Life Without Dirk
Dirk Nowitzki’s career clock is ticking. He knows it. Everyone knows it. But the end of the Nowitzki era could be coming sooner than expected.
The Dallas Mavericks are facing their first non-playoff season since 2000. Nowitzki is 34 years old and entering the final year of his contract. In an interview with USA Today, Nowitzki reiterated his desire to stay in Dallas, but …
"Now that I already reached my goal [of winning it all], I really want to finish my career in Dallas," Nowitzki said. "But saying all that, I don't want another year next year with the same as this year, the frustration and playing for the eight or nine seed. I think we all know that this is a very big summer for us. ... We want to get back to the championship level."
Perhaps Mark Cuban should have skipped that taping of Shark Tank and gone to Brooklyn to woo Deron Williams after all.
Nowitzki typically says what he means and he’s not prone to hyperbole, so take him for what he says — this summer is huge if he wants to retire a Maverick.
But here’s the problem: How are the Mavericks going to have a huge summer? The Mavs have just a half-dozen players under contract. They owe qualifying offers to Darren Collison and Rodrigue Beaubois.
The Mavs have money to spend, but no one believes there will be a big-time player to spent it on. The two prized free agents — Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard and Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul — are likely to re-sign with the current teams. That’s the same thing last year’s free-agent prize, Brooklyn’s Deron Williams, did.
Perhaps Mark Cuban should have skipped that taping of Shark Tank and gone to Brooklyn to woo Williams after all.
The Mavs could draft a future star, but they’ll have to get incredibly lucky in the NBA draft lottery to get a top-three pick. They appear to be locked into a slot that would get them the second-fewest ping-pong balls, meaning they would most likely end up with the No. 13 pick overall.
Let's check the history books
The last time the Mavs had a pick in the NBA lottery — 2000 — they selected Syracuse’s Etan Thomas. He lasted just a couple of years. In fact, the Mavs’ draft history during the Nowitzki era is surprisingly bad, as the only selection that made any serious contribution was Josh Howard, picked in the first round in 2003.
The Mavs have two selections in this draft, and the brain trust, led by general manager Donnie Nelson, hasn’t shown it can find immediate help in the draft. The Mavs could swing a trade for a current veteran, but aside from forward Shawn Marion, they don’t have any real chips to work with, if the idea is to keep Nowitzki and build around him.
These factors will make it hard for Cuban, Nelson and company to fix this in one year. It’s possible but unlikely. Which brings up something Cuban has steadfastly denied will ever happen — trading Nowitzki.
Nowitzki will be in the final year of his contract next season. Let’s assume the Mavs are still a middling team, and they reach the trade deadline. What will Cuban do?
He’s already proven that he’s not willing to sacrifice the long-term bottom line for short-term risk. A prime example was letting Tyson Chandler walk instead of signing him long term. Admittedly, that backfired.
Keeping Nowitzki in this scenario would be Cuban doing exactly that — sacrificing the organization’s long-term future by hanging on to Nowitzki as his fades into the sunset. And if the Mavs don’t trade him and can’t re-sign him after next season, they risk not only losing Nowitzki, but also getting no one to replace him.
If Nowitzki is as good as his word, then the lure of winning one more title will outweigh staying in Dallas. That’s a risk the Mavs cannot take, no matter how loved Nowitzki is.
Buckle up. This needs to be the most creative offseason the Mavs have ever had. Or else the Big German may soon be dressing in the visitor’s locker room at the American Airlines Center.