Where do the Mavs go from here?

In the Daily Dime, Marc Stein discusses the short-term future of the Dallas Mavericks after their first round loss last night to the Spurs.

Mavs owner Mark Cuban didn’t trade for Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood in February, taking on millions in extra salary and luxury tax in the process, to make such a swift return to the early playoff misery inflicted by Golden State in 2007. Dallas became the first No. 1 seed in league history to lose a best-of-seven series in the first round that year … and just became the first No. 2 to lose in Round 1 since the NBA went to a best-of-seven format in 2003.

“We’re a failure,” Mavericks guard Jason Terry said. “We failed. There’s no other word but failure. That’s how we feel right now.”

Cuban himself acknowledged after the Mavs’ Game 1 triumph that the F word — yes, failure — was going to be the reaction all over town and all over the league “if we don’t win a championship.”

“We’ve got a great base,” Cuban said. “We’ll have a chance to work with each other [in training camp before next season]. You could see some of the uneasiness because we haven’t had a full season to play together, and that showed a few times, but we’ll pull all the pieces together and we’ll go at ’em again next year.”

Cuban’s “we’ve got a great base” comment implies that he’s not planning to blow up the roster. Dirk Nowitzki, however, is suddenly a candidate to join an already stellar free agent class this summer, though it’s still far more likely that he’ll re-up.

But back to Cuban — the whole we-haven’t-had-enough-time-to-gel line of reasoning is starting to wear thin. Butler and Haywood had 27 games to work the kinks out — how long does it take to develop the necessary chemistry? That’s an entire season for most college and high school teams, and most of them gel just fine. Chemistry can develop over time, but typically speaking, it’s either there or it’s not.

Complicating matters is Cuban’s tendency to drastically alter his roster. In February of 2008, he swapped Devin Harris and two first round picks for Jason Kidd. Last summer, he signed Shawn Marion. And this February, he pulled the trigger on the Butler/Haywood trade. Who’s to say that he’ll be able to control himself when a few more aging, expensive stars become available at the next trade deadline?

As long as Nowitzki is around, the Mavs will be competitive. If he returns to a team that already has Butler, Kidd, Marion, Jason Terry and Roddy Beaubois, Dallas will once again win 50 games and make the postseason. But with the way that they were worked over by an aging Spurs team, does anyone really think the Mavs will make another Finals appearance anytime soon?

It has to be frustrating to let a title slip through your fingers in 2006 and then spend the next three or four years trying to get back to that level. Under the current circumstances, the Mavs seem destined to be a Western Conference also-ran. I don’t blame Cuban for trying to build on what he has, but unless there’s a major infusion of talent — I’m talking a top 10 or 15 player acquired via sign-and-trade — it doesn’t look like the Mavs are a real threat to make the Finals.

That’s the nice thing about knowing that you’re rebuilding. There are no delusions of grandeur.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

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Who is the best three-point shooter in the NBA?

After the season, I like to tackle questions like these. To me, a good three-point shooter has to shoot a high percentage and make a good number of threes per game, so I put a few requirements on the eligibility of players:

1. They must have played in a minimum of 60 games during the season.
2. They must make a minimum of 38% of their 3PT attempts.
3. They must make a minimum of 1.0 threes per game.

Here are the results:

(As always, click on the graph for a larger version.)

Most impressive shooter? It has to be the rookie Stephen Curry, who quickly adjusted to the longer distance in the NBA and finished with the fourth-highest percentage of eligible players. He was also in the top 10 in makes per game.

Biggest surprise? Probably Jason Kidd. A career 35% shooter from deep, Kidd has been well over 40% since joining the Mavs. He’s hitting more of his threes because he’s able to play off of Dirk Nowitzki and can spot up instead of trying to hit threes off the dribble.

Best big man shooter? Channing Frye, who hit 2.12 threes a game at a 44% clip.

So who is the best shooter in the NBA? Well, it depends on your criteria. Accuracy and number of makes are important, but it’s even more impressive when the player in question is the first or second option on his team (like Aaron Brooks, Chauncey Billups, Paul Pierce, John Salmons, Steve Nash — or Jason Richardson — and Stephen Curry), and can still make a lot of threes at a high percentage when the defense is game-planning against him.

You be the judge.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Jason Kidd registers triple-double, draws one incredible foul [video]

Jason Kidd posted 19 points, 17 assists and 16 rebounds in the Mavs’ impressive 111-103 overtime win in Atlanta. I’m not a huge Kidd fan, but I absolutely LOVE this play he made late in the fourth quarter…

It drives me nuts that coaches are always standing on the court and I think it’s great that Kidd took advantage of that to get his team an extra point, which eventually forced overtime.

I don’t know what Woodson is yelling about. He looks like a complete idiot. Get off the court!

Kidd will return to Dallas

Jason Kidd has reportedly given a verbal commitment to re-sign with the Dallas Mavericks.

Sources told ESPN.com that Kidd, 36, will receive a 3-year, fully-guaranteed contract worth in excess of $25 million.

Kidd elected to stay in Dallas in the face of a hard push from the New York Knicks, who last week offered Kidd the most they could ($19 million over three years).

Some say that Kidd flirted with the Knicks only to strengthen his bargaining position with the Mavericks, but I think Dallas knew that someone would make him a mid-level offer and that they’d have to come a little stronger. Kidd was still an elite point guard as recently as the 2006-07 season, but over the past two seasons his athleticism has degraded somewhat, and he now gets by on guile more than speed or quickness.

This seems like a fruitless endeavor for the Mavs. Locking up Kidd for another three years will help keep Dallas in the playoffs, but they are a far cry from being a serious contender in the West. Dirk Nowitzki can opt out next summer (but may not), Josh Howard is signed through 2011 and Jason Terry is signed through 2012. This core blew its chance for a title in the 2006 Finals when Dwyane Wade went on a rampage (with more than a little help from the refs), and then overreacted by trading budding star Devin Harris away for Kidd. If Harris were still on the roster, the Mavs’ prospects would be brighter.

NBA Free Agency Rumors: Kidd, Turk, Gordon and much more

Pistons not willing to pony up for Boozer?

The Pistons would love to sign Carlos Boozer should he decide today to opt out of the final year of his contract with the Jazz and become a free agent.

However, if Boozer opts out, he would leave $12.6 million on the table in Utah. Thus, there is a good chance Boozer, as has been widely speculated, would look to start his next contract at $14 million or $15 million.

If that is the case, the Pistons most likely would walk away.

Just because a guy asks for a contract starting at $14-$15 million doesn’t mean that the Pistons have to give it to him. If Boozer opts out, the Pistons are his most likely landing spot, so they set the market, not him. If he wants an unreasonable deal, they shouldn’t walk away, they should make an offer and give him some time to find a better one. Chances are that he won’t, and he’ll end up taking Detroit’s deal.

Assuming Boozer does not dramatically reduce his asking price, the Pistons would go after Bucks forward Charlie Villanueva.

Villanueva will turn 25 in August and is coming off his best season. He averaged 16.2 points and 6.7 rebounds for the Bucks.

The Pistons could conceivably sign Gordon and Villanueva and still have money left over to pursue re-signing Antonio McDyess.

I estimate Gordon’s value to be about $9 million, though he has turned down bigger offers from the Bulls in the past. Villanueva will probably get lots of MLE offers, so the Pistons would likely have to trump those to convince him to play in Detroit instead of Cleveland (or for another contender). So if Detroit signs both, expect them to pay at least $15.5-$16.0 million combined. That doesn’t leave a lot of space for McDyess.

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