No Western Conference team — in fact, no team the San Antonio Spurs played last postseason — gave them bigger fits than the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavs were the only team to push the Spurs to seven games and, if a few things had broken differently, the Mavs might have pushed the Spurs right out of the postseason.
Instead, the Spurs won their fifth NBA title.
So, logically, one assumes that the Mavericks are closer to being a contender in the Western Conference, correct? Mark Cuban must have thought so as he spent, traded and remade his roster yet again in pursuit of giving Dirk Nowitzki one more shot at an NBA title. Nowitzki took a massive pay cut to help Cuban out financially, by the way.
Someday, the 2014-15 season might become the season of the Chandlers.
NBA general managers considered Parsons the second-most surprising free-agent signing of the offseason and the Chandler trade the most underrated acquisition.
Tyson Chandler is back in Dallas, thanks to a trade with the New York Knicks in which the Mavs gave up four players, all of which were replaceable (though they’ll miss Jose Calderon’s accuracy from the 3-point line). In retrospect, perhaps it wasn’t the right move to send Chandler packing after the Mavs won the 2011 NBA title, as in that one season Chandler became the best defensive center in the team’s history (sorry, James Donaldson).
No one the Mavs inserted in Chandler’s position the past three seasons came close to delivering the intimidation Chandler provides in the paint. So he’s back — and in the final year of his Knicks contract, which means Cuban isn’t on the hook for anything if something goes south.
The Mavs stole Chandler Parsons from the Houston Rockets, who were too busy trying to lure Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh to Space City to try and keep him. Well, here’s the accepted version. The Rockets told Parsons to shop his services as a restricted free agent and they would match the offer. The Mavs offered Parsons $46 million over three years.
When the clock counted down to match the offer, the Rockets balked and tried to get the Mavs to do a sign-and-trade instead. The Mavs declined. The Rockets received nothing. Somewhere, Cuban grinned.
NBA general managers considered Parsons the second-most surprising free-agent signing of the offseason, behind LeBron James’ going back to Cleveland. They also ranked the Chandler trade the most underrated acquisition of the offseason.
So where does all of this leave the Mavs? Well, from here, they have the “big three” that Cuban has wanted for the past few years, though it’s not the superstar constellation one would expect. In this case, it’s Nowitzki, Parsons and last year’s big free-agent acquisition, Monta Ellis.
Between the three they averaged 57.3 points per game in 2013-14. As a comparison, look at the “big three” that set off the craze in Miami — Bosh, Dwyane Wade and James.
They averaged a combined 62.3 points per game last season. This season, with James now in Cleveland, his new “big three,” Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, averaged 74.0 points per game last year. That’s bound to come down this season as they learn to share the ball.
Chandler gives head coach Rick Carlisle the defensive enforcer inside that he’s craved, one that should transform the unit and give it the backbone it had in 2010-11. During the last four seasons, Chandler has averaged nearly 10 rebounds and one blocked shot per game. Last year’s starting center, Samuel Dalembert, has averaged two rebounds fewer over his career.
In full, these changes — along with the acquisition of guards Raymond Felton and Jameer Nelson, and the re-signing of Devin Harris — should make the Mavs one of the Western Conference’s toughest opponents this season.
Don’t believe me? Ask the Spurs, the Mavs’ season-opening opponent Tuesday. They’re not quaking in their boots because they are the Spurs, after all. But you can bet head coach Gregg Popovich doesn’t want the Mavs in the first round of the playoffs again, either.