What's next for the Dallas Mavericks?
Now that Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks have won their first NBA title, what do they need to do in the offseason to stay in position to defend their championship?
Our panel of experts weighs in.
1. What could the rest of the NBA learn from the Dallas Mavericks?
Royce Young, Daily Thunder: The obvious answer is that a group of superstars doesn't beat a team. But Rick Carlisle hammered that home well enough already after Game 6. I think the best lesson is that one season can turn any supposed legacy around. Our perception of Dirk has drastically changed, and it happened because of one magical playoff run. Keep that in mind with the players you feel like blasting now.
Marc Stein, ESPN.com: They can learn, once and for all, that they might as well stop looking for the next Dirk Nowitzki. 'Cause there isn't one. He's one of a kind. And leading these Mavs to this championship proves it louder than ever.
Rob Mahoney, The Two Man Game: The value of nontraditional team construction. Some stars are easy to build around, but Dirk Nowitzki is not one of them. It took Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson some time to figure out what worked, what was needed and what was possible with Nowitzki at the core of this team, and once those things were established, they acquired the pieces they needed, convention be damned. The Mavs' talent on paper isn't overwhelming, but the pieces click perfectly in this system with this context, and for the purposes of building a champion, that's all that really matters.
Tim MacMahon, ESPN Dallas: "This is a win for team basketball," Dirk Nowitzki said after popping champagne bottles Sunday night. A poised, skilled, tough team that moves the ball beautifully and plays defense on a string can beat foes with far superior athleticism. (It helps to have a 7-footer who makes off-balance mid-range jumpers look easy, too.)
Jeff Caplan, ESPN Dallas: A couple of things, actually. First, that it's never too late. The Mavs were loaded with 30-something veterans that came into this season having agreed to put egos aside and gear everything toward the team goal. Perfect examples are Shawn Marion accepting a bench role for the first time in his career (he became a starter late in the season), and Caron Butler accepting a role in which he'd play fewer minutes than ever before. Second, that basketball is a beautiful game when it's played correctly as a team, when players move on offense, pass the basketball and allow each individual to succeed for the great good of the team.
2. Did the Mavs' championship window open and close on the same night?
Royce Young, Daily Thunder: Yes, but not just because they're old. It's because the West's guard is really changing. Between Oklahoma City, Memphis, Portland, Denver and maybe even the Clippers (yes, the Clippers), the Mavs aren't going to be able to use crafty, veteran experience to get by. Those young teams are really close, and that makes any future road tougher for anybody.
Marc Stein, ESPN.com: Nope. This was a bonus playoff run that the Mavs weren't even banking on that became one of those magical, unstoppable rides we see in sports sometimes. Dirk admitted after the Western Conference finals that he and Cuban never expected title contention in Year 1 of the new contract they hammered out last July. Given that he still has some peak years left, who's to say he can't win another with a younger superstar as his sidekick? The window for this collection of Mavs is probably closed, but Dirk has another ring in him before he retires.
Rob Mahoney, The Two Man Game: Not quite -- Dallas is still a contender. That said, a lot will have to go right for the Mavs to even get back to the Finals next season. Tyson Chandler will have to re-sign in Dallas. Caron Butler and Rodrigue Beaubois will need to be integrated smoothly back into the lineup. Chandler, Jason Kidd and Dirk Nowitzki need to dodge any kind of major injuries. The Mavericks may have willed their way through the playoffs, but every NBA title hinges on a bit of luck, and the Mavs would need that same good fortune to really compete next season.
Tim MacMahon, ESPN Dallas: After counting the Mavs out until midway through the playoffs, I won't make the same mistake again. As long as Dirk Nowitzki is in his prime, the window will be open. And the Mavs might be even better next season, if a healthy Caron Butler comes back and/or Rodrigue Beaubois recovers from a wasted sophomore season.
Jeff Caplan, ESPN Dallas: It's funny, we spent all season talking about how this is the last season for this team to get it done. Look, this is an old team, so their window isn't nearly as wide-open as, say, the Oklahoma City Thunder. However -- and much will be determined by a new CBA -- but if the Mavs can re-sign free-agent-to-be Tyson Chandler, re-sign Caron Butler to a one-year deal and help Roddy Beaubois get back on track, why can't the Mavs make another run? Dirk obviously remains in his prime, and Jason Kidd will be highly motivated for one last run in the final year of his contract.
3. What's the biggest issue facing the Mavs going into the offseason?
Royce Young, Daily Thunder: What to do with Tyson Chandler? He's just 28, but he's played 10 seasons already and 662 regular-season games. Obviously he was a major part of this championship and the Mavs want him back, but they also have to keep an eye on the future and 2012. You don't want to overextend on Chandler and risk missing out on Dwight Howard or Deron Williams.
Marc Stein, ESPN.com: I'm sure everyone will say Tyson Chandler. They badly want to re-sign him, and he badly wants to stay. But Dallas, like every team out there these days, is worried about doing deals before the next CBA without knowing the new rules or implications.
Rob Mahoney, The Two Man Game: Keeping Tyson Chandler. Brendan Haywood is a starting-caliber center, but Chandler is a true defensive anchor. He's going to attract a lot of attention from a lot of teams, and the Mavs will need to fight off every single one of them to give Chandler the most attractive offer. The ongoing CBA negotiations will hopefully throw off the plans of other potential suitors, but regardless, the Mavs will need to be a step ahead throughout the entire process of Chandler's courting.
Tim MacMahon, ESPN Dallas: Can they keep the band together? Nobody will know the answer until the new collective bargaining agreement is done. Re-signing Tyson Chandler is a must. J.J. Barea is also a high priority. Caron Butler could be considered a luxury. Some think the Mavs need to get younger, but this core deserves a chance to defend its crown.
Jeff Caplan, ESPN Dallas: Tyson Chandler. It could be argued that the 7-foot-1 center made the most significant impact of any newcomer to any team. He brought a defensive mindset, vocal leadership and a force in the middle that the Mavs just haven't had at any point during Dirk Nowitzki's 13 seasons. Chandler will be a highly sought-after free agent. He has expressed his enjoyment with playing in Dallas, but has stayed away from making any commitment as he heads toward free agency. Winning the title might make it harder for him to go elsewhere, even if it means taking less money.
4. Now that he has his ring, should Jason Kidd retire on top?
Royce Young, Daily Thunder: No, because he's playing with house money now. He's got his championship. He's had his moment. No matter what, Jason Kidd is among the top five point guards of all time now. Nothing is changing that. So why not come back and give it another run and add a few more assists to the tally?
Marc Stein, ESPN.com: I emphatically and very selfishly say no. For the good of the game, we need Kidd and Steve Nash playing until they can't walk any more. When they're done, where do we turn for pure NBA quarterbacking?
Rob Mahoney, The Two Man Game: Hardly. He's still very capable of running the offense as a point guard not reliant on dribble penetration, and even at his age, Kidd proved to be one of the Mavs' most important and versatile defenders. He may not have a lifetime ahead of him, but Kidd is still capable of functioning at a high level for several more seasons.
Tim MacMahon, ESPN Dallas: Would you leave $8.5 million on the table? Kidd wants to keep playing, and he proved during the playoffs he can still perform at a high level. It'd make a nice story for Kidd to ride off into the sunset with his ring, but he's not ready to retire and the Mavs aren't ready to lose him.
Jeff Caplan, ESPN Dallas: No. Why? He showed that he can perform at a very high level still. The key, as Rick Carlisle accomplished this season, is managing his minutes and making sure he gets rest at the end of the regular season. Plus, Kidd is realistic. He knows he can't play 35-plus minutes a night anymore and is fine with playing less and helping to mentor a player such as Rodrigue Beaubois, just as he's aided J.J. Barea's maturity. Why not try to pull the Elway and go out with a couple of rings?
5. Which will be the next franchise to win its first NBA title?
Royce Young, Daily Thunder: Out of those teams, the franchises most equipped to do it sooner rather than later are the Grizzlies, Hornets, Jazz and Magic. But I'm going with the Nuggets because there's a real vision toward the future. Masai Ujiri is a superstar in the front office and the team has a solid core. The Magic have an opportunity next year, because with Dwight Howard they've got a puncher's chance, but that window might close in 2012.
Marc Stein, ESPN.com: I narrow it down to four. Orlando and New Jersey because they've got legit franchise players (for now) in Dwight Howard and Deron Williams. Next in line are the seemingly unfathomable twosome of the Grizzlies and Clippers until you remember that Memphis was one game away from the West finals and that the Clips only need a piece or two more around Blake Griffin to be a real factor. At this point, if I had to pick one, I'd go with the Magic, since they'll be in go-for-it mode next season (if we have one) to try to convince Dwight to stay. But Memphis is actually closest when you look at the roster and everyone under contract.
Rob Mahoney, The Two Man Game: Shot in the dark: Nets. A question like this one requires banking on the hypothetical, but if Deron Williams stays with the team, if Williams' presence and the Brooklyn chip are enough to entice free agents, and if the Nets can get rid of some of their dead-weight contracts, New Jersey has a decent shot at contention in the long term.
Tim MacMahon, ESPN Dallas: Let's go with the Clippers because of Blake Griffin, an athletic freak with an outstanding work ethic who has multiple-MVP potential and some good young pieces around him. However, it's hard to believe that Donald Sterling won't find a way to screw up a promising situation.
Jeff Caplan, ESPN Dallas: My goodness, this is a tough call. None of these teams seem particularly close. Obviously the Grizzlies showed great potential, but we'll have to see about their staying power. How about this: the Clippers. Yep, the Clips. They've got a superstar-in-the-making in Blake Griffin, and if ownership/management play this right (I know, that's a huge leap of faith), they should be able to attract players around him. With Kobe getting older and the Lakers in transition, the time is right for that other L.A. to take center stage.
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