Had DeAndre Jordan decided to remain with the L.A. Clippers back on July 3, the Dallas Mavericks would have found themselves in a precarious, albeit familiar position. This is not the first summer in which the Mavericks are desperately trying to add big-name free agents, and it would not have been the first summer in which the Mavericks struck out on their top targets. Somehow, the Mavericks always find a back-up plan and deliver a playoff contender.
But given that Jordan committed to the Mavericks initially, only to reverse course on Wednesday just as the free agent moratorium ended, no back-up plans are available. Due to the speed at which free agency resolved itself this summer, there are no good available center options on the table for a team that believes itself to be a contender. What do the Mavericks do now?
One of these things.
OPTION 1: Tank.
Mark Cuban said in the wake of the initial Jordan commitment that had Dallas struck out this summer, the team would have tanked. One assumes that means that Dirk Nowitzki would either be on the trade market or offered his full salary to retire, if he chose to do so. You'd also think that would mean that the Mavericks wouldn't have spent time and money on veterans like J.J. Barea.
That said, the Mavericks didn't strike out: Wesley Matthews committed to Dallas before Jordan's initial decision, and reports on Wednesday suggested he'd still join the team. Cuban's comments were pretty clear that they wanted Matthews independently of the Jordan chase. Landing Wes likely helped sway DeAndre, but it wasn't a package deal. As such, even with Jordan's late reversal, the Mavericks did not strike out.
That's one reason to be skeptical Dallas will pursue this path. They just committed $57 million to a veteran coming off of an Achilles tear. Teams following a Hinkie Plan in any form don't do that. The other issue is that the Mavericks owe their 2016 first-round draft pick to the Celtics as a part of the Rajon Rondo deal. (Oh God.) It stays with Dallas only if it falls among the top seven picks after the lottery.
You have to be among the four worst teams in the NBA to guarantee your pick lands in the top seven. You have to be among the worst six teams to feel really good about your chances of landing in the top seven in the lottery. Keep in mind that the league's fourth-worst team last season (the Lakers) went 21-61 and the sixth worst team (the Kings) went 29-53. Can the Mavericks confidently believe they'll be that bad? That's a long way to fall.
OPTION 2: Try to DeAndre the rest of the league.
The Mavericks now know all too well that deals reached during the moratorium are worth the paper they are written on. (They are not written on paper or anything.) Words are wind, and Dallas could attempt to fill their gaping hole at center by disrupting one of the deals already in place, whether that be the Roy Hibbert trade, the Greg Monroe deal or the Tyson Chandler deal.
Dallas has roughly $20 million in cap space after accounting for Barea, Matthews, Jeremy Evans, Richard Jefferson and the players already under contract. The Mavericks could easily absorb Hibbert's deal; it's unclear what (if anything) L.A. is giving up in the deal, but Dallas could one-up them. Is Larry Bird willing to play that game?
Is Tyson Chandler willing to play this game? After all, he joined the Suns when Phoenix was still in the LaMarcus Aldridge chase. Since then, Aldridge has chosen San Antonio and Phoenix has not added top-level talent in his place. (Sorry, Sonny Weems, who is actually a sneaky good signing.) It'd probably be foolish in the long run to try to rip Chandler out of Phoenix, but people make foolish decisions in moments of anger and panic.
Monroe is even more of a long shot, as he has no ties to Dallas and is already getting a max contract in Milwaukee. But if Dallas wants to emphasize what a farce this whole charade has been, trying to get another top center to renege on his verbal commitment could bring everything to a head.
Why isn't this option likely? The Pacers front office is rather old school in many ways, even though Bird is a mean fluffernutter when he wants to be. The upside of perhaps an improved second-round pick to screw over the Lakers is just not worth it for Indiana. Likewise, Chandler and Monroe seem like more mature adults than Jordan; the likelihood of this turning into a domino rally of disruption and reversals seems rather remote.
And so the Mavericks are left with ...
OPTION 3: Kevin Seraphin.
I am so sorry, Dallas.
SB Nation presents: Visualizing every major NBA free agent signing