Rob Mahoney runs The Two Man game, an ESPN-affiliated Mavericks blog, and occasionally writes about basketball for Unfair Park.
Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson have never exactly run the Mavericks like an ordinary NBA franchise. They built a team around a gangly German kid, and leaned on a bleached-blonde, seldom-used Canadian point guard to be his sidekick. (See correction below). They salvaged misfit veterans from all across the league and pieced them together in innovative ways. They took chances, swallowed losses, kept moving. They hired "stat geeks" before it was cool. They paid huge luxury tax penalties year after year, despite not operating in a premier market or profiting from a lucrative TV deal.
And most recently: They went to war with a cast of older players and a unique roster construction -- and somewhat impossibly ended up winning the whole damn thing.
So it should surprise no one that Cuban and Nelson approached free agency in a manner unlike any former champion. Although Tyson Chandler, Caron Butler and J.J. Barea all put in great work for the Mavericks last season, sentiment was placed aside in the name of prudent financial planning. Dallas has put more of an emphasis on financial flexibility than ever before, and long-term deals for that trio were deemed counterproductive to the team's goals.
Cuban himself essentially said as much to Tim MacMahon of ESPN Dallas, setting up the expectation for a quiet, uneventful free agency period. We should've known better; the Mavs even approach financial restraint with a unique sensibility, as Cuban and Nelson have added four intriguing players to the mix without committing to any lengthy contracts -- a minor miracle in today's NBA.
Here's a closer look at the newest Mavericks and what they'll bring to team on their economical salaries:
LAMAR ODOM Previous team: Los Angeles Lakers 2010-2011 Stats: 16.1 points, 9.7 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 1.9 turnovers per 36 minutes Miscellanea: Reigning Sixth Man of the Year; dunks on the moon; sells a bottled unisex fragrance with his wife, Khloe Kardashian; exists in a perpetual state of candy eating.
Nelson has made some strong moves over the course of the off-season, but none more impressive than the costless acquisition of Lamar Odom. Somehow Dallas managed to turn a traded player exception (a trade facilitator created in credit as a product of New York's sign-and-trade for Tyson Chandler) and a future, highly protected first round pick into one of the top forwards in the game. That's straight-up alchemy, and Nelson deserves every bit of praise he'll receive for his golden touch.
Odom doesn't fit any clear positional need for the Mavs, but his versatile game opens all kinds of possibilities. He's listed at 6-foot-10 but manages to run the pick-and-roll just as well as a ball-handler as he does as a roll man. He has a fluid post-up game but also spots up on the perimeter for threes. He's all over the court, and -- more frightening still -- it's difficult to find an area of the game in which Odom doesn't excel.
Odom's head drifts into the clouds at times, and his limitations have more to do with those flighty tendencies than any skill-related deficit. The structure of the Mavs' system and organization should give Odom some guidance in that regard, but Dallas will ultimately end up experiencing Odom at his multitalented Technicolor highs and at his drabber, complacent lows. It all comes with the territory, but the total product is well worth the bargain bin price.
VINCE CARTER Previous team: Phoenix Suns 2010-2011 Stats: 17.9 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 1.6 turnovers per 36 minutes Miscellanea: (Formerly) one of the greatest dunkers the universe has ever seen; really wanted his college diploma; former pingpong buddy of Jason Kidd; an antagonist in Toronto, Orlando, Phoenix, and Like Mike.
Carter deserves much of the flak he receives, but underneath the lightning rod is a fairly solid offensive player. He won't do much for the Mavs defensively, but Carter should give Dallas some quality scoring and occasional playmaking from the wing. For a meager $3 million salary -- and no long-term obligation -- that's a steal.
Carter could very well end up starting for Dallas, and would present a more complete game at a position so often filled by one of the Mavericks' specialists. Gone are the days of the stand-still shooter; Dallas obviously did quite well by having DeShawn Stevenson in the starting lineup, but Carter is -- even at this stage in his career -- a far more dynamic player. He'll still have to earn every minute of court time thanks to a crowded wing rotation, but look for Carter to function as a nice supplementary scorer this season, aided by the free-flowing mechanics of the Dallas offense.
DELONTE WEST Previous team: Boston Celtics 2010-2011 Stats: 10.7 points, 2.9 rebounds, 5.1 assists, and 2.4 turnovers per 36 minutes Miscellanea: We pretty much covered all that this morning.
West is, by all testament, a good guy to have in the locker room. Yet the realities created by his bipolar disorder are deemed problematic by some teams that choose to avoid what they deem to be additional hassle. That's their right; every team in the league has the power to draw its own lines when it comes to roster additions, even if those determinations unfortunately leave players like West out in the cold.
Dallas is no such team, and the Mavs have agreed to add West to the roster on a one-year deal for the league's minimum salary. It's a great fit in terms of basketball skill, but the Mavericks also have the consistency and culture to make things as easy for West as possible.
That kind of stability should allow Dallas to benefit from the play of a pretty impressive two-way talent. West has a nice all-around game, and he's the dreamy brand of complementary player who can thrive either with or without the ball. West isn't a huge scorer or a jaw-dropping playmaker, but he's solid across the board and brings some pesky perimeter defense to boot. We've seen West do good things for the offensive flow of virtually every team he's played on, and he'll continue to facilitate things as a pivotal member of the Mavs' second unit.
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BRANDAN WRIGHT Previous team: New Jersey Nets 2010-2011 Stats: 13.4 points, 8.5 rebounds, 1.8 blocks, and 1.8 turnovers per 36 minutes Miscellanea: Actually watches the NHL; stands 6'10'' but boasts a 7'5'' wingspan; does not pronounce his name this way.
Wright doesn't have the pedigree of the Mavs' other acquisitions, but he provides youth, length and athleticism at a pretty decent value. At worst, Dallas has used a roster spot and a minimum salary to acquire a big who runs the floor very well and understands how to fill open space. At best, the Mavs have picked up a project worth developing, capable of finally building on his post-up repertoire, offensive rebounding savvy, and incredible quickness.
Wright's by no means a sure thing, but at such a low cost and with a roster short on bigs, why not take a closer look?
This story originally implied that Cuban drafted Dirk. He did not. Our apologies for the mistake.