The pre-holiday Friday news dump is a time-honored tradition for those wishing to bury bad news amid the hustle and bustle of long weekends and vacation planning. The NBA, of course, has no use for your summer holiday plans and so the news that the Dallas Mavericks had agreed to terms with free agent center DeAndre Jordan brought forth a torrent of quick-hit analysis and undercooked calculations.
Jordan saved the Mavs! Jordan's not a franchise player!
Between those extreme poles of thought, a few things, however, are clear.
The Clippers are screwed. They had everything invested in a Jordan return, and when he decided to leave, they were left with increasingly limited options to replace him. The day of reckoning was due and they're paying for it now.
The Celtics are less screwed, but not looking great either. As part of the return for trading Rajon Rondo, the C's received a future first round pick that's top-7 protected through the year 2020, at which point it becomes unprotected. Had the Mavs failed to sign Jordan, owner Mark Cuban suggested his team would have gone into a full tank/rebuild mode, which would have made that pick more valuable.
As for the Mavericks, this will take some time to unravel. On paper, Jordan is a long-term upgrade over an aging Tyson Chandler in the middle. Still just 26 years old, Jordan shot 71 percent from the floor (71 percent!) and cleaned up on the glass, grabbing a league-leading 15 boards per game. Jordan is also a terrific shot-blocker, although there is little empirical evidence that his defensive skills are enough to anchor an elite defense the way Chander has in the past.
Cuban and the Mavs are betting that Jordan still has more to offer, especially on the offensive end. Part of their recruiting pitch revolved around making him more of a focal point than he was in Los Angeles, where he served in a supporting role alongside Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and wing shooters like J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford. Jordan's range is extremely limited, as evidenced by his unsightly 40 percent free throw shooting. Cuban may envision him as the team's answer to Shaquille O'Neal, but Jordan doesn't have Shaq's low-post game to compensate for that extreme liability.
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More on Jordan
He will have Rick Carlisle, however, and if the Mavs want to make Jordan a focal point, there are few more creative coaches in the league to make that happen. Jordan can play off Dirk Nowitzki, which should provide the usual assortment of dunks and step-ins when he hovers around the baseline. CP3 may be the master of the lob, but any old point guard can toss the ball near the basket toward the athletic Jordan.
In theory, Jordan makes them better in the short term and also supplies a bit of cushioning for the inevitable post-Dirk years. Jordan may not be LaMarcus Aldridge, but he's entering his prime and has been extremely durable throughout his career. He's both a conclusion and a starting point in the Mavs' evolutionary cycle.
A bit more concerning is the acquisition of Wes Matthews, a veteran 3-and-D man who is trying to come back from a devastating Achilles injury. Matthews reportedly turned down a larger offer from the Kings (lol Kings), but the Dallas terms are still significant: four years and $57 million, per David Aldridge. Even in these inflationary times, that's a sizeable investment for a player coming off an Achilles injury. The Kings would have rightly been roasted for making the move. With franchise credibility comes the right to make calculated gambles, but it's a gamble all the same.
What Matthews and Jordan bring to the Mavericks is a degree of stability. Since winning the championship in 2011, they have undergone reconstructions on an annual basis. Their drafts have been mostly barren for years, leaving their fate to the whims of free agency. Pre-Jordan, the Mavs' biggest signings have been for Monta Ellis and Chandler Parsons.
Every offseason, the Mavs set out with big ambitions and were forced to come up with a Plan B on the fly. They jettisoned Chandler to clear space, only to bring him back years later. When pursuits of Deron Williams and Dwight Howard came up empty, they've tried to fill in the gaps with players like O.J. Mayo, Darren Collison, Chris Kaman, Jose Calderon and Samuel Dalembert. Signing Jordan and Matthews is the long-awaited payoff, but are they enough to get them back into contention for Dirk's final years?
Much still depends on filling out the rest of the roster, and that will involve some creative cap-solving to find a point guard. It seems that much of their supporting cast will be drawn from the same roster that won 50 games and lost in the first round of the playoffs last year.
Between the takes, both hot and cold, is a lukewarm assessment: The Mavericks will continue to be a factor, but that doesn't guarantee much in the loaded Western Conference.
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