The Dallas Mavericks are out of the playoffs in the first round again. The blame game is fun, with Mark Cuban, Rajon Rondo and others on the shortlist of biggest baddie of the season, but where do the Mavericks go from here? The immediate future doesn’t seem too bright.
So who is staying? Chandler Parsons, Dirk Nowitzki, Devin Harris and that’s about it. Monta Ellis has a player option worth $8.7 million which he might not exercise. Raymond Felton has a player option worth $3.9 million but he is irrelevant as a part of the team. Al-Farouq Aminu has a player option worth $1.1 million, but it’s unclear whether or not the Mavericks have plans for him.
What about the rest? Tyson Chandler, J.J. Barea, Charlie Villanueva, Richard Jefferson? Are the Mavericks sticking to the guns that didn’t take them very far, or are headed towards another offseason of ambitious moves that fall flat? Almost every summer the Mavericks entertain the thought of signing the biggest free agents. Each year it ends in disappointment.
The Mark Cuban plan after the NBA championship was cutting costs, retooling and building a contender for 2015. A one year thing. They missed the playoffs in 2013 because of the Dirk Nowitzki early season injury. Last season things looked good, but they couldn’t get past the San Antonio Spurs. This season, despite everything that’s been done, the team seemed to regress compared to last season and throughout the campaign itself.
Now it’s easy to blame Rajon Rondo, a player who didn’t just get on the nerves of his head coach but also the rest of his teammates, preferring not to vote in favor of splitting the playoff share with him (For the playoffs, participating players receive shares of the revenue created by the league, with varying dollar figures for each round. Receiving playoff shares is contingent on a team vote).
Things got so bad with Rondo the Mavericks preferred faking an injury about him (back, not that it matters) than simply tell the press that they’re done with him for the rest of the postseason as the rest of the team scrambled to try and save something. They looked better without him. Rondo didn’t do anything specifically, but managed to run a lot of people the wrong way, especially Monta Ellis, the player most affected by Rondo’s playing style and presence.
The Rondo trade isn’t just a one-year damage thing. That was the card Cuban played in order to win the championship. He bet not just depth with Brandan Wright and Jae Crowder. He gambled draft picks on him. It all exploded in the Mavericks’ faces. They’re going to have cap space to work with next season, because Chandler isn’t getting $15 million a season if he stays, and they’re going after DeAndre Jordan as well, but retooling in a way that makes them more than just another playoff team at best is going to be very difficult, with two many key areas like point guard, bench and overall defense looking very vulnerable at the moment.