As quickly as it opened, the Dallas Mavericks’ championship window is closing. With the Big German turning 33 this Sunday, Jason Terry nearing 34, and Jason Kidd closing in on 40, Mark Cuban is starting to look like the supervisor of a retirement home. Meanwhile, the rest of the NBA’s championship contenders are on the up and up. The Oklahoma City Thunder’s core of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Serge Ibaka is entering its prime. Led by 22-year-old point guard Derrick Rose, the Bulls should be primed for another championship run. And, oh yeah, those guys over in South Beach should be pretty good again, too.
If the Mavs are going to win another championship, they better do it fast. With Nowitzki, Kidd, Terry, and Shawn Marion under contract for the 2011-12 season, Dallas has the majority of its core returning. But with the contracts of Tyson Chandler, J.J. Barea, Caron Butler, Brian Cardinal, DeShawn Stevenson and Peja Stojakovic expiring, the Mavs are going to have to make some decisions about who to re-sign, who to let walk, and who to go after in the free-agent pool. Here are the moves that the Mavs should make if they hope to repeat as champs.
Players they should sign:
Priority number one is getting Tyson Chandler back on board. Chandler’s play for the Mavs down the stretch was invaluable. He was the core of their defense and their leading rebounder. He might not possess the post moves of Tim Duncan, but he can catch the ball and finish in the paint, something that can’t be said for all seven-footers. Without Chandler, the Mavs would not have won the title in 2011, and, unless Dwight Howard magically shows up in Dallas, the Mavs will need Chandler back to contend in 2012.
DeShawn Stevenson and Brian Cardinal might not have made as visible an impact as Chandler during the Mavericks’ championship run, but both players played a crucial role. Stevenson knocked down a number of critical threes and played solid defense while The Janitor brought a perfect combo of physical and smart play – and also cleaned up Liv Nightclub after the squad’s championship celebration. If Cuban can lock them up for cheap, Stevenson and Cardinal should be back in the Mavs’ locker room.
I don’t think I was the only fan hoping that Rick Carlisle would throw a couple minutes Caron Butler’s way during The Finals. On an aging team, Butler still possessed some explosiveness and flare. But despite working hard to rehab after he tore a tendon in his knee this January, Butler spent the series in a suit. The Mavs managed to get the job done without him, so should they bother spending the money to re-sign him? Yes. Before suffering the season-ending injury, the Mavericks were on a roll, going 21-8 with Butler in the lineup. With the rest of the NBA getting better, Dallas will need another weapon to compete. If Cuban can’t make a deal work with Butler, Jason Richardson is available and could fill a similar role.
Finally as Dirk ages, his minutes might need to take a hit. Unless the Mavericks feel comfortable with Ian Mahinmi getting significant time as a backup, they might try to sign another big. Glen Davis and Leon Powe are potential options.
Players they should let go:
In sports, there are few certainties. One is that role players from championship teams will be overpaid in the offseason. (Just ask James Posey). Next in line is Barea. After a strong showing in the playoffs, Barea is getting ready to cash in. Mavs fans who have grown to love the pesky point guard with lighting quickness may be sad to see Barea go, but if the asking price is too much, the Mavs should be prepared to let him walk. With Roddy Beaubois set to return from injury, Dallas has a viable option to play behind Kidd. (They could also make a run at Leandro Barbosa who has a player option with the Raptors.)
When Carlisle benched Peja Stojakovic after Game 3 of The Finals, it became clear that Peja’s days in a Dallas uniform were numbered. The forward who shot just 40.8 percent from the field during the playoffs was exposed as an incompetent defender. It’s time for Dallas to move on.
Who should the Mavs sign this summer?
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