State of the Cap: Dallas Mavericks
By Josh Redetzke
2007/08 Dallas Mavericks Payroll: $81.5 million
2007/08 Estimated NBA Salary Cap: $55 million
Roughly: $26.5 million over cap
[img_assist|nid=3860|title=Dirk Nowitki - AP Photo: John Bazemore |desc=|link=none|align=right|width=250|height=351]The Good: Despite the now famous choke job in the playoffs, Dirk Nowitzki still had an incredible season, capped off with an MVP trophy. After signing an extension, Dirk is owed a lot of money the next four years; $75.4 million to be exact. He is one of the top five stars in the league and now he’ll be paid like it. How many other players can shoot 50% from the field, 41.6% from the three point line, and 90.4% at the stripe while averaging 24.6 points and nearly 9 rebounds a game? Dirk is worth the money. All the Mavs need to do now is find a good psychiatrist to work on his mental state for the playoffs.
What’s the best thing a young player can do after signing a four year, $41.6 million contract extension? Set career highs in points and rebounds and earn his first all-star berth, like Josh Howard did this season. The 29th pick in the 2003 draft continues to prove all those teams wrong with his stellar play this year, which included averages of 18.9 points and 6.8 boards. Howard also added a decent three point shot to his game and greatly improved from the free throw line. Along with Jason Terry, Dallas has their three best players locked up for a long time.
Even though DeSagana Diop scores just 2.4 points per game, he is still a very important player on the team. He averaged 5.4 rebounds and led the Mavs in blocked shots while playing a measly 18 minutes per game. Diop’s career has gone from major bust to key bench player for one of the best teams in the league. At $2.1 million for next season, Diop is a cheap insurance policy for Erick Dampier’s off nights.
The Bad: Speaking of Dampier, his off nights were a little too plentiful this year. While his 62% field goal shooting was pretty impressive, the rest of his numbers (7.1 points, 7.5 boards, and 1.1 blocks) were sub-par considering his tax bracket. Dampier is one of the highest paid centers in the league and has $41.2 million coming to him over the next four seasons. He needs to average a double-double in order to earn that kind of dough. Dampier will be 32 by the time next season starts so it could be downhill from here.
It won’t count against the luxury tax, but the Mavericks will still have to pay Michael Finley an incredible $18 million dollars next season. He is currently helping the rival Spurs win a championship. It would be strange, and interesting, if both Steve Nash and Finley found greater success after parting ways with Dirk and Co.
The Future: At this point, the regular season no longer matters for Dallas. They’ve proven they can win games, racking up 58 or more three straight years. They’ve proven they can beat the Spurs and get to the finals, which they did last year. What they haven’t proven is that they have the mental toughness and fortitude to go all the way. The Heat gave them a shot to the mouth in game three and the Mavs never recovered. That memory seemed to carry over to this year’s Golden State series. The Warriors played tough, gutsy basketball with a deafening crowd behind them and Dallas never stepped up to the challenge. Perhaps they were too focused and spent too much energy in the regular season and had nothing left for the playoffs? Whatever the reason, it will be nearly a year before this team, and the rest of the basketball world, will see how they respond.
It hurts right now, but Maverick fans shouldn’t fear. Like the Spurs and Suns, this team is going to be right there at the top of the league for a long time to come. The major players, Dirk, Howard, and Jason Terry, are all signed for at least the next four seasons. Terry will be well-paid, making slightly less than Howard, but he has been getting better with age. His 43.8% three point shooting was a career high and he distributed the ball better than last year. Also of note is the improved play of Devin Harris. The lighting quick point guard improved his shooting to 49% and has learned how to use his speed to get to the rim with ease. If Harris can take another step next season, he’ll make the Mavs even tougher to beat than they are now.
The only concern will be replacing Jerry Stackhouse. He was a key scorer off the bench and provided some clutch shooting on occasion. However, with his contract finished and his skills diminishing, it’s time for Dallas to look elsewhere. Somehow, Mark Cuban will find a way to add another talented player to replace him. Money is no object when your team has this many good players winning that many games. Although, more postseason wins would feel a lot better.
Free Throw: The somewhat embarrassing MVP award ceremony for Nowitzki shed light on a problem with the voting system. Shouldn’t the playoffs count for something? They are the real season anyway. The regular season just decides who plays who and where. Why should we give an award to the best player of the games that don’t matter all that much? Yes, we have an NBA Finals MVP award, but almost anyone can win that, not just the star that carried the team all year. I propose waiting until after the champ is crowned to vote on who gets the hardware.