In the movie Nebraska, Will Forte drives his elderly father (played by Bruce Dern) to a prize redemption center to claim what the curmudgeon believes to be a winning mailer. Naturally the whole thing ends up being a marketing ploy, but to assuage his dad’s humiliation, Forte allows him to drive his “sorta new” truck through his hometown wearing the cap that advertises the prize that was never his to begin with.
Since the Dallas Mavericks blew up their 2011 championship roster, every subsequent season has left fans with a similar setup – cobble together the appearance of a competitive lineup with second-tier free agents, aging veterans and amnestied cast-offs and leave it to coach Rick Carlisle and emeritus Dirk Nowitzki (an aging veteran in his own right these days) to make the most of it while giving fans a modicum of hope in the process.
Following the Golden State Blueprint
Almost comically, this year’s model appears to be a pastiche of the Golden State Warriors team that represented the Western Conference in the finals the past two seasons. Few of the Warriors key players that left via free agency found their way heading to Dallas.
Harrison Barnes, a laughing stock on social media due to his poor performance against Cleveland and his inability to crack a US Men’s Olympic team roster despite having three former teammates as front-line contributors, was signed to a max deal. This was arguably more head scratching than the one extended to Wesley Matthews the previous year (which had been increased to the maximum after DeAndre Jordan reneged). Oft-injured center Andrew Bogut was traded to the Dallas Mavericks to provide the Warriors with the cap space to sign Kevin Durant. Lastly and perhaps most fittingly Seth Curry, the younger brother of former MVP Steph Curry, was signed to a two-year deal to complete the makeover.
Taking the glass half-full approach, it seems fair to say that the Warriors spare parts join a Dallas Mavericks squad that made the playoffs last season with a skeleton crew. In addition, it could be argued that no one truly knows the ceilings for Barnes or Seth Curry since they are still young. Neither player has held feature roles on offense for extended periods of time. If healthy, Bogut provides a stabilizing presence in the middle as a heady center with adept passing skills. This is the sort of big who typically excels in Carlisle’s system.
Returning to Championship Form
Objectively, Wesley Matthews has yet to regain his outside shooting form and defensive prowess since rupturing his Achilles’ tendon; an injury that existed when Dallas signed him. Dirk has been remarkable in his ability to cheat father time, but he shouldn’t be the best player on the team any more. Burly Justin Anderson provides hope for the future, but he’s nowhere near the caliber of enforcer with triple-double potential that Draymond Green is. And signing Seth Curry could end up being yet another PR move by owner Mark Cuban at best.
Credit to Cuban for finding a way to keep his team in the spotlight despite the shortcomings in recent years. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the Warriors should be blushing based on this year’s Mavericks squad. Ironically, Dallas could have been an ideal landing spot for Durant this past offseason. After Durant took his talents to the Bay Area, the Mavericks were left to put together a team that could compete with the Golden State juggernaut. By signing a few former Warriors, the Mavericks are looking for Barnes, Bogut and even Seth Curry to contribute and lead the team deep into the post-season.