Mavs plan to be aggressive this summer building championship contender

DALLAS — With six players from this year’s team set to hit the open market on July 1 as free agents, it’s no doubt that the Dallas Mavericks will once again be active and aggressive this summer.

Bringing in nine new faces last offseason through the draft and free agency, the Mavericks successfully built chemistry over the course of the season before pushing the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs to seven games in the first round of the playoffs. Going forward, however, the Mavs will look to keep their veteran core intact while also adding key pieces to the puzzle.

“We’ll be aggressive as always, whether it’s free agency or the draft, to put the best possible product on the floor next year,” Mavericks president of basketball operations and GM Donnie Nelson said of the team’s offseason plans.

“The ultimate goal is to bring a championship here to Dallas as quickly as possible,” he added. “We also respect those that have put us in this position, and so those are the two things that we’ve got to blend. And we’ve got our work cut out, because we’ve got six free agents that have given us their heart and soul.”

Paired with Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, Nelson and the team’s front office will first look to keep free-agents-to-be Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, Vince Carter, Devin Harris, DeJuan Blair and Bernard James all in the fold. Then, according to Nelson, the plan is to fill whatever vacancies are left with quality talent capable of helping the Mavs return to being a championship-caliber team.

Adding starters Monta Ellis, Jose Calderon and Samuel Dalembert last offeason, the Mavs will now head into this summer vowing to first re-sign Nowitzki before surrounding the 12-time All-Star with the right supporting cast. Meanwhile, the front office will try to use the summer’s financial flexibility to its advantage in order to stay under the salary cap.

“To win a championship you have to have lots in that arsenal, and certainly Mark is willing and gracious to spend as much as it takes,” Nelson said. “He’s proven that over the years, but the reality is we’ve got a cap. We’ve got to work within some confinement, and so having players that can perform at a high level at decent numbers has its place.”

However, it is yet to be determined what holes the Mavs will need to fill this offseason as the team tries to build on a 49-33 season.

Looking for continuity, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle enters the summer with hopes of having as much of this year’s squad back together again. Still, the coach acknowledges that the new salary cap restrictions may prevent that from being the case should the Mavs find themselves in a bidding war to keep their players from being reeled in by another team.

But, even with uncertainty looming going into this offseason, Carlisle expects for the Mavs’ brass to make the proper improvements in order to return the team to being a title contender. Where those upgrades will be made, however, remains to be seen.

“I don’t know that I can answer this question or even Mark or Donnie can until we see where the holes are going to be,” Carlisle said. “There’s only a finite amount of money you can spend now, and that’s one reason you’re seeing so many long (playoff) series and such competitive series. You know, there aren’t teams that are spending into oblivion the way that there were before when you didn’t have the tax and the super tax, so it’s really about spending your money wisely, making sure you can get as much bang for your buck with the guys that you sign and making sure those guys fit together. We’ll look at it. It’s hard to know exactly where right now, but I know that we’ll improve the roster. I’m just not sure exactly how it will look.”