Dallas Mavericks

Devin Harris Back From New Jersey? Fuhgeddaboudit

And you don't either. Unless, that is, you think he's the missing piece that will help this version of the Mavs beat the Lakers and Spurs and win the West right here, right now. The Mavs begin their regular-season stretch run tonight against the Jazz with a chance to improve their seeding and their roster.

The offer on the table from the New Jersey Nets is Harris to the Mavs in exchange for Caron Butler, Dominque Jones and Dallas' No. 1 draft choice. (Obviously this is kaput if Utah is willing to part with Deron Williams for a package including Harris.)

My initial reaction is no, because the Mavs already have a younger, faster, better version of Harris named Roddy Beaubois. But, of course, it's only fair to dig a little deeper.

Butler, who underwent season-ending knee surgery in January, says he hopes to come back and be a part of Dallas' playoff roster. Most are skeptical at best. Butler, who was a reliable No. 2 scorer to Dirk Nowitzki before his injury, has an expiring contract and will be a free agent come June 1. The Mavs like him, but for this season he has no value, so why not trade him for help-us-now assets and then, if they want, re-sign him once he's a free agent?

Same for rookie Dominique Jones, whose foot is currently in a cast from a recent injury. This year he's of no use. His best play has been in the D-League. And that No. 1 pick? The Mavs currently have the fourth-best record in the NBA so it will be a low first-round pick plus, owner Mark Cuban has proven you can simply buy a pick for $3 million if you choose.

I don't have a problem with the departures in the deal. It's the arrival, and his domino effect.

Harris would become Dallas' starting shooting guard. Problem with that is, like you, I saw the Mavs lose the 2006 NBA Finals partly because of his reluctance to take and inability to make a 15-foot jumper off a pick-and-roll. Obviously he's a better shooter, passer and player than he was five years ago, but I'm not sure the Mavs are desperate to buy what he's selling.

Because of the continually surprising play of J.J. Barea. And mostly because of Beaubois. Just unleashed onto the season last week, he does a lot of the same things as Harris. Doesn't play defense or handle the ball as well, but he shoots and scores better.

Barea has been amazing, but I've made it clear I think he'll ultimately be a liability in a seven-game playoff series. Harris taking away his minutes is not troubling at all. My fear is that a deal like this tinkers with the chemistry that has brought Dallas to 40-16, and also that it stunts the growth of the Mavs' most exiciting young player. Then again, the vision of Harris and Beaubois in the same backcourt is pretty enticing.

I may overvalue Butler, but unless I'm sure I can have him back as a free agent this summer I pass on this deal. You?

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Richie Whitt
Contact: Richie Whitt