Sorry Mouseketeers, I know it’s been a while since there’s been a column. The reasons for that are threefold, the most important of which is that I was on a road trip, moving my older and much less attractive brother to D.C. The second is that along the way, I dropped my computer on atile floor and broke it. The third is that I haven’t had much to say.
Because you know it as well as I do, loved ones. The Mavericks, without Caron Butler, are not really a championship contender. Dirk, with a tenth of the season spent on the sidelines (though he has now, thankfully, returned) is no longer really an MVP contender.
Yes, the fact that the Mavs, without Butler or Dirk, morphed into something so awful it seemed like something you shouldn’t feed after midnight SHOULD help his MVP candidacy, but it doesn’t.
Sure, anyone you ask will admit that it sort of obviously does, but in practice you need a groundswell of support building all season, and he’s taken too long an absence from that discussion. For a fan base that, by this point, is nearly as deeply invested in Dirk getting the respect he deserves as it is in him (and us) finally winning that title, that’s two tough blows, and I shall not soften them, nor reck nothing of kindness nor pity.
It was actually sort of the same last year, before Carl Landry bit his elbow, but on a worse team.
Anyway, because of the major sense of devastation and disappointment felt by Mavs fans everywhere at a season once so grand turning so dark, we’ve been hearing a lot of calls for somebody to trade somebody for something. But the Mavs probably won’t do it for the same reason they probably SHOULDN’T do it, and it’s a simple one.
There’s nothing they could trade for that wouldn’t at least sort of make them worse.
Here’s the thing, the Mavs needed Butler, because he was the only other person on the Mavs who could create their own shot—which relieves the pressure on everybody, and was why Marion was sort of reinventing himself as a baller. The Mavs, then, need somebody nearly as good as Butler.
But the thing is, all the trade chips the Mavs have aren’t worth Butler, to anyone else. Butler isn’t worth Butler because, expiring contract that he is, instead of trading for half a year of his services AND an expiring, he’s now just an expiring. Yes, people want some tax relief, but here’s the thing people seem to forget:
Post the Pau Gasol trade, teams are really wary of trading nothing for something. Maybe before they thought they could spin it as a good thing, and fans would buy it, but no longer. Believe me, this is actually for the best. And, with no LeBron’s, Wade’s, Bosh’s, or even Carmelo’s on the market (because if he isn’t traded this year, he’s made clear he’s going to the Knicks), cap space doesn’t DO anything but fatten an owner’s wallet. Which is still, to some owners, worth doing, but may or may not counter the effects of people not going to see your team play any more because they hate you.
And here’s the other thing. If the Mavs KEEP Butler till the end of the season, they can resign him because teams can go over the cap to resign their own players. If they don’t keep him, they’ll still be over the cap and can’t sign anyone. So who do you get that’s worth Butler when you don’t even have Butler to trade?
Then you got somebody like Beaubois. What is Beaubois worth to anybody BUT us? He’s been out so long, with what seems to have been a relatively minor injury that he’s certainly been branded as an injury risk and for all the enormous hopes we’ve saddled him with, the young man has never been a consistent part of the team. His value is as low as it could possibly be. And as is always true in cases of huge potential with question marks, even with Butler’s contract, even with DoJo or draft picks or whatever, there’s not a player anyone would be willing to trade for him that would be worth half of what he could be worth to this team in two years.
And if you have to give up more than that, say Terry or DeShawn or something, what COULD you get back that replaces that scoring?
I mean look, guys. Let’s say the Mavs could get any of their rumored targets without giving up too much. You think Iguodala, who’s averaging 14 points on a team where he could take as many shots as he’d possibly like is going to do it? You think all we’re missing is Stephen Jackson, a volume shooter (40% on the year) who’s worn out his welcome everywhere he’s gone? Gerald Wallace and his 42% shooting?
I mean mein gott, my friends, even Jason Terry who’s been so cold for the last couple of weeks the whole locker room is coming down with pneumonia has been beating those percentages healthily.
The Mavs are not going to blow up their future, which no doubt envisions a healthy Roddy B next to a resigned Caron Butler and Tyson Chandler (here’s hoping), keeping the Mavs window REALLY open for at least a couple years—for Stephen Jackson. What they are going to do is things like sign Pavlovic and Peja hoping that one of those things gives them half of Butler’s production until Roddy B can produce the other half.
So what can we expect, going forward? Well, look, let’s wrap up the doom and gloom section. Bottom line, we’re looking at dark offensive times. This was a crappy offense before it lost Butler. It will remain one. The Mavs front office has been looking for a guy like Peja was four years ago for much longer than four years. But what they don’t seem to get is the simple math of the thing. If you are a 40% three point shooter, you need 10 shots to make twelve points—obviously. But how many shots did Steve Novak ever get? How is Peja an improvement, at this point, on Novak, other than generating more buzz?
They seem to imagine they can pull someone off the bench and have them take three shots, hit all three, and spread the floor, but it doesn’t work that way. If Peja’s going to do anything, it’s going to be with lots of shots, and if he’s taking lots of shots, he’s playing lots of defense and that’s not good. Not that I don’t sort of like the idea of the Mavs potentially becoming a dangerous three point shooting team (since, besides Dirk and without Butler, they can’t do much else these days, and might as well do that well). But, you know. We’ll see.
That being said, there is good news, and the good news is that for the first time ever just being bad at offense isn’t a death sentence.
I do think that, even without Butler, the Mavs are better than they were last year. Part of that is just that Butler wasn’t fully integrated, last year. Because of Tyson Chandler, who is an incredible defender, and also because of DeShawn Stevenson who has reinvented himself as an offensive contributor, found his jumpshot, and keeps playing the great defense he was known for, the Mavs don’t have to score to win.
I think there’s little doubt that when Dirk works his way back to full strength, which should be soon, there won’t be much chance of losing games like the Chicago game last night. Even with the offense shrinking, it’s hard to imagine a team with Dirk playing well scoring less than 82 points.
On the other hand, it’s very possible to imagine a good team scoring only that many against us because it’s happened many times, and Butler’s absence shouldn’t hurt that very much. There’s also the fact that the West is just considerably weaker than it was last year. And if the Mavs can beat the Lakers with 14 points from Dirk, it can’t be all bad, right?
The picture has changed. The dream was for the Mavs to end the season at the top or near the top of the West, and for that, for the first time in years, to matter, as they’d get an easy first round series. That probably won’t happen. But I think they’ll still go back to winning most of their games, and if they can avoid San Antonio in the first round, I bet they can still make a little run. Hard to see them beating San Antonio, hard to see them beating the good Eastern teams now if, somehow, they make it that far.
Yes, I’ll miss getting excited about us playing the good teams, and getting the chance to show off on national television. Yes, I’ll miss being the strikebusters. Still, I think we’ll have cause for excitement again soon, now that Ty’s not ill and Dirk’s working his way back. And someday, Roddy B may even put on a Mav’s uniform again. Maybe.