After getting bounced from the first round of the NBA Playoffs by the in-state rival Houston Rockets, four games to one, the Dallas Mavericks face very uncertain territory.
Franchise cornerstone piece Dirk Nowitzki showed against Houston that he’s no longer quite great enough to build around. While his shot is still a beautiful sight, his aging legs mean he’s no longer able to create the needed air space to score with great volume and efficiency. More importantly, he’s become a sieve on defense — Rockets super-sub Josh Smith moved around him like he was nothing more than a glorified pylon, through much of the series.
Rajon Rondo’s stay in Texas was an utter disaster, and there’s virtually no chance he’ll return to Dallas as a free agent this summer. Starting shooting guard Monta Ellis has a player option for next season, and can become a free agent himself if he chooses. With the expected jump in salary caps league-wide, it would seem he’s likely to test the market at the very least, and would come at a greater cost to Dallas even if he stays.
Starting center Tyson Chandler? Also headed for free agency. As is the lone bright spot from the Mavericks’ short-lived postseason run, forward Al-Farouq Aminu, who made himself a lot of extra money with his performance against Houston.
Assembling a team around the declining Nowitzki and Chandler Parsons — who missed all of the series with a knee injury, and may be having surgery that could affect his play going forward — makes for some dubious prospects, at best. Especially in the ever-loaded Western Conference.
All these question marks amount to some pretty slim chances at elevated competition in Mavericksland, and some serious decisions for owner Mark Cuban about whether he should begin to rebuild, instead of hunting down marginally better returns in the short term, by spending more money this summer.
— John Wilmes