The Mavericks’ midseason hopes of a late push to the playoffs, bolstered by a string of very competitive basketball around the All-Star break, have faded amidst losing four of the last five including a a peculiar pair of meltdowns surrounding a decisive win on the road in Brooklyn.
Perhaps the victory over the Nets was about Deron Williams.
Regardless, the Mavericks blew a 25-point lead against the Memphis Grizzlies and a few days later, an 8-point lead over the Houston Rockets turned into a blowout loss. Dallas has been able to continue to play solid basketball; unfortunately it has not usually lasted an entire game.
At this point, there isn’t much to be gained by falsely hoping for a miracle but there is a lot to be learned by looking at the personnel on the team and evaluating what went wrong. Based on the talent of the individuals alone the Mavericks should be better than they are and the fact that they continue to struggle this badly is certainly an indication of not just problems with individual players but a lack of chemistry and some failure on the part of the coaching staff as well.
With so many of the players on this year’s roster coming up for free agency at the end of the season, it’s time to start focusing on how to retool for next year. Assuming that Dirk Nowitzki is back to full strength and has a couple of years left in the tank as far as being an elite-level player, the Mavericks need to focus on picking which players on the existing roster will best complement him and combining that with new additions that will do the same as well as hopefully provide a foundation for the future.
It’s not time for the Mavericks to “tank” as some have suggested but it IS time for Rick Carlisle to start letting potential future stars have a chance to show what they can do, as well as trying combinations and lineups that haven’t been used. There is nothing left to lose other than more games that don’t matter and as has been often noted this season, Dirk’s window is closing.
On paper, the Mavericks did an excellent job of finding potential talent last summer but for various reasons the group hasn’t clicked and as a result the Mavericks will be missing the playoffs for the first time in a dozen years. While the Lakers started the season with similar struggles, they have managed to turn things around even without Pau Gasol, while Dallas’ hopes came and went after a short stretch of midseason success went south.
The good news is that the Mavericks will have a lot of financial flexibility and a better spot in the draft than they have had in years. Although they have not done well with the draft in recent years, this summer will be an opportunity to reverse course.
The team was wise to not attempt any speculative deals in a vain attempt to propel this team into the post-season. The next few weeks provide an chance for the Mark Cuban & Co. to study what they have and how it fits in to a short-term future plan Whether that opportunity is used wisely or wasted remains to be seen.