Prior to the beginning of this offseason it appeared that Dirk Nowitzki’s Dallas Mavericks’ hopes of another championship had sailed. However, owner Mark Cuban and general manager Donnie Nelson managed instead to have one of the best free agency periods in franchise history. As such, they put together one of the deepest rosters currently in the NBA. Considering their championship hopes though, the Dallas Mavericks have announced in order to maintain flexibility, they are looking to cut the roster further than the 15-man maximum in order to keep their options open when they head into the playoffs.
Ideally, the Mavericks are looking at a 14-man roster. One reason for this is they want some extra space in case a player gets hurt. By having this free roster spot, they will be able to sign a free agent without having to sacrifice another spot unexpectedly. Potential trades are the other reason the team desires an extra spot on the roster. By having this spot, the Mavericks have plenty of flexibility if trades are needed down the line, particularly around February’s trade deadline.
Before the trade deadline, there are two players the Mavericks are currently shopping around in that of Gal Mekel (2.4 ppg and 2 apg) and Bernard James (.9 ppg and 1.4 rpg). Neither players are likely to be featured prominently on any roster. However, considering they each have guaranteed contracts, Dallas wants to unload them for either future draft picks or players to be cut. By doing this, the Mavericks would be at or under the maximum players allotted on a roster without having to pay up their guaranteed contracts. Both players cannot be traded together considering James cannot be traded until Dec. 15. In a worst case scenario, Dallas can trade Mekel and stay at the maximum for a month and a half if they have interest in James.
The trades make sense because as it currently stands, the Mavericks have 20 players on their roster. Of those players, 15 have guaranteed deals. Included among the five who are not guaranteed is Charlie Villanueva, who has proven himself to be a key contributor off the bench by averaging 10.7 ppg and 3 rpg in an average of 11.6 mpg during the preseason. Considering his success, he is unlikely to be one of the players let go. This means that the Mavericks will have to let a minimum of one player with a guaranteed contract go, if not more, unless the Mavericks are able to make the Mekel trade and later, the James trade.
Dallas has all the key parts to a successful run this year. Their starting lineup of Nowitzki (21.7 ppg, 6.2 rpg and 2.7 apg) and Monta Ellis (19 ppg, 5.7 apg, 3.6 rpg and 1.7 spg), along with the offseason acquisitions of Chandler Parsons (16.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 4 apg and 1.2 spg), Tyson Chandler (8.7 ppg, 9.6 rpg and 1.1 bpg) and Jameer Nelson (12.1 ppg, 7 apg and 3.4 rpg) is stronger than most other lineups in the league. Additionally, they have one of the deepest benches with guys like Al-Farouq Aminu, Devin Harris, Richard Jefferson, Charlie Villanueva and Raymond Felton.
Because they have a chance of breaking through to a championship run, Mavericks’ brass want to be careful. Having that extra space on the roster can open itself up to a quality trade that can bolster their roster further. Moreover, they may be able to pick up a quality role player from the free agents out there just prior to the playoffs.
Mark Cuban wants Nowitzki to get another championship, and he along with Nelson certainly helped in giving him talent to do so in the offseason. By choosing to cut the roster to 14 guys for flexibility, the Dallas Mavericks are looking to be careful heading into a potential deep playoff and possible championship contention. With that kind of planning, look for the Mavericks to be a force to be reckoned with this coming season and possibly the only squad to dethrone the San Antonio Spurs.
Commentary By Simon Mounsey