The community of Dallas Mavericks fans is abuzz after the announcement earlier today that the team is preparing to welcome center Tyson Chandler, a former Maverick, back into its midst. There’s much to be happy about for the Mavericks, as the addition of Chandler will do much to strengthen the weaknesses of a competitive 2013-14 roster.
What cannot be ignored, however, is the fact that there may be more good beneath the surface.
The Mavericks have spent the last three summers — every year since they won the NBA Championship when Chandler was last a part of the team — attempting to upgrade their roster in hopes of a second championship for Maverick great Dirk Nowitzki. Each year, the team has picked up some helpful pieces, most notably Monta Ellis, who signed with the team out of free agency last summer, but has failed to land any of the big fish available (Deron Williams, Chris Paul, Dwight Howard and some others).
The decision makers have laid it all on the line in free agency since the championship, and have come up virtually empty each time. With the trade that brings Chandler back to Dallas, it’s clear that the Mavericks plan to shape their roster into an appealing situation before seeking any major free-agent signings.
We hear so often about teams making promises to franchise type players. We hear about the plans to build a supporting cast around a superstar, and that those plans will be implemented just as soon as the superstar agrees to be a part of it. In upgrading themselves both defensively and by position at center, the Mavericks have made a public statement that they plan to find ways to improve their roster and make everything ready for the comfort of a star before the time comes for the official conversations to begin.
It’s no secret that the Mavericks had a need at the starting center position — that need has been filled. It’s no secret that the Mavericks struggled to find any kind of defensive identity in the NBA’s most recent season while operating as an unstoppable offensive machine — Chandler changed the culture in Dallas and created a championship defensive identity in 2011 for a team that was offense-first. Chandler is a documented leader and takes rim protection very personally.
In sending Jose Calderon to the New York Knicks as part of the package for Chandler, it seems apparent that the Mavericks will attempt to re-sign Devin Harris, who would step in the space vacated by Calderon and improve the defense of the starting backcourt alongside Ellis. As long as nothing drastic happens, the starting lineup for the 2014-15 Mavericks is already defensively superior to that of the 2013-14 Mavericks, while sacrificing virtually nothing on the offensive end.
In fact, while a lineup of Harris, Ellis, Marion, Nowitzki and Chandler may not be all-time great on defense, it would certainly be formidable in this league.
Of course, we’re all bracing for the unpredictable storm of roster moves that will occur in the next two weeks or so, but it’s safe to say that the Mavericks are already better defensively and should maintain the same level of offensive efficiency.
What’s the point of saying all this? The point is that the Mavericks can now go into their free agent meetings – meetings with the likes of Carmelo Anthony and potentially LeBron James, along with Luol Deng and a handful of others – with more than promises of what they would like to do to build around the available big-name players. They go into those meetings with evidence of what they can do in the form of at least one great move that has already been made.
If a superstar does choose Dallas, he will be the third piece of a terrific big three with Ellis and Nowitzki, and he will have the comfort of a seven-foot security blanket in Chandler, laying in wait to bail him out with monstrous help defense.
Things look good in Dallas.
Brian Ogle is a Dallas Mavericks columnist for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @TheOgle.