The Dallas Mavericks won six of seven games heading into the All-Star break and climbed all the way to sixth in the West. But that's the funny thing about the Western Conference: even as the sixth seed, you're just one game out of ninth place in the loss column. The Mavs don't appear to be a title contender this season, but if you believe Mark Cuban, even these usually active players at the trade deadline aren't interested in making any moves.
Help on defense
Defensive struggles have been holding this team back to an extent, despite their decent place in the standings. Beyond the contributions of Shawn Marion, Dallas employs a roster of historically sub-par defenders. Even a guy like Samuel Dalembert, who was a serviceable rim-protector earlier in his career, hasn't been very good in that capacity for the Mavericks. But even considering their shortcomings on that side of the ball, they haven't been identified as a team on the lookout for help at the deadline. And it's unlikely the addition of one or two players would change the identity of this group anyway.
One source close to the Mavericks said adding a big man or another player with scoring punch would be attractive, but Dallas likes the construction of this team as presently constituted, Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders reported. The report also states, given the fact they have nine new players this season, it's important to stay patient.
There is a big man out there who's underperformed in his current situation and could be a major help for a team like Dallas: Larry Sanders. But despite inklings of the possibility that Sanders could be moved — potentially to Dallas — it does not seem likely, Marc Stein of ESPN reported.
Sources briefed on the situation told ESPN.com that teams asking whether the defensive specialist has fallen far enough out of favor with his frustrated bosses to be made available are being turned away.
Even after the steady stream of Sanders missteps almost from the moment he came to terms on a four-year, $44 million extension in August, sources say that the Bucks don't seem to think they can afford to trade the 25-year-old this month.
The Milwaukee Bucks are also fearful of letting their recently extended big man go too soon, according to Stein, but it's obvious why the Mavs would show interest. They saw what can happen when a defensive-minded big man is anchored next to Dirk Nowitzki (Tyson Chandler).
It would be a major boost to this roster, to be sure, and the deadline is still two days away. But for now, the Mavericks are being quiet. But one has to wonder: Is Cuban just lying in the weeds?
What pieces do the Mavs have?
Dallas owes it's first round to Oklahoma City, but the selection is top-20 protected through 2017. The Mavs are squarely on that line at the moment. Given that the Mavs have so many new faces this season, patience might be more paramount than the need to make a move.
Dirk isn't going anywhere. Shawn Marion — at $9 million — is very important to the way the team operates. Monta Ellis has been a huge positive since his arrival and is crucial in alleviating the offensive pressure on Nowitzki. An aging Vince Carter isn't the most attractive trade piece these days, and he seems happy to be contributing in Dallas. Other than that, there isn't much depth on the roster, and any shakeup could be damaging to a team trying to sneak in the playoffs.
On the back end of the lineup, there is quite a bit of youth, so the idea that this franchise is preaching patience is understandable and likely refreshing to at least parts of a fan base that has seen the relatively wild moves the Mavericks have made since winning the title during the 2010-11 season. Yes, a guy like Sanders is attractive, but while he's making just over $3 million this season, his cap figure jumps to $11 million next year when his extension kicks in. That's suddenly a lot of money for a Mavs team currently just $5 million under the luxury-tax line.
Nowitzki has made it clear he expects to be in Dallas for the rest of his career and will likely sign an extension when his current contract expires after this season. Perhaps Cuban has learned from previous whiffs in free agency and would like to build a solid base for the twilight of his franchise big man's career, while still organizing finances to make a run at more help over the summer.
At this point, that could be the smartest move to make.