely lucrative (close to $20 million) deal for one year. TY preferred the long term deal that the Knicks offered him. And who can blame Chandler for seeking out a long-term situation?

So understanding the groundwork -- and agreeing that Dallas opting against its breakup decision would've allowed the teams from the last two years to be better than they were -- a hypothetical update on where the Mavericks would be if they still had some of the players that were on the roster of the Championship team.

DONUT 4: Jose Juan Barea ...

Jose Juan Barea: Entering the third year of a four-year contract for $19 million.

2013-2014 salary: $4,687,000

2014-2015 salary: $4,519,500

Last season's stats:

11.3 points per game

4 rebounds per game

23 minutes per game

Every Mavs fan will always keep a warm place in their heart for Barea. Wolves' fans don't feel quite the same way. We said back then that JJB might be exposed as a "system'' player ... that without the right players surrounding him and without Rick Carlisle's system, his inability to play defense might exposed in a frightening way.

Barea is a very nicely paid offensive spark off the Minnesota bench.

DONUT 5: Tyson Chandler ...

Tyson Chandler: Entering the third year of a four-year $58 million contract

2013-2014 salary: $14,100,538

2014-2015 salary: $14,596,888

Last seson's stats:

10.4 points per game

10.7 rebounds per game

1.1 blocks per game

32.8 minutes per game

In this year's playoffs Chandler was a shell of what we had become accustomed to seeing from him. He averaged single-digit rebounds and points. He barely protected the rim and I don't think there is any question that he was outplayed by Roy Hibbert in the East semi-finals.
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Perhaps it was just a collection of nagging injuries, but it felt like Chandler's body was breaking down. ... which, of course, is what Dallas essentially predicted in opting to let him go.

Of course, it should be mentioned that Chandler was dominant defensively his first year in New York and won Defensive Player of the Year, but the point is that he is trending in the wrong direction.

Dallas' position then was that TY wasn't worth the risk of a near-max deal ... in part due to the injury risk, but also just as an evaluation of his ability to be the second-best player on a title team.

There is a legit argument that says TY did that in Dallas. There is a legit argument that says he's proving in New York that as nice as a 10/10 guy is to have at center, he won't ever do it again.


DONUT 6: Caron Butler ...

Caron Butler: Entering the third year of a three-year contract worth $24 million.

2013-2014 salary: $8,000,000

Last season's stats:

10.4 points per game

1 assist per game

2.9 rebounds per game

24 minutes per game

Butler is a nice role player. He's one of those guys who is primarily a spot-up shooter, but has enough other skills to be able to contribute a little more than that every game. He's tough. He can pump fake and drive. He's not terrible at defense (though calling him a "good" defender at this point would be a stretch).

Everyone loved Butler and what he brought to the Mavericks, even after his season-ending injury. But the fact is that he didn't play a second in the playoffs, so throwing him into the "didn't keep the team together" conversation is just a way of searching for ammunition in an argument. If Chandler had resigned with Dallas, no one would have batted an eye at Butler leaving. Dallas was right in staying far away from $8 mil a year here.
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DONUT 7: Corey Brewer ...

Corey Brewer: Entering free agency

Last season's stats:

12.1 points per game

2.9 rebounds per game

24 minutes per game

Brewer had a breakout season this past year. It's true that he thrived in George Karl's fast-paced offense, but he still deserves credit. Having Brewer on the roster this past year actually might have helped the Mavericks (especially because they really did just give him away), but let's not pretend he would have made a very significant difference in terms of wins and losses.

DONUT 8: Jason Terry ...

Jason Terry: Entering the second year of a three-year deal worth $15.8 million.

2013-2014 salary: $5,450,000

2014-2015 salary: $5,450,000

Last season's stats:

10.1 points per game

2.5 assists per game

2 rebounds per game

27 minutes per game

43 percent shooting

No Mavs fan likes to see Jason Terry struggle, but that's exactly what he did in his first year in Boston. He shot too much or he didn't shoot enough. But most of all, he didn't make enough of the shots he took.

At age 36 Terry will make over $5 million. At age 37 he'll make over $5 million. As a fan, I hope that he is able to keep averaging double-digit points in both those years, but I don't feel overly confident that he will. ... and watching Boston attempt to dump him as bloated baggage is sort of sad.

DONUT 9: Brendan Haywood ...

Brendan Haywood: Was amnestied out of a 5-year $55 million contract

Last season's stats:

3.5 points per game

4.8 rebounds

19 minutes per game

Because the Mavericks amnestied Haywood, they didn't have to endure the full $55 million burden as he did not count against their salary cap.

You don't exactly hear Brendan Haywood's name come up too often in the "should have kept the team together" argument. He earned his ring that postseason, though.
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DONUT 10: Ian Mahinmi ...

Ian Mahinmi: Entering the second year of a 4-year 16 million contract.

2013-2014 salary: $4,000,000

2014-2015 salary: $4,000,000

2015-2016 salary: $4,000,000

Last season's stats:

5 points per game

3.9 rebounds per game

17 minutes per game

Mahinmi is a good asset as the first big man off the bench for the Pacers. He plays very hard and brings defense and rebounding. But he's not doing so for a cheap price.

DONUT 11: Long-range context ...

That's just a little bit of context. If the Mavericks had kept the 2011 Championship team together then they would very likely be locked into all of the contracts above. (Oh, yeah, and Jason Kidd and DeShawn, too.) A lot of money would be invested into players that are not performing at a very high level. ... or who aren't performing at all.

DONUT 12: The Final Word ...

So had they re-signed all of these players then I think it's safe to say that the Mavs would be entering a 2013-2014 season that would not be all that encouraging.
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I don't mean to be so black-and-white with the argument. Of course, we don't know how the Mavs would have fared the past two years with all of those players on their roster. It would certainly be fair to say that they would have been better than they actually were. Oklahoma City and Miami took huge steps after the Mavs won the title so there is no telling if the Mavs would have been able to achieve the same accomplishment they did in 2011. ... I am not trying to squash the argument that Dallas' Gang kept together might not have crushed postseason foes OKC or San Antonio or Miami.

The point is that the Mavs couldn't have just had those players for the past two years; they would have had to lock them down to basically the contacts that still live on the salary caps of other teams.

Dallas' front office has a lot to prove this offseason. ... starting with the machinations leading up to Thursday's Draft and including all the Marion/free agency options addressed here. It's difficult to say if they will be able to use their cap space to bring in the right free agents. But the hope they have right now in June (even if it is just a little bit of hope) is likely better than the situation they would be in right now if they "kept the title team together."

Unless they swing and miss Dwight and whomever else. At which point, we engage in this argument all over again for another year.

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