The Dallas Mavericks swung and missed yet again this offseason, failing to land their primary free agent targets for the fifth year in a row. Ever since they won the championship in 2011, Dallas has tried and failed to match Dirk Nowitzki with another superstar, as Deron Williams (the first time), Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, DeAndre Jordan, Mike Conley, Hassan Whiteside, and numerous others have passed on playing in Dallas.
The Mavs did add Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut this offseason, which is probably an upgrade from what they had last year, but realistically they have no chance at a championship in 2016-17. Dirk had the opportunity to play elsewhere, but he is too loyal to the Mavs and ended up coming back for two more seasons.
Even though Dirk decided to re-sign with the Mavs, it doesn’t mean he has to love everything they’ve done in free agency, and he openly pondered the Mavs strategy when speaking to the German paper Speigel. The interview was translated by r/nba user Jens1893.
“We, as an organization, really have to begin to question everything. Is it me people don’t want to play with? Is it Rick? Is it Mark and some agents and players hold a grudge because he blew up the 2011 champions? Nobody truly knows. Over the last 5 years, we have been continuously in for the truly big names in FA, but all we achieved in the end was that we got them more money and a better contract elsewhere. As for me personally, I don’t truly care how much I make these days, my main focus is on playing for a winner.”
You have to feel for Dirk, who just wants to have talent surrounding him that can help Dallas compete for a championship, but has missed out on that opportunity every year since 2011. In terms of why free agents use the Mavs for leverage but don’t choose them, it assuredly isn’t because of Nowitzki, as any player would love to play with a scorer like Dirk who also is comfortable giving up shots for the greater good.
If it’s not Dirk, it could be Rick Carlisle. Although Carlisle is a great coach, he has had his issues with certain players in the past, so it’s possible some free agents want to play for a more player-friendly coach. It also could be Mark Cuban, who is at times overbearing and doesn’t know when to keep quiet.
It could also just be that the Mavs don’t have much else going for them right now other than playing with a 38-year-old aging legend. They have no foundational youth to speak of other than role-playing wing Justin Anderson, and most of their players are on short-term contracts each season. A superstar would have to be drawn to either the city itself or the organization if they were to choose to become a Mav, as the roster isn’t one piece away from a championship run, nor has it been at any point since the front office originally broke up the title team in the 2011 offseason.
Unfortunately for Nowitzki, he will likely just have to play the rest of his career on a team who’s max potential is a second-round playoff appearance, unless the Mavs make the difficult decision to trade him to a different team and officially start their rebuilding stage.