The Dallas Mavericks were in the picture for the league's marquee free agent in Deron Williams, and they didn't land him. That alone makes their offseason a failure, though reasonable people could disagree about whether they had a legitimate chance to actually get Williams. Without Williams, the Mavericks retooled on the fly with several short-term contracts designed to keep them competitive as they kick the can down the road for their next big move.
Let's try to analyze each of their many offseason decisions.
DID NOT SIGN DERON WILLIAMS
It's probably best not to take everything that's being said about this missed signing at face value. There's no way that Mark Cuban actually believes that his team is better off not having signed Williams. There's also no way that Cuban's absence at a July meeting was the main cause for Williams' decision to re-sign with the Brooklyn Nets.
But there's probably some element of truth in each statement that shine some light on the Mavericks' course of action. The bottom line: it looks bad when an owner as active in his team's personnel moves as Cuban skips a meeting with an important free agent like Williams because he's filming a reality TV show. If Cuban was a hands-off owner like Jerry Buss, it wouldn't matter if he was in Siberia when the meeting happened, but he's not. He's Mark Cuban, the same guy who routinely sits right behind his team's bench so he can pick up cues on how his head coach interacts with his players. I can understand Williams raising his eyebrows a bit once he learned Cuban would be filming "Shark Tank" instead of meeting with him.
Obviously, it's possible -- and probably likely -- that none of this mattered. Williams may never have really wanted to return home to Dallas in the first place, and the Nets' trade for Joe Johnson certainly sealed his fate. But while Billy King was in Williams' ear extensively, it seemed like Cuban was not as active as he should have been. The lack of urgency is surprising, because Dirk Nowitzki isn't getting any younger and opportunities to sign someone like Williams don't come around very often.
TRADED IAN MAHINMI FOR DARREN COLLISON AND DAHNTAY JONES
This is the second time Collison has been traded for what seems like lesser value in his brief career, so you have to wonder if there's something about him that we're all missing. He also didn't play all that well last year until he was demoted to sixth-man status.
But on the surface, this trade seems like a steal. Collison can be a bit erratic, but he's serviceable as a starter, still very young and has incentive to play well this year because he is a restricted free agent after the year. At the very least, he's a massive upgrade over the rapidly declining Jason Kidd. It'll be a pleasure for the Mavericks to watch a point guard who can actually make plays for himself off the dribble.
SIGNED O.J. MAYO
This was an interesting move. On the one hand, we kind of know what Mayo is at this point. He's now put together four straight years where he has failed to be anything more than a good outside shooter that can create lots of long two-point jumpers for himself. On the other hand, it was pretty clear that the Grizzlies didn't really value him much over the past two years, and that didn't exactly offer the ideal environment for individual growth.
But at the same time, it's not quite clear how the Mavericks see Mayo. Are they hoping he can be their starting shooting guard for many years to come? If so, they will need to coax Mayo's all-around gifts out of him more effectively than the Grizzlies could. Are they hoping he can function more like Jason Terry, who was an excellent player that was nevertheless a bit more incomplete? If so, they need to give Mayo the green light and not worry about his shooting inefficiency. The answer is probably somewhere in-between, which is the problem with Mayo. He can do a lot more than he's capable of doing, but he doesn't, and teams have to decide whether to work on getting more out of him or settle for him in a lesser, more specific role.
Smartly, the Mavericks aren't investing much in Mayo's development. He signed a two-year, $8 million contract, with the second year a player option. At the very least, the Mavericks have a full year to evaluate his progress before deciding whether he's capable of being something more. That's a worthwhile gamble to me.
CLAIMED ELTON BRAND OFF WAIVERS
Once the Mavericks decided to trade Mahinmi, this was a no-brainer. Brand is aging, but he's still an elite post defender and a solid mid-range shooter. To get him for under $3 million a season is great value, and even more so now that Dirk Nowitzki is out for six weeks with a knee injury.
SIGNED CHRIS KAMAN
Kaman strikes me as the classic mediocre NBA center. He's just good enough to use a significant number of possessions, but he gets little out of them because he's so inefficient. He just good enough on the glass to not be a complete net negative defensively, but he's not good enough as a defensive anchor to cover for any of his teammates. He's made the playoffs just once in his NBA career, and I think there's a reason why.
But for one year, he'll do.
DRAFTED JARED CUNNINGHAM, BERNARD JAMES AND JAE CROWDER
James and Crowder have looked very impressive in Summer League and preseason, and while they have less upside than your typical rookies, they will probably hold their own right away. Crowder, in particular, looks like a steal.
DID NOT RE-SIGN JASON KIDD
The Mavericks made a big stink out of this because Kidd said he would re-sign, then spurned the team's offer to go the Knicks at the last minute, but it's probably for the best anyway. Kidd fell off dramatically last year, and Dallas would have been foolish to have him under contract for three more years.
TRADED LAMAR ODOM
USED AMNESTY CLAUSE ON BRENDAN HAYWOOD
Even more of a no-brainer.
OFFSEASON GRADE: C+
The lack of urgency to sign Williams is troubling. The Mavericks retooled on the fly well enough to stay in the playoff picture for one year, which is admirable, but they're running out of chances to secure Nowitzki's running mate and the new face of the franchise once he retires.