Returning or No: The Mavericks’ 2014-15 Reserve Bigs

The Mavericks have a whole lineup’s worth of players entering free agency this offseason. In this series, I attempt to make an educated guess on whether each free agent will be returning. We finish things off with the Mavs reserve bigs, Bernard “Sarge” James and Greg Smith:


Bernard “Sarge” James had a heckuva welcome to the league, but that has pretty much been the highest point of his NBA career. He is the very definition of a reserve big man, playing limited minutes, mainly in garbage time, and providing nothing more than a big body and a defensive presence. He does his job well, but does not offer much more than that, and as such has not attracted the attention of many other teams. Chances are good that the Mavs pick him up for another year to keep doing what he’s doing, and neither side will agitate or expect much more than the status quo. It’s boring, but that’s what it is, and for an end-of-the-bench option, you could certainly do much worse. Keep on trucking, Sarge.

Greg Smith, on the other hand, was expected to achieve much more, especially after the promise he showed when he was with the Houston Rockets. However, despite a fair number of opportunities early in the season, Smith never did much of anything, and will likely be let go with hardly any noise made about it. Luckily, he was a minimum salary pick up, so the risk was minimal to begin with. That said, it’s difficult to see him being picked up by an NBA team for the coming season. My personal guess is that he goes overseas for his next job.

Prediction: Bernard James Returning; Greg Smith Not Returning

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Returning or No: Richard Jefferson

The Mavericks have a whole lineup’s worth of players entering free agency this offseason. In this series, I attempt to make an educated guess on whether each free agent will be returning. This time, we talk about Richard Jefferson:


Another minimum salary veteran, another wily pick up by the Mavericks front office. Richard Jefferson was brought in to provide cover and shooting at the wing positions, and performed his role very adequately. Although there was much consternation among Mavs fans over his inability to do anything off the dribble early in the season, he slowly but surely became a dependable, if unspectacular, member of the team, even finishing with his second-highest three-point shooting percentage in his career at 42.6%.

Ehh, you know what? I shouldn’t use ‘unspectacular’ when talking about Jefferson. After all, he did do this:

That. Was. Nuts. You’d think he’s 23 instead of 33 years old.

As for whether he’s coming back to the Mavs? Jefferson, like Amar’e, is clearly in ring-chaser mode at this point in his career, and I think he can find a better shot at one elsewhere. That said, and this is just a personal hunch, I don’t think he finds many suitors for his services, and returns to the Mavs to continue spelling Parsons and perhaps providing some veteran advice to new draftee Justin Anderson.

This hunch is based on nothing more but the total lack of free agency noise surrounding Jefferson, and his decent and professional performance for the Mavs likely leading to mutual appreciation between the player and the organization. It’s just a guess, but I think Jefferson’s sticking around at the veteran’s minimum for another year.

Prediction: Returning

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Not Returning: Tyson Chandler

The Mavericks have a whole lineup’s worth of players entering free agency this offseason. In a slight departure from the Returning or No series, we inexplicably wave farewell to Tyson Chandler for a second time:


Tyson Chandler came back to the Dallas Mavericks in arguably the first big trade of the last offseason, and Mavericks fans everywhere celebrated. In just two (separate) seasons of work, Chandler has easily established himself as the Mavericks’ greatest ever center, and the perfect frontcourt partner to Dirk Nowitzki.

Having Chandler back gave the Mavs a solid last line of defense, and he remained largely injury-free for them once again, perhaps a sign of some sort of cosmic, fateful relationship between team and player, especially since he’s seen as being somewhat injury-prone. In fact, he never surpassed 66 games in a single season during his time in New York, but has completed 74 and 75 games in his first and second seasons in Dallas, respectively.

Of course, that doesn’t mean anything if you don’t do anything while you’re out on the floor, and Tyson was far from anonymous, at times being the Mavericks’ sole plus-defender. It was a heavy load, and he performed admirably under the circumstances, but there’s only so much one man can do. He certainly can’t be blamed for the Mav’s poor defensive record prior to the Rondo trade, and, so far at least, appears to be as effective as ever, despite his advancing years.

TC was supposed to be a relatively safe and secure fall-back option for the Mavericks should they fail in their quest to bring DeAndre Jordan in, but a big money offer from the Suns to the tune of $52m over four years means that the Mavs now have a gaping hole at the center position. This was the first piece of news that hit me as soon as I woke up this morning, which was of course preceded by the news of Aminu signing with the Trail Blazers. Just like that, the Mavs have lost their two best defenders last season. We’re looking at a potential doomsday scenario if DeAndre decides not to join, and all we can do now is wait and see what else the Mavs have in mind.

As for Tyson, good for him. He gets one last big contract, and immediately became a weapon in the Suns’ attempt to sign LaMarcus Aldridge…

… which may be his one last piece of assistance he gives the Mavs. The Spurs look to be in prime position to sign Aldridge now, after clearing Tiago Splitter’s salary by sending him to Atlanta and agreeing to an affordable new contract with Danny Green. I think I speak for all Mavericks fans in saying that I’d rather Aldridge go to Phoenix than to the Spurs, and if having Tyson tips the balance in Phoenix’s favour, we’ll have one last thing to be grateful to TC for.

Obviously, Chandler leaving was never something Mavs fans wanted. But with the number one priority being DeAndre Jordan, only the most optimistic fan could have envisioned a DJ-TC one-two at the center position. Of course, the timing of all this is less than ideal, but taken on its own, all we can do is wish TC the best. The Mavs never intended to spend this kind of money on him anyway, DJ or no DJ, so there really isn’t much to moan and whine about.

Thanks for two great years and one championship, Tyson. Mavs fans will always remember you fondly.

Image: Source

Returning or No: The Mavericks’ 2014-15 Starting Backcourt

The Mavericks have a whole lineup’s worth of players entering free agency this offseason. In this series, I attempt to make an educated guess on whether each free agent will be returning. This time, the Mavericks’ starting backcourt to end the season; Rajon Rondo and Monta Ellis:


Sadly, even though the partnership of Rajon Rondo and Monta Ellis produced occasional highlights like the one above, it was, overall, a clear and complete failure. Rondo’s need to have the ball hindered Ellis’ impact, especially since he’s not exactly the best when playing off the ball. It limited Monta’s driving opportunities, which are clearly his biggest weapon. Exactly how much of that resulted in his sulky behaviour towards the end of the season is hard to determine, but whatever it was, it resulted in what seems to be a largely mutual agreement to part, despite his contributions towards making this team relevant again the past couple seasons.

Wherever he goes though, I think Monta deserves some love for his contributions in a Mavericks’ jersey. Hopefully, it was a mutually beneficial relationship; he helped the team back into the playoffs, and the opportunity he had in Dallas allowed him to sufficiently rehabilitate his value such that he can now actually attract offers from several teams in free agency. Good luck, Mr. Have It All.

As for Rondo…  Nope. No need to talk to much about him! Good riddance. The Kings apparently are interested in him. If, and this is a huge IF, a sign-and-trade of some sort can be worked out, he’ll at least leave us with something more than utter trash and disappointment. But I’m not counting on it. See ya Rajon, don’t let the door hit your butt on the way out.

Prediction: No need for predictions, they’re both definitely not coming back

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Returning or No: Amar’e Stoudemire

The Mavericks have a whole lineup’s worth of players entering free agency this offseason. In this series, I attempt to make an educated guess on whether each free agent will be returning. Today, Amar’e Stoudemire:


Amar’e Stoudemire was a minimum contract pickup midway through the season for the Dallas Mavericks, and performed admirably in his time here. I didn’t watch every single game he played or put any particular effort into scrutinizing his game, but it seemed like every time I saw him get the ball in the post, he bullied his defender on the way to a simple layup or dunk. It was nice to see a new dimension to the Mavs’ offense, and it looked like a really efficient and effective way to get two points.

Sadly, his efficiency on offense was canceled out by a lack of defensive ability, and lineups featuring both Dirk Nowitzki and Amar’e were basically invitations to opposing teams to score at will. His jump-shooting seemed to decline as well, so playing him alongside a stout defender like Tyson Chandler or the potentially incoming DeAndre Jordan wouldn’t be optimal either, in terms of spacing.

Besides, Amar’e is well into the ring-chasing part of his career. His offensive capabilities would make him useful to any contending team, and he’ll likely be signing only veterans’ minimum contracts from now till retirement. If the Mavs were actual contenders, there’s a decent chance he would come back. But, even if they manage to snag a couple of big signings in free agency, the Mavs are still a long way from actual title contention.

Amar’e will probably be able to find better options out there. A player of his talents and achievements deserves a ring, but he most likely won’t be getting one as a member of the Mavericks.

Prediction: Not Returning

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Returning or No: Al-Farouq Aminu

With only four players locked in for next season, the Mavericks have a whole lineup’s worth of players entering free agency this offseason. In this series, I attempt to make an educated guess on whether each free agent will be returning. Today, Al-Farouq Aminu:


Al-Farouq Aminu went from ‘solid cheap pick up’ to ‘WE HAVE TO RE-SIGN HIM’ in the space of a season and the above video pretty much shows why. Although there was a period of time where he racked up the DNP-CDs, he eventually figured out his place in Rick Carlisle’s system and came out gangbusters to end the season, showing the ability to guard multiple positions and rebound like a beast.

Of course, the problem now is whether the Mavs and Aminu can come to an agreement. The Mavs really want him back, but after that immense finish to the season, Aminu’s earned himself a heck of a pay raise. As Tim MacMahon reports, market value for Aminu is around $4m per, which, combined with the Mavericks’ need to play with their cap room just right if they’re going to be able to land big free agents like DeAndre Jordan or LaMarcus Aldridge, could make things complicated.

Trading Raymond Felton to free up the cap space would be great, but trades to dump salary always need sweeteners, and the Mavericks are really low on assets after the Rondo trade. Aside from $3m to almost completely offset Felton’s salary for next season, there’s not much that Dallas can offer.

Back to Aminu. My hope is that he recognizes and puts emphasis on his fit on this squad. The Mavs as currently constructed are in desperate need for perimeter defense and rebounding, two skills that Aminu has in abundance. By virtue of that, he will receive plenty of playing time and a big role on the team, whether as a starter or not. He might not be valued as highly elsewhere. Additionally, it was under the Mavs’ coaching staff that he finally starting looking like more than a minimum-salary, end-of-bench player. He seems to like the area too, so hopefully all these non-monetary factors can sway him towards re-signing with the Mavs, whatever the means they use to do so.

My personal opinion? The Mavs desperately need to lock up any young talent. The front office/coach’s total lack of trust in rookies mean that the next best thing is young veterans like Aminu. He’s proven his talent, he’s still young, he fills some huge needs. The Mavs NEED to bring him back. I just hope they realize this and don’t get too cute in contract negotiations.

Prediction: (I hope and I pray) Returning

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Returning or No: Charlie Villanueva

With only four players locked in for next season (Raymond Felton has said he intends to exercise his player option), the Mavericks have a whole lineup’s worth of players entering free agency this offseason. In this series, I attempt to make an educated guess on whether each free agent will be returning. Next up, Charlie Villanueva:


 

Charlie Villanueva was the pickup I (and pretty much anyone else) didn’t really expect the Mavs to make. He came to Dallas on a training camp deal, and was largely thought of as someone to pad out the camp roster with, nothing more, especially since the Mavs already had 15 players under contract at the time.

However, after a very impressive preseason display in which he shot 38.5% from downtown, and with the Mavs looking for more shooting on the roster (as evidenced by the Rashard Lewis signing which later fell through due to injury), the Mavs decided to add Charlie V to the roster, cutting Bernard James to open up a spot.

Charlie V came into this season with a less-than-stellar reputation after five mediocre years with the Pistons. It didn’t help that he had been signed for $35m by former Detroit GM Joe Dumars. Under-performing + big salary cap hit = nobody likes you. However, CV3 played very well within his role, in the process rehabilitating his image a little. Instead of a waste of money who’s on his way out of the league, he’s become a veteran role player who can do a job to help a playoff team. Also, he apparently can finish alley-oops:

More than anything else, Villanueva was a total professional, performed his (admittedly-small) role to the best of his ability, and in the process helped the Mavs to return to the playoffs. As an extra reward, it was also his first taste of the playoffs in his 10-year career.

So is he coming back? Through no fault of his own, I’d rather not. He’s got a pretty specific skill-set (shooting 3s) that he executes consistently enough, but there are too many holes in his game.  A team trying to maximize Dirk’s last years really shouldn’t be looking to bring a player like him back. If he does come back, it would probably mean that Dallas’ summer of transactions didn’t go all that well.

Sadly, I’m a little pessimistic over what the Mavs will achieve this coming offseason, so the chances of Charlie V coming back, in my opinion, are higher than I would like them to be. That said, I’m still leaning towards Dallas finding answers elsewhere, ones that make Charlie V expendable.

All the best Charlie. Hope you find a good home to play out your last few years.

Prediction: Not Returning

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Returning or No: J.J. Barea

With only three players locked in for next season, the Mavericks have a whole lineup’s worth of players entering free agency this offseason. In this new series, I attempt to make an educated guess on whether each free agent will be returning. We begin with J.J. Barea:


 

Re-joining the Mavericks after a disjointed three seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves which ended with him getting bought out,  Barea seemed to fit right back in and settled into his old role as a spark plug off the bench pretty much immediately, with his regular season numbers pretty much in line with what he’d achieved in his first stint with the Mavs. After another solid postseason display in which he replaced Rondo in the starting lineup for the last couple of games, Barea is in line for a pay raise once again after playing for the veteran’s minimum this year. However, my guess is that this shouldn’t prevent his return this time.

For one, he’s gotten his money after his little sojourn in Minnesota, so there’s probably less impetus to look for the biggest payday again, or at least not at the expense of playing in a system and for a coach who he can flourish under. This leads to the second point, which is that he recognizes the unique way that he can be a key contributor in this organization. While it may be a small sample to draw from, his time with the T-Wolves showed that he might not be able to get the opportunities that he does with the Mavericks elsewhere. Add the fact that he’s already 30, and he doesn’t exactly have a ton of time left in his career to languish on teams where he doesn’t have a significant role to play.

Chances are, he’ll be looking for one last long-term contract, maybe something in the three or four-year range. His numbers are somewhat similar to Devin Harris’, and he may be hoping to get about as much as Harris earns, but the Mavericks should be able to negotiate him down from there considering his size and the defensive issues that presents.

The Mavs have some real issues in the backcourt to tackle. J.J. won’t be solving those problems, but it’s a fairly safe bet that he can still be a solid contributor off the bench for another two to three years. Dallas may attempt to free up cap and/or roster space by trading or letting go some of their guards, but Barea fills a very specific hole for what is likely to be a very reasonable price, so he probably won’t be one of those departing.

Prediction: Returning

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Mavericks: Goodbye 2014-15, Hello Offseason

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair; we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way, etc etc. Such was the Mavericks in the 2014-2015 season.

Do you remember when we had the league’s best offense by a country mile? How much fun we had, just having a team that could entertain us, even if they couldn’t defend a lick. As a fan, you can only ask for so many things, and we were winning (for the most part) while being lights-out entertaining. It was a good time.

But of course, the Mavs have greater ambitions than that, especially in the winter of Dirk’s career. Jameer Nelson just wasn’t cutting it at the point; he wasn’t very effective in Rick Carlisle’s flow offense, and he couldn’t do a job on defense either. For these reasons, whether or not you loved the trade at the time, no level-headed fan could possibly hate the Rondo trade. The intentions were good, the Mavs didn’t give up a whole bunch (objectively speaking), and I don’t think there’s any fan who would prefer Jameer to Rajon in a vacuum.

Such a shame it went, well, ‘direct the other way’. Soon our offense became sticky and slow, and the fun atmosphere of the first half of the season dissipated.  No more Helicopter dunks from the stratosphere, no more Jae Crowder helping the team win without making a dent on the stat sheet. Nope, all of that was replaced by a stop-start offense and lots of bad vibes.

Apparently things got toxic enough in the locker room that Rondo managed to follow in the immortal footsteps of Lamar Odom in being frozen out of the playoff bonus payouts. That definitely takes a little something special. Good job Rajon! Also, whoever came up with this statement is having a laugh. If it came from Rondo or his camp, that’s just extra delusional/hilarious. Who is Cuban gonna pick, the coach who won the franchise’s only title, or the surly point guard who just submitted the worst audition for a max contract imaginable? Toughest fuckin’ decision ever man, holy shit.

There is, however, a bright side to all this. Perhaps the worst situation possible would have been a decent-but-not-spectacular Playoff performance from Rondo, which might have forced the Mavs to overpay to keep him. The way things panned out, at least the decision is crystal clear.

The exact opposite is going to happen with Monta though. This season has been a mixed bag, and he’s surly too. But Explosive Monta appeared after RR was taken out, submitting some strong performances, especially in Games 3 and 4. So do we place more weight on his sub-par overall showing this season, which saw a drop in his already-average 3-point percentage from 33% to 28.5%, as well as a lower True Shooting Percentage? Or do we bet on him getting back on track with Rondo gone?

At any rate, Monta at $8 million per year is a great deal. Monta on $15 million per year, in trying to keep up with the Parsons? Not such an appealing prospect. So you can see what a dilemma this presents to the Mavs FO, as well as to us fans. We really like the dude, but how much ($$$) do we really like him?

Monta’s the biggest question in an offseason that will be full of them. What do we do with Barea and Aminu after their big play against the Rockets? I have a feeling Barea will be easier to keep at a reasonable price. His only experience not being on the Mavs was a mediocre stint with Minnesota, and I think only Carlisle knows how to use him properly. He might have those things in mind and be willing to come back without too much hassle.

The Aminu situation is more complicated though. He’s certainly earned a hefty pay raise after his efforts since the All-Star break. The question, once again, comes down to how much he wants. Would he accept a deal similar to Devin Harris’? Roughly $16 million over four years? If he’s amenable to anything close to that, I’d snap him up in an instant. Hopefully he credits some of the revival of his career to Carlisle and decides to stick around.

And then we come to Tyson Chandler. As is the case with veterans, I think this comes down to how much money he wants. As long as he doesn’t expect to keep earning as much as he currently does, I think we’re good. He’s already 32, and probably isn’t gonna be able to keep this level of play up much longer. Would a two-year contract at about $10 million per be too much? I think it would be a decent offer, both for him and for the FO, but who knows where this goes. I think he re-signs, but I have no idea about what the dollar amount would be.

This is gonna be an interesting offseason, to say the least. We should have money to spend, but who’s going to take it? Talk of LaMarcus Aldridge and DeAndre Jordan is intriguing, but colour me skeptical after all our big swings missing over the last few years. Besides, I’d rather talk about building a solid long-term backcourt. And we haven’t even talked about Parsons possibly needing microfracture surgery.

Once more into the unknown.

Let’s Talk Trades: Rondo Is A Maverick!

rajon-rondo

 

Rondo is a Mav.

I didn’t see this one coming, given all the trade rumours over the past few years surrounding the dude. Heck, I didn’t expect him to move at all, let alone to the Mavs with their limited assets, before the end of the season. But here we are, short Brandan Wright, Jae Crowder, Jameer Nelson, and a couple of draft picks we were probably going to squander anyway, welcoming perhaps the best PG we’ve had since Kidd.

We didn’t give up a whole bunch either. Losing Wright hurts, it really does. He’s been the source of many a joyful welp with his alley-oop finishes and long-armed blocks. The Mavs broadcast team call him The Helicopter, and it’s the perfect nickname. I hope we can somehow re-sign him in the offseason when he’s a free agent. But other than him? We didn’t lose much.

I was an advocate for signing Jameer before the season started, and I had a good reason to. Solid, level-headed vet who could shoot and, while not an all-world passer, could move the ball along well enough. For some reason though, instead of sticking to spot-up jumpers and moving the ball around, he’s tried to create off the dribble a little too much for my liking. Maybe it was a coaching decision; I don’t think he would be playing much if he was directly going against Carlisle’s orders that much. But he’s not that great at it and several possessions were wasted with his forays into the paint. He’s a good dude and I hope he catches onto a good situation somewhere, but I’m not torn up over sending him away.

Ditto for Jae. A hard worker, a decent defender and another all-round good guy, he’s probably our biggest draft success of recent years (which says more about our drafting than him, but still). Anytime a decent dude goes, I feel it, but he’s more likely to get time to shine on a rebuilding team like the Celtics than on the Mavs. He may never amount to anything more than being the 9th or 10th man on a contending team, but he certainly looks like someone who can carve out a 10-year career in the NBA.

And of course, I’ll miss him helping us win while doing nothing tangible on the court. Godspeed, Jae.

Back to Rondo. Despite him having an indifferent year by his standards, and the slow decline of his play in general since losing his Hall Of Fame teammates, I don’t think I’m being over-optimistic in attributing that to disinterest rather than a real decline. He seems the temperamental sort, and I don’t blame him too much for tuning out. Heck, I would if I were him.

Keep in mind a tuned-out Rondo can still lead the league in assists and he’s averaging 10.8/game this season with the likes of Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk surrounding him. Imagine what he could accomplish with Dirk and Monta and Parsons, not to mention all the lobs to Tyson. His defense will be key too. Ever since losing Kidd, we haven’t had a point who could defend a lick. Having a former All-Defensive Team guy on the perimeter should shore things up a bunch and give Tyson some help on that end.

The concerns are about his shooting, and that was a bit of a sticking point for me when these rumours first surfaced. But then I thought about how Jameer hasn’t exactly been setting the world on fire with his 3-pointers, and that worry sort of resolved itself. There’s an argument to be made about spacing, and how opponents are likely to feel more comfortable leaving Rondo alone on the perimeter than they would Jameer, but the tradeoff (defense plus otherwordly passing) seems well worth it to me.

This trade is big. The Mavs had to do it, because PG is such a stacked position in the league and definitely in the harsh West. Losing an ultra-efficient big man in Wright hurts, but if the Mavs are going to contend in any way in the last few years of Dirk’s career, they need moves like these. I can’t wait for the new starting five to show us what they’ve got.

UPDATE: The trade looks even better with these protections: