With the NBA trade deadline just weeks away, teams across the league are taking an extra hard look at the construction of their rosters. Decision makers up and down the association will have to sort out what direction they want to take their respective franchises. What will these decision makers do? Will the league have an up-tick in trades this season? Interestingly enough, the Dallas Mavericks, who currently sit two games back of the Los Angeles Lakers for the last place in the Western Conference, have revealed little to no hints of what type of team they want to be as the league approaches the trade deadline on February 23rd. Back in November, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban told ESPN.com, "Haters gonna hate. We think you always compete."
And compete they have over the years.
With 16 straight seasons of .500 or better basketball, Mark Cuban has long promised fans and media that if Dirk Nowitzki suits it up in a Mavericks uniform, the team will be competitive and battle for a playoff spot. With a bunch of roster turnover year-in-and-year-out, the Mavericks always seem to manage to cobble together just enough wins to make the playoffs. During Head Coach Rick Carlisle's eight-year tenure, he and Nowitzki have guided the Mavericks to one championship with seven playoff appearances. The lone season the Mavericks missed the playoffs was in 2012 where Dirk underwent knee surgery and missed the first 27 games of the season.
Unfortunately for the Mavs, this 2016-2017 season is starting to mirror the one back in 2012, where the Mavericks failed to reach the playoffs. This year's team has dealt with an abundant amount of injuries to pivotal players up and down the roster. All of this has led to where they stand, an unimpressive 16-30 record. As awful as that record appears, the Mavericks are still just 5 games out of the eight spot in the West. With owner Mark Cuban maintaining to the media that the team will not tank, let's give out some advice to the Mavericks decision makers before any trade activity ensues.
If a team inquires about Dirk Nowitzki, hang up the phone
Title contending teams may inquire about the availability of Dirk Nowitzki, but we all know that Dirk is not going anywhere. Dirk has long professed his desire to remain a Maverick for life. Dirk, along with LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony are the only players in the NBA that possess the power to veto any trade. Staying on the court has been a bit of a challenge for the 18-year veteran. Nowitzki has appeared in just 20 of the 46 games averaging 25 minutes, 13.3 points and 5.8 rebounds on 40 percent shooting.
Don't trade Harrison Barnes, but listen to offers
The 5th year forward is having a career year and has established himself as a cornerstone piece for the Mavericks franchise. As the league trends to the pace and space era, small-ball power forwards have become more and more valuable. Barnes can play both sides of the ball, averaging a shade over 20 points per game on the offensive side, while taking on the task of defending three's and fours on the defensive end. Barnes' maximum contract was highly criticized by many media pundits this offseason, but it seems that the negative narrative his simmered down.
Teams that contact the Mavericks about Harrison Barnes better have the ammunition. If the Boston Celtics offered their Brooklyn Nets 2017 1st round pick, that is a no-brainer type deal that the Mavericks would certainly have to entertain. Possessing that Brooklyn pick (which is most likely going to have a 25 percent chance at being the first pick in the draft) and pairing it with their own projected top ten pick, the Mavericks could jump start the rebuild immediately. Unfortunately for the Mavericks, Boston will not trade that pick for Harrison Barnes.
Another deal that should capture the attention of the Mavericks would be a deal involving the Minnesota Timberwolves and Andrew Wiggins. Wiggins and Barnes both share a lot of similarities. They both have similar physical profiles, 6'8 tall and both are built over 200 lbs. Offensively Wiggins and Barnes average over 20 points per game and both are so-so rebounders. Defensively, Barnes is a little more versatile, possessing the ability to guard bigger "bully ball" power forwards, where Wiggins lacks some strength down in the interior.
According to ESPN.com, the Timberwolves were dangling last summer's number five overall pick, hoping to entice the Bulls into trading their star small forward, Jimmy Butler. The talks never materialized, but potentially could have if the Timberwolves were willing to part with Andrew Wiggins. Would Tom Thibodeau be willing to deal one of his young pieces for a more established veteran with a championship pedigree? My thought is no, but it would be an interesting proposal.
It's time to dangle Andrew Bogut as trade bait
The Dallas Mavericks essentially gave up nothing to get Andrew Bogut onto their roster. Yet, Andrew Bogut has essentially given nothing back to the Mavericks in return.
Hampered by injuries, Bogut has yet to make the impact the Mavericks envisioned when they brought him in via trade this offseason. The starting frontline of Dirk Nowitzki and Andrew Bogut has been an absolute disaster as the Mavericks have posted a staggering -48.4 net rating in 72 minutes when Bogut and Nowitzki have shared the floor this season. Both players are too slow defensively to hold up together on a consistent basis. The biggest surprise with the pairing is how things just haven't worked offensively either. With Dirk only shooting 40 percent from the floor, the offensive spacing is certainly lacking when both bigs share the floor. The Mavericks are only posting a 68.5 offensive rating when Dirk and Bogut share the floor. Like any smart team, the Mavericks identified these deficiencies, and now Nowitzki and Bogut very rarely see the floor together.
If the Mavericks haven't already, now is the time to start engaging teams interest in Bogut. As losing ensued for the Mavericks, the team once hoped that Bogut could net a first round pick if he were traded. That dream may have come to an end as the injuries, and on-court production just hasn't been there for Bogut. If healthy, Bogut could help a playoff team with his physicality and rim protection.
With the Celtics possessing assets and having a gaping need for a rim-protector, both parties could benefit from a trade. In this scenario, I have the Celtics giving up Tyler Zeller and the Minnesota Timberwolves 2nd round pick for Andrew Bogut.
Do not trade the 2017 1st round pick
As much as the Mavericks want to ride out Dirk's final years with playoff appearances, it's time to realize that this particular season should be a throwaway season. Even if the Mavericks somehow made the playoffs, they would be certainly matched up with Golden State Warriors and ultimately swept in 4 games. So it's time to identify what direction this team is going this season.
If I had a vote, I'd say to develop the younger talent, trade away the older veterans like Bogut and even Deron Williams. Collect more assets and build for the future. So hold onto the pick, and take a chance at finding talent in the draft with a high lottery selection.