Off-Season Grade: B-
To nobody's surprise, Mark Cuban once again opened up his checkbook like he was Tiger paying Elin. Signing Dirk to an extension was a must and he was never really going anywhere after opting out of his contract early. Ponying up $55 million over six years to re-sign a guy like Brendan Haywood who has career averages of 7.7 points and 6.4 rebounds seems like a lot, but big men are rare to find on the open market so Cuban probably had no choice but to overpay the former Tar Heel.
I love getting Tyson Chandler from Charlotte for Erick Dampier's non-guaranteed contract. When Chandler is healthy he can be a difference-maker in the paint and gives Dallas even more depth at center to run alongside Dirk. Plus, he is in a contract year which means he could be extra motivated in hopes of cashing in next summer.
Not much has really changed from last year in terms of personnel. The nucleus of Nowitzki and Kidd is back for another go-around. You know what you are going to get from Dirk who is probably the best offensive big man in the game. Entering his 17th season, the question is can Kidd keep playing at a high level? (Based off his opening-night 18-assist performance, I am leaning towards yes.)
The role players remain the same. Jason Terry is the outside threat running alongside Kidd while Caron Butler starts his first full season with Mavs after being acquired prior to the trade deadline. Chandler is an upgrade from Erick Dampier and provides a solid one-two punch at center with Haywood. Shawn Marion is clearly a shell of the player he was a few years ago in Phoenix.
There are also a couple of intriguing young players to mesh with that veteran talent. Roddy Beaubois surpassed expectations as a rookie and will likely be Kidd's replacement one day. Dallas acquired Dominique Jones in a draft-day trade; Jones is a talented scorer and adds depth at the two. The Mavs also brought in a pair of young big men who did not develop as hoped with their previous teams. If Alexis Ajinca or Ian Mahinmi can figure it out this season, they would give Dallas even more depth inside.
Barring an injury or major step back, this team should once again be one of the top regular-season finishers in the Western Conference. But if the Mavs end up repeating recent history and fizzling out in the postseason, then what becomes of the team? The bar is set high where anything but a trip to the NBA Finals is a disappointment. Unfortunately with the Lakers and other talented teams out West standing in their way, that playoff failure may just end being how this era of Dallas Maverick basketball is defined.
Looking Ahead to the Summer of 2011:
Despite the fact that Chandler, Butler, Stevenson and Barea all come off the books after this season, Dallas will still likely be above or very close to the salary cap. Mark Cuban can never sit still around the trade deadline so expect the Mavs to try and move a couple of these expiring contracts as they look for a roster upgrade since the cap space freed up really does nothing for Dallas in free agency.