DALLAS — It was the trade that set the tone for the Dallas Mavericks’ offseason plans prior to the start of free agency, yet it remains to be seen how the mass exodus of players will impact this upcoming season.
Before making a major splash with the inking of new addition Chandler Parsons and the re-signing of 12-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki in free agency, the Mavericks sent away starting point guard Jose Calderon, first-string center Samuel Dalembert, rookie lead guard Shane Larkin, swingman Wayne Ellington and a pair of second-round picks in June’s NBA Draft to the New York Knicks. In exchange, the Mavs reacquired center Tyson Chandler to anchor their defense and veteran point guard Raymond Felton to help fill the void left by Calderon.
Still, Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson confesses that it was hard to deal away four members of last year’s team, which pushed the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs to seven games during their first-round playoff series.
“It hurts,” Nelson said shortly after the trade was made official. “You know, Jose provided us with leadership. Not only shotmaking, but true point-guard gamesmanship and another just terrific presence in the locker room, and so he’ll certainly be missed. Sam Dalembert played his best basketball at the right time, and we really didn’t have a true center besides Sam out there. And, certainly, he’ll be missed. Wayne Ellington is a really nice and up-and-coming player. And Shane Larkin was our first-round pick last year, so that was tough to part with Shane because I think he’s got a really promising future. But you have to give to get and those four guys with our two second-round picks was the price, and we felt it was a fair price. And so we pulled the trigger.”
Losing sixth man Vince Carter to Southwest Division rival Memphis during free agency, the Mavericks will certainly have to find production from other members of their bench during the 2014-15 campaign. That shouldn’t be a problem for this year’s team, however, after filling out the roster by re-signing combo guard Devin Harris and inking point guard Jameer Nelson, veteran Richard Jefferson, forward Al-Farouq Aminu, summer-league standout Eric Griffin and big man Ivan Johnson. The Mavericks also added another big body to back up Chandler, trading with Chicago for three-year veteran Greg Smith to replace the sign-and-trade departure of DeJuan Blair to Washington.
But it’s the trade that took place on the eve of the draft that could prove to be the most pivotal, according to Nelson, after adding a defensive anchor this year and financial flexibility for seasons to come.
“Continuity was important, and I think that’s a vote towards Tyson because I think he’s comfortable in our system,” Nelson explained after bringing back the defensive catalyst of the Mavs’ 2011 title team. “It’s hard to give up those four guys. It just is. They’ve been a fabric of the success we’ve had this last year, and those decisions are always tough. … Those are very special and terrific young men, but the price we thought was fair for Tyson. And to get him back and his familiarity with the system, his familiarity with Rick, our city, Dirk, you go right down the line, our kind of guy in the locker room, plus the flexibility that we have in the here and now and the flexibility we have in the future, are the reasons we couldn’t say no to that deal.
“Really, the one move solved a lot of problems for us, because we were top-heavy on some of the contractual things going into the future. And so it cleaned up some of those and made us an attractive destination in the here and now and also next year.”