Curtis Hill always GM's for
teams that no one wants. This year it is the Dallas
Mavericks. This pick was received from Minnesota for
Dallas Mavericks: Back in the Gutter Again by Curtis Hill (firstname.lastname@example.org), Disaster Recovery GM Consultant After five years and three high lottery picks, what do the fans of the Dallas Mavericks have to look forward to? The beginning of the third major rebuilding process in the past 15 years for the Dallas NBA franchise. In a series of moves that boggled my mind, as well as the minds of most fans of NBA basketball, Dallas traded lottery picks Jason Kidd, Jimmy Jackson, and Jamal Mashburn for some string and a couple of wads of used bubblegum. That's on top of getting new team ownership that most likely sees the Mavs as a way to sell real estate and a new GM who seems hell-bent to prove how great a basketball mind he has without regard to putting a quality basketball team on the court anytime this century. The Roster Centers Shawn Bradley - a reasonable player to have at center, but certainly not someone to build a team around. Will need a quality backup center due to Bradley being injury-prone. A strong power forward who could play muscular post defense would help Bradley and Dallas out a lot. Stacey King - Will he be back? After releasing Greg Dreiling, the Mavs don't have a lot of options at this position. A rookie backup center drafted in the late first round or early second could take this spot. Power Forwards AC Green - on the downside of his career and a big salary cap problem for the Mavs. He'll be back for the last two years of his contract. If the Mavs could find a way to move AC, it would make their lives a lot better, but I don't think anyone's going to bite on the 5M+ salary this season or next. Samaki Walker - a player will great physical potential and can play center. I'm not sold on Samaki being any more than a solid pro. If he's healthy and his head is on straight, he's the player on the roster now who is most likely to really effective at power forward alongside Bradley in the future. Kurt Thomas - a player that surprised folks in Miami. An athletic rebounder, but the rest of his game is somewhat lacking. Some are projecting Thomas as the starting power forward this season. I don't know if he'll beat out a motivated Samaki Walker at power forward. Small Forwards Michael Finley - able to play the 2 and 3 spot, Finley has a shot at being a minor NBA star. Athletic on the floor and willing to take (and occasionally make) the big shot. The best player the Mavs have. I wouldn't be surprised if the Mavs are unable to keep him after next season when he's a free agent Ed O'Bannon - a tweener in the NBA, Ed's struggled to find his niche. Might still develop into a solid NBA player, but Dallas sure can't count on it. Some project he won't be back next season for Dallas. Martin Muursepp - the mystery Miami Heat pick from last season. Definitely a project. A project with two years left on a three year guaranteed contract... Shooting Guards Sasha Danilovic - going to Italy. This is a big help for the Mavs, giving them a little room under the salary cap. Erick Strickland - rookie who had a good first year with the Mavericks. Though he has a good attitude, I'm not so sure that the Mavs should be that excited by Erick. The Mavs plan to move Strickland to the point, another risky move to make with anyone who played mostly two guard in college. But anyone who works hard and is happy to be in Dallas is a big, big plus right now. Could leave Dallas if he gets a nice offer from another team. Point Guards Robert Pack - perhaps the second best player on the team. Can play very well when he wants to and isn't on IR. Puts the Mavs in a bind with his contract. Probably the best trade bait the Mavericks have -- but will that really help? Khalid Reeves - a solid combo guard who's just a little too short to play a lot of two guard. Strong player with ability to drive to the basket. Has been an average pro in the league. Derek Harper - I'm surprised he's coming back for one more year. That must mean he thinks he's going to get traded to a contender. Harper doesn't deserve another term of duty with Dallas -- he should be moved or given that front office job he's been promised. Certainly the main role model for the team. Roster Analysis The Mavericks are obviously in a real bind. They have a roster laden with guys who are tweeners between 3 and 4 and tweeners between 1 and 2. I won't even get into the disaster that is their salary cap situation. They have almost no room under the cap and several big, long-term contracts (Green, Bradley, Pack, etc.) that gives them little flexibility for the next two seasons. Nellie clearly loves, or at least has a big crush on, Shawn Bradley. After that, Pack and Finley give the Mavs three reasonable players. AC Green provides a veteran presence on the team and is the only complete power forward they have. Samaki Walker may turn out to be a good power forward in the league, but it's not something to count on. Kurt Thomas may stick around as a tweener three/four due to his rebounding skills, but he's due to be out for the first few months of the upcoming season. A lot of folks think Finley should be playing shooting guard. I do, too, but is his ballhandling up to the task? However, you simply cannot ignore that Dallas is a weak enough team that they can't afford to play Finley at the two spot if there isn't a reasonable player at small forward. I don't see that need being addressed in the draft or free agency. The Mavs released Greg Dreiling, so it appears that they'll try to keep Stacey King around as a 4/5 next season. With the present personnel, the rotation will probably look like: C Bradley, King, Green PF Green, Walker, King, Thomas SF Finley, Thomas SG Pack/Harper, Strickland, Finley, Reeves PG Pack/Harper, Strickland, Reeves Muursepp and O'Bannon? Who knows. It would be great if Easy Ed would break out and play some basketball, but things aren't looking good for Ed. Perhaps a change in scenery is in order? Muursepp is still a project and likely will be through the 3 years of his guaranteed contract. Many Mavs fans and the Mavs organization want to see Stickland re-signed and moved to point guard. With the roster situation and the skills to learn, that's going to be a two-year project at least. Organization Probably the most disheartening aspect of the plight of the Mavericks is that the ownership and GM do not appear to committed to getting the Mavericks back to respectability. For some entertainment, check out the Mavs official web site at www.nba.com. According to the Mavs, the future's so bright, Dallas fans will have to wear shades. From that site: IN MAY 1, 1996 THE DALLAS MAVERICKS were purchased by an ownership group of Ross Perot, Jr., David McDavid and Frank Zaccanelli. In the three months since then, the Mavericks have embarked on the most aggressive and ambitious offseason in the team's 16-year history. Seven new players have been added to the team's roster and a major re-structuring of the organization's front office has occurred. Pardon me, I have to get my hip waders to continue... Before Nelson arrived, the ownership moved Jason Kidd to Phoenix in a trade that was, at best, only slightly tilted toward the Suns. If Dallas would have received Steve Nash instead of Sam Cassell in the deal, it might have turned out OK. Getting AC Green's contract was a major mistake. Also, the Mavs gave up a good #1 pick to get Eric Montross from Boston. Montross wasn't a bad fit for Dallas (if the three Js would have clicked), but giving up a potential lottery pick for Montross wasn't a good move. Getting snookered by ML Carr is not something to be proud of. I'm sure the thinking was that Dallas wouldn't be in the lottery with the three Js and that Minnesota wouldn't be that good - hey, we're good and we get a lottery pick! Turns out those were two bad assumptions. Then, after hiring Don Nelson as the new GM, things went from bad to worse. Nelson pulled the trigger on two of the more, er, interesting trades in NBA history. The trade with the Nets just didn't make sense, both in talent lost and salary cap reasons. The Miami trade was better on the personnel side, but just terrible in regards to cap room. Jim Cleamons is a man I feel badly for. This is a man who came from a great situation in Chicago and appears to be a good coach, then he gets this mess in Dallas. I'm sure he'll be relieved when Nelson fires him about a month into the season and names himself or Donn coach. I hope Cleamons lands in a better situation the next time around. A lot of folks want to heap the blame for the bad trades on Cleamons. They blame him for not getting along with Kidd better. I think Cleamons was spoiled in Chicago. Not from coaching one of the greatest teams of all time, but from coaching players that were, well, coachable. In some respects, I'm surprised Cleamons and Nellie don't get along better. Both apparently believe that players should listen and learn from coaches, not dictate playing style, time, stats, etc. Also, keeping Toni Braxton off of the roster would have been a great move, hindsight being 20/20. Who will the Mavs draft? I think Nelson may try to run this draft like Mike Ditka ran the NFL draft for New Orleans-looking for blue-collar, old-school players. I would think that Nelson would be interested in players such as Austin Croshere or Bobby Jackson. I think guys like Danny Fortson and Tracy McGrady will not be drafted. I think it is likely the Mavs will draft a player who played three or four years in college and doesn't have a bad reputation. The word out of Dallas as of the past week is that, come hell or high-water, Michael Finley will be a shooting guard. Perhaps this is due to Finley wanting to play the 2 spot and the Mavs wanting to keep him happy so he re-signs, perhaps they think it's best for the team, perhaps it's smoke for the draft. Nellie loves to blow smoke. So who knows? The list of small forwards tossed out by the Dallas media (Keith Booth, Bubba Wells, Devin Davis, Cedric Henderson, Charles O'Bannon, Olivier St. Jean, Jerald Honeycutt) is not particularly a great group to choose at #15. None of these players, I think, would help Dallas at all next season at small forward; some of them will never help at all. Who should the Mavs draft? The Mavs need a player at every position, either as a starter or a reserve. The biggest holes, due to lack of personnel on the roster, are at shooting guard/small forward and center. The Mavs are on the cusp of having to take the best player available regardless of position. This may be their only option. It is unlikely the Mavs will be able to trade up unless Nellie quits before the draft and becomes the GM for a team with a higher pick than the Mavs. Trading the #15 for a small forward or two lower picks might be a good option. Moving someone like Muursepp for a #2 in this draft or another draft would help the salary cap numbers. Given what's going to be available for the Mavs, I would work hard to trade down. If the Mavs do hold on to the #15 spot, then, by the players entered in the draft, then the Mavs should draft the best guard/small forward available. Any of the backup centers are a reach. The power forwards available are not significantly better than the players on the team. I would target the following players as likely being available at the Mavs spot: Derek Anderson - could be a real steal for the Mavs, if his knee checks out. An excellent player who would give the Mavs a great combo of Anderson and Finley at the 2/3 spot and insurance if Finley leaves after next season. His knee problems make him a risk, but a risk worth taking for Dallas. Anthony Parker - an NBA-sized two guard with good ability. Would fit in well with the Mavs needs, though I think Anderson is the better player. Could play a little small forward if needed. Jacque Vaughn - a solid player who has his head on straight. Bobby Jackson - a gritty point guard fix that might tempt Nelson depending on how the draft falls out. Johnny Taylor - a small forward prospect out of UT-Chattanooga that I like a lot. Austin Croshere - saw him in Charlotte. Heady player with good skills. Could put on some more muscle. Shows good work ethic and has room to improve. Doesn't really fit in well with the glut of forwards the Mavs already have, however. Has potential to be a small forward, but probably not for a couple of years. Chris Anstey - I haven't seen him (who has!), but he's 7'0" and the Mavs might be interested. I'd lean more toward a more skilled power forward who could play center than another potential center project. Gordon Malone - a solid, mobile 6'10"ish player out of WVU. Might be worth a shot for the Mavs if all of their guard targets are gone. Scot Pollard - another solid, but not as mobile 6'10" player. I think his attitude would fit well with Nellie-I don't think his skills merit this high of a pick. Predrag Drobnjak - another player I've never seen, but a big (6'10"ish)European player who might give the Mavs some inside beef. (Any of the last 4 picks would be a real stretch for Dallas at #15) The Mavs draft Sorry, Michael, but it's another year at small forward for you. With the 15th pick of the 1997 NBA Draft, the Dallas Mavericks select Anthony Parker of Bradley University. In the end, I couldn't see drafting another point guard when the team is loaded with undersized guards. Bradley is a legit 6'5" (almost 6'6") and gives Dallas some much needed size at the two spot. He also had the bad senior season due to injury, but his number were great before that and he's shown that he's nearly back to 100% in the camps. I personally, even as the real GM of the Mavericks, would not draft any of the small forwards available at this time with the #15 pick. I'm sure a few of them will turn out to be good players, but I don't like the odds. And, I do expect either Pack or Harper to be not with the team at some point next season, opening up some room in the guard rotation. Trades There really isn't much hope for Dallas to trade up unless the Mavs package the #15 pick or try a deal with maybe Pack or Harper. The Mavs may have to trade their #1 for #2s to clear cap room to try and get a free agent, plus not be burdened with having to give a #1 a guaranteed contract or lose him by not making an offer after 15 days. I suppose they could try to trade their #1 for a reasonable small forward, but I doubt they'd be offered anyone better than they could get in the free agent market. I could speculate here, but I don't think that would do any good. Dallas would have to hope someone would make a dumb, lop-sided trade with them. Given the history of Dallas over the past season, though, I suspect folks are offering players with long-term contracts to the Mavs for Michael Finley. There are some players making noise about wanting out of their towns (McDyess, Smith, Sprewell, etc.), but I don't think Dallas has anything to offer other than next year's #1 and I don't think they should part with that unless they get an All Star who's under contract for 3 or 4 years. Free Agents Danilovic is gone. That's it for Dallas free agents. I really can't see anyone of note (Phil Jackson and Michael Jordan!!!) going to Dallas and they really don't have much cap room to even sign free agents. Seriously, the Mavs could get a free agent small forward, but, realistically, what kind of quality are they going to get for their money and lowly status? I think they'd be better off staying under the salary cap while stinking next year so they can get a good #1 pick and a good free agent next season. Next season is a much better free agent market by far, and even the best free agent small forward won't be able to make the Mavs any more than the second or third worst team in the league next season. Dallas media notes that the Mavs claim to be interested in free agent small forwards Robert Horry, Rick Fox, Bryon Russell, Chris Mills, Mark Davis, and Scott Burrell. I don't think the better players on this list will sign with Dallas, so they should just sit tight and save the money. Prognosis If you have Dallas season tickets, renew them, then sue the Mavs after the end of next season for 41 incidents of pain and suffering. The Mavs will be in the lottery next season. I think they'll be the worst team in the league. The road to get Dallas back to respectability will not be an easy one. If Dallas is very, very lucky, they'll get to draft Derek Anderson this season, move Pack or Green to get some cap room, get a top two or three draft pick next season, re-sign Finley, and hire a coach that gets a really good free agent small/power forward (Smith, Wallace, etc.) to sign with the Mavs after next season. Being reasonably good after this season is the best I can see the Mavs doing. Odds are it'll be at least three years before the Mavericks approach a .500 record again.
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