The Sixth Man extends a hearty welcome to our first ever guest writer, Mr. Ben Farber. We go way back with Farber and we are pleased to have him on board as a contributor to the site!!
Even their staunchest supporter would agree that DeAndre Jordan screwed the Mavericks.
Late last week, Jordan and the Mavs agreed to a four-year deal that would have brought the polarizing center to Big D. In choosing Mark Cuban’s offer, a maximum-salary pact of four years and $81 million, Jordan left a fifth year and as much as $28 million on the table.
Although the Collective Bargaining Agreement is structured to encourage players to stay with their original teams by allowing them to offer bigger and better contracts than their competitors, DeAndre eschewed the extra money, security, and (likely) winning that would have come with re-upping in Los Angeles.
To buck a popular statement, everything’s bigger in Texas, except for DeAndre Jordan’s contract.
Jordan’s decision to head back to his native Texas would have doubly affected the Western Conference playoff picture. Losing DeAndre would have dropped the Clippers down a tier, from true title contenders to second-round hopefuls.
Meanwhile, by inking the onetime Texas A&M Aggie to pair with fellow signee Wesley Matthews, Dallas would have managed to re-tool their roster once again—proving that successful teams can, in fact, be built through free agency.
Until DeAndre changed his mind.
I’ll spare you the gruesome details and keep it short. At the proverbial eleventh hour, Jordan reversed course. Having not yet put ink to paper on his new contract with the Mavs, he called up Doc Rivers and admitted he’d made a mistake leaving Los Angeles.
Yes, it was DeAndre who reached out to Doc.
He wanted to come back. After a secret meeting at Jordan’s Houston home, it was clear the desire was mutual.
To put a long, emoji-filled story short, DeAndre Jordan will remain with the Clippers. He will still receive his max contract. And from all indications, he will enjoy a more active role in Chris Paul’s offense next season.
For the Clips, this is a huge win. As much as they’d like us to believe otherwise, they couldn’t afford to lose Jordan. He is the fulcrum upon which rests the balance of their entire unit, on both sides of the ball.
His rim protection and rebounding mask the defensive shortcomings of a squad that does not feature any other player over 6’9.” His proficiency on the pick and roll opens the floor for shooters and makes scoring much easier for both Paul and Blake Griffin.
The notion that Jordan is a poor offensive player is unfounded. True, he is not a versatile threat on the scoring end, but his ferocity and athleticism make him the single greatest pick-and-roll threat in the Association.
Last year, Jordan led the league in both rebounds and dunks. He was top-three in blocks. Though he lacks the shooting touch of rival centers such as Marc Gasol and DeMarcus Cousins, the numbers suggest a player who wills his way to production.
In Dallas, Jordan would have slid perfectly into the role vacated by Tyson Chandler. He would have provided street cred and some much-needed toughness for a franchise built around a slow, “soft” (and not to mention, old) German.
Remember, before the Great Rondo Experiment of 2015, the Mavericks featured a historically efficient offense. And what did Dallas do so well that made them so successful? You guessed it, the pick-and-roll.
So where do the Mavs go from here? Once news broke that Jordan was skipping town, the team offered Wes Matthews the chance to do the same. I bet they secretly hoped he’d take them up on it.
You see, the Mavericks are hollow without Jordan. Their roster, as currently constructed, features three shooters and not much else.
Matthews showed terrific development during his last season in Portland. He had become the league’s premiere three-point threat. When he tore his Achilles on March 5th, Matthews had sunk 173 threes, even more than the King of Stop and Pop Stephen Curry.
But many of Matthews’ open looks were a side effect of being the third option on a team with two of the league’s best scorers, Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge, each of who poured in over 20 ppg last year. Though Matthews’ marksmanship was roundly acknowledged throughout the league, stopping Lillard and Aldridge were priorities A and B for opposing defenses. If shaving 10 points off of that dynamic duo meant Wes was able to take more open shots, so be it.
But in Dallas, with Dirk slowing considerably, Matthews is going to have to become more of an offensive focal point than he was in Portland. It’s a whole different beast when an opponent’s gameplan specifically revolves around stopping you, and it’s an adjustment we have yet to see Matthews make.
I’m not saying he can’t rise to the occasion, but it is a lot to ask a player who has never had to lead an offense, and who is coming off such a serious injury, to become Rick Carlisle’s primary option at the guard position.
Jordan would have drawn defenses away from Matthews. Dallas had dreams of DeAndre diving to the hoop coming off a screen, commanding the double team, and freeing up Matthews in the corner to flex his shooting touch. But DeAndre Jordan—and specifically DeAndre Jordan—was a vital component of that fantasy. Without him, do the pieces make sense anymore?
Chandler Parsons had a fine first season in Dallas, but he didn’t provide the type of production they were hoping for when they signed him to a three-year, $45 million mega-offer in 2014.
Like Matthews, Parsons is a good scorer and fine all-around player. Also like Matthews, he’s another guy that would have benefitted tremendously from Jordan’s ability to space the court. Without Jordan to pull defenders away from the perimeter, Parsons is going to have to work a lot harder to get good looks at the hoop.
He might continue to develop at age 27, but during his first campaign in Dallas, his numbers dropped from the previous season. Without Jordan, the development of Parsons becomes paramount. Dallas needs him to morph into a two-way stud, and so far he’s shown to be capable only of providing exceptional offense at times.
This brings us to Ol’ Man Nowitzki. Talk about only providing offense! At 37, Dirk is still a very good player. But he’s been in steady decline for about the past half-decade, and while he’s always been slow, last season was the first time his lack of athleticism became a true liability. With the big guy pushing 40, don’t expect that trend to reverse.
Aside from those three, Dallas’ roster lacks anything resembling “oomph”. They’ve got a couple of warm-body point guards, Devin Harris and Raymond Felton. Although Harris won’t murder your offense, Felton might. Otherwise, their squad is thus far flushed out with minimum-salary vets or players on their rookie contracts.
They’ve already re-upped both Richard Jefferson and Charlie Villanueva, who were actually productive in limited time last year. That being said, they were both washed up half a decade ago.
Letting Monta Ellis walk so early in the offseason appears to be Dallas’ main wrongdoing. Ellis represented the Mavs’ only off-the-dribble threat, and without Jordan to affect defenses on the pick-and-roll, Dallas is lacking an offensive creator. Matthews and Parsons are nice second options but without an effective way to free up space for them, Dallas is going to have a serious problem generating consistent baskets.
In the span of seven months, the Dallas Mavericks’ offense has sunk from historically efficient to worryingly undermanned.
What makes missing out on Jordan twice as painful for Dallas is that he waited five days after agreeing to sign to make the decision to back out. That’s five days that the team could have—and would have—used to reallocate the $20 million they were set to give Jordan. In the most rapid-fire offseason we’ve ever seen, five days meant everything.
They could have tried to acquire Roy Hibbert instead of letting him slide to the Lakers for next to nothing. They could have gotten involved in the Robin Lopez sweepstakes or made a run at either retaining Tyson Chandler or bringing back Brandan Wright. They could have lured Kosta Koufos, and probably wouldn’t have had to spend as much as Sacramento did to sign him.
Now, nearly every free agent that’s capable of making an impact is off the board. Unlike Jordan, the other sixty-nine free agents to reach verbal agreements during the moratorium didn’t renege on their word. The well has run dry, and Dallas is stuck with every team’s worst nightmare—max cap room and nowhere to spend it.
As it currently stands, Dallas has twelve players locked into deals for next season. They’ve got a team payroll just north of $50 million, which gives them nearly $20 million still to work with.
They’re looking for diamonds in the rough, but unfortunately scouting and player development have typically failed the Mavs. They haven’t drafted and developed an above-average player since Josh Howard in 2003. Granted, they typically pick in the 20s, but going a dozen years without cultivating anything is a bad omen.
Tanking isn’t an option either. As long as Nowitzki is around, the Mavs owe him a chance to compete. What’s more, they dealt their 2016 first rounder to Boston in the Rondo trade. The pick is top-7 protected, but the odds of Dallas being bad enough to collect a top-half lottery choice is still unlikely.
So if it looks like Dallas might be screwed, it’s because they are. They will have max cap room again next year because of the rising salary cap, but so will twenty-six other teams.
If we’ve learned anything this summer, the best attraction for star free agents is winning. And in the cutthroat West, the Mavs, for the first time in nearly fifteen years, might not be able to field a winner.
So settle in, Mavericks fans. The road back to contention won’t be pretty. It might not be long, but your days of banking on fifty wins are over. At least for now.