Just like last summer with Deron Williams, the Mavs will enter this offseason hoping to catch the biggest fish, Howard. But if Howard decides to leave the Los Angeles Lakers and forgo the extra $30 million in guaranteed money that the Lakers could offer him, returning home to Atlanta and playing for the Hawks would seem to be a much more enticing situation.
The Hawks only have $18 million in commitments for next season and could, in theory, afford Howard at his max number and still have enough money left over to re-sign Teague or Smith. Howard may find the younger core of the Hawks and a return home more attractive than relocating to Dallas and teaming up with Nowitzki, Marion and Carter.
That’s why dealing Marion and Carter, for cents on the dollar, makes sense for the Mavs.
If done, at best, the Mavs could offer Howard the opportunity to play in Dallas with Josh Smith, but with the newfound cap space, the Mavs could also sign Howard at his max number and even retain Mayo, Beaubois and/or Collison—something the team simply couldn’t afford with Carter and Marion clogging up its cap.
And at worst, if Howard ends up elsewhere, the Mavs will be exactly where they are now: on the outside looking in.
In the NBA, high draft picks and low payrolls are how teams go from the doldrums to being a contender. Right now, the Mavs are stuck in no man’s land and would be wise to sell.
For Cuban, the thought of that is foreign. But like he did after the team won its only NBA title back in 2011, he needs to think long term.
After the title season, Cuban—cognizant of the tougher economic restraints on the horizon—made a series of unpopular decisions which resulted in most of the team’s championship core leaving.
Tyson Chandler signed with the New York Knicks, J.J. Barea signed with the Minnesota Timberwolves and DeShawn Stevenson left for the New Jersey Nets.
One year later, Jason Terry left Dallas for the Boston Celtics and Jason Kidd joined Chandler in New York.
The entire time, Cuban cited the importance of future flexibility and wanting to get younger as the reason behind letting his core dissolve.
Now, less than two years later, only three players from the title team remain: Nowitzki, Beaubois and Marion.
The sun is setting on an era in Dallas. With capable leadership and one of the league’s most passionate owners, it will rise again.
But in the interim, Cuban would be wise to help the process along by maximizing his cap space and finding takers for Marion and Carter. According to him, teams are interested in the two veterans, but the Mavs are said to be looking to move pieces only for a young player whose best days appear to be ahead—not merely for expiring deals.
Being a seller at the trade deadline is unchartered territory for Cuban’s Mavericks, so it’s no surprise that he’s looking for a return on Marion or Carter.
But being on the outside of the playoff race, looking in, is territory Cuban’s franchise has avoided for quite some time, as well.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, and as the clock ticks toward Feb. 21, Cuban should opt to officially end an era in Dallas and embrace a traditional rebuilding model. Pennies on the dollar may seem like a bad return, but we all know the line about being penny-wise and pound-foolish, right?
Moke Hamilton is a Senior Columnist for SheridanHoops. Follow him on Twitter: @MokeHamilton