The long-range plan is to keep the powder dry and wait out a superstar. It’s why when Deron Williams chose Brooklyn over Dallas, Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson didn’t get in a bidding war for a player such as Goran Dragic but rather targeted players either on the last year of their current deals or who were open to a one-year contract.
Check out the current roster. Of the five players acquired this summer — excluding the three rookies that give Dallas eight new faces on the 15-man roster — all are on one-year deals. O.J. Mayo‘s reduced-rate contract is technically for two years, but the second year is a player option that he will almost certainly exercise.
One-year deals allow the Mavs to easily create cap space for next summer to chase marquee free agents. But with the 2013 “big fish” free agency class threatening to be a dud with Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum and Chris Paul all with good reason to stay put, could the Mavs’ philosophy be moving away from the rent-a-player approach of these last two offseasons?
After all, how do you sell player jerseys of guys that won’t be around but eight or nine months?
“I’m not a big believer in rent-a-players, not in your top seven or eight guys anyways,” Cuban said during his Tuesday appearance on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM’s Ben & Skin Show. “I want these guys to stay and develop because they can be a great, young nucleus. The devil you know is always better than the devil you don’t know in basketball, particularly when you have an infrastructure that hopefully can continue to develop these guys. That’s the goal and we still have flexibility then to do sign-and-trades, potentially sign a free agent; just see where it takes us.”
Cuban’s great, young nucleus comment is in reference to 24-year-old guards Darren Collison, penciled-in to start at point guard, and Mayo, who will start at shooting guard. Collison will be a restricted free agent next summer and can entertain offers from other teams with the Mavs being able to match. Mayo, with a strong year, could get the payday he hoped for this summer. Chris Kaman and Elton Brand will be seeking to play their way to multiyear deals as well, either with Dallas or somewhere else.
The Mavs might be the team to give it to one or all of them, but likely only after they are convinced that none of the superstar free agents will be available to any team but their current one, which can offer one more year and millions more than other teams. And they’ll also keep an eye on the bottom line for the summer of 2014, when the Mavs will have no players under contract and could chase multiple potential free agents such as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant, Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony.
“The blueprint is to say, like a Jet (Jason Terry) scenario, or even Josh Howard’s first year, Marquis’ (Daniels) first year, where it’s not apples to apples, it’s like wow; we want these guys to develop into a D.C. and O.J. tandem that can be a foundation for years to come and we keep them together and we improve and we grow with them and have the ability to continue to add players,” Cuban said. “So the optimum scenario is everybody plays great.”
And then perhaps instead of gutting the club to chase a Dwight Howard, the team-building focus turns to re-signing their own and chasing, say, a Josh Smith and cohesion.