Post-trade, Mavericks feel well positioned for run at ‘Melo

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com

melo

The Knicks can offer Carmelo Anthony the most money, a reported $129 million over five years, compared to a maximum $96 million over four years anywhere else. (NBAE via Getty Images)

DALLAS – Aggressive as they were, the Dallas Mavericks couldn’t land the big fish the last two summers. Still, the crew of the S.S. Cuban isn’t deterred. They’re prepared to chug back out to sea for another go.

For this expedition, Mark Cuban and co-captain Donnie Nelson believe their hook is finally lined with the savory bait that could make this season’s whopper, Carmelo Anthony, bite.

“My feeling is that if I’m a prospective free agent out there, we became a lot more attractive,” Nelson, the Mavs’ president of basketball operations said Thursday, a day after he pulled the trigger on a deal with the New York Knicks that returned 7-foot-1 center and defensive anchor Tyson Chandler to Dallas. “I don’t know many front lines that not only have that kind of punch in terms of inside-outside [Chandler and Dirk Nowitzki], but also two great guys, great teammates, guys that you love to go to war with night in and night out.”

The king fish, LeBron James, remains mostly a pipe dream around here, but there is growing confidence that Anthony will give the Mavs as fair a look as he will his re-tooling, hometown Knicks under Phil Jackson, the tantalizing roster of the Chicago Bulls and that of the hyper-aggressive Houston Rockets. ESPN.com reported earlier this week that Anthony will grant the latter three teams face-to-face meetings when free agency begins next week.

The Mavs lacked a roster with enough enticements to convince Deron Williams and then Dwight Howard to come aboard. Now, a trio of Chandler, Nowitzki and Monta Ellis, coming off arguably the most efficient season of his career, drastically changes the dialogue — even with Ellis eligible to opt out after next season and Chandler set to become a free agent — the Mavs’ front office believes.

Landing Chandler, the fiery leader of the Mavs’ 2011 championship squad, an ardent supporter of coach Rick Carlisle and his system, and, of course, a friend of ‘Melo’s, was a key step in that strategy.

“He wants to win, and he wants to be in a system and he wants to be in a culture,” Chandler said of Anthony during a conference call Wednesday. “I think that’s going to go into a big part of his decision-making.”

Chandler said he will “absolutely” be in Anthony’s ear.

“I’m going to do whatever I can to help the team and the organization,” Chandler said. “At the end of the day, free agency is kind of an individual thing …  But I’ll tell you one thing: Dallas isn’t a bad place to be; it’s a great opportunity and clearly we’ve done it in the past. It’s not a hard place to sell. I’m going to do whatever it takes.”

Chandler’s arrival cut slightly into the Mavs’ cap space. They don’t quite have room to squeeze in a full max contract once Nowitzki signs, likely for around $10 million per season. But Dallas does have options, such as trading backup center Brandan Wright, who is due $5 million next season, to a team with cap space.

Dallas, with no picks in Thursday night’s Draft after sending two second-rounders to New York in the trade that also swapped starting point guards — Jose Calderon to the Knicks and Raymond Felton to the Mavs — made no effort to jump into the first round, which would further dig into this summer’s cap space.

“Starting July 1, every penny is going to count,” Nelson said.

There’s also a growing sense that star players like Anthony are locks to play for whichever team can stack the money the highest. Howard left millions on the table in leaving Los Angeles for Houston. James, by opting out, likely will sign for less even if he stays in Miami as a means to help it add impact players.

Star players who have already cashed in on one max contract have made a tremendous amount of money — some $135 million in salary alone in Anthony’s case — and seem to be more acutely aware of the salary cap brought forth by the collective bargaining agreement and the limitations it can impose on capped-out teams. There seems to be a greater awareness placed on situation than solely salary.

During All-Star weekend, Anthony told reporters as much.

“As far as the money goes, it’s not my concern,” Anthony said. “My concern is to be able to compete on a high level, a championship level, coming in this last stretch of my career. I want to compete at that level.”

The Knicks can offer Anthony the most money, a reported $129 million over five years, compared to a maximum $96 million over four years anywhere else. Jackson has challenged Anthony on his stance, suggesting he should re-sign with the Knicks at a reduced rate to make it easier to build around him.

Still, at least for the coming season, the Bulls, Rockets and Mavs provide the greater opportunity to win now.

The Mavs, a 49-win team last season and pushed San Antonio to seven games in the first round, aren’t without flaws. At the moment, the disappointing Felton is their starting point guard. They hope to re-sign Devin Harris as well as veterans Shawn Marion and Vince Carter, who has become a terrific 3-point shooter.

No matter what happens on those fronts, the pitch to Anthony will challenge him to find a team with a better core to win this season, plus the vast cap space to add another max player and more next summer.

The Mavs, and especially their fans, understand these high-stakes expeditions come with no guarantees. Still the S.S. Cuban is fueled up and ready for another round of deep sea fishing.

“With our system,” Nelson said, “with Rick being one of the best [coaches] in the business, in my opinion, of taking guys and figuring it out on the fly; and then you’ve got Tyson as a defensive backdrop and certainly one of the best power forwards in the league to play the game and a future Hall of Famer, Dirk, and cap space, we’re positioned pretty well.”

23 Comments

  1. Max says:

    Congratulations to the Mavs. on being smart enough to get Chandler back. Great Player!!! Wanted to see LAL get the Bakersfield Native!

  2. kenny says:

    watch melo will go to the heat and the 4 best players from one or the best draft in NBA history will be on the same team

  3. charless702 says:

    I hope the Mavs, especially since their my 2nd favorite team, don’t even get a 2nd glimpse from Melo. Also how exactly is bringing in 2 players who had ZERO success with Melo helping your chances of landing him? Anyway Melo has proven over his career that he doesn’t play well with others. I think the only team mentioned that would be slightly better with Melo is Chicago and that’s only if they get rid of Rose. Mark Cuban is such a horrible owner. All he does is talk about how great him and his team is, then he expects everyone to run off and join his team. Then he gets P.O. when nobody joins his team. He’s also addicted to attention. The guy tries to get more media time than the players who actually play the game.

  4. blog says:

    don’t move to the west carmelo stay in the east. we have better weather.

  5. Alan Hollway says:

    the inclusion of Carmelo Anthony into a Mavs team with Tyson Chandler, Dirk Nowitizki and Monta Ellis makes this team a big 4 and on paper the team to beat for the NBA championship particularly with solid role players including Vince Carter and a strong bench. But on the other hand I suspect that the Mavs are not learniong anything from the near neighbour the San Antonio Spurs. The spurs won this year because of having the best team as distinct from individuals, Carmelo Anthony has very little defensive skills and may in fact get in the way of Nowitzki taking the ball away from him. If the team can gell and play together and bond together then it may be a chance but no team that Anthony has been involved seems to be able to do that. I like the Mavs chances with Chandler included but not also throwing in Anthony that may upset the balance.

  6. Shawn Kemp no. 1 says:

    get a 3 that can defend and rebound a little bit, you don’t need Melo, although i’m interested in how Carlisle will fit him in

  7. Carlo says:

    Mavs have a great coach but unfortunately Cuban is the real GM. Which is bad. After many years of close vicinity with the Spurs, it seems they didn’t learn anything. Problem is Cuban is too selfish to let alone pros doing their work.
    Bringing back Chandler is a late move to fix the Big Mistake made when they let him go. Now TC is a few years older, surely not quicker.
    Bringing Anthony in… To step on Dirk’s feet? To take all the balls away from Dirk? Another shooting forward with little if any defensive ability? Seems a very costly idea, expecially when – to get back a good center – you had to let go your PG.
    Cuban is a businessman first. Acting as franchises GM there’s suspect that he’s looking too much to money to be earned by “selling” Anthony’s image to the fans.
    Anyway, don’t worry: too many factors against Anthony to Dallas. He won’t come.

  8. Carlo says:

    Mavs have a great coach but unfortunately Cuban is the real GM. Which is bad. After many years of close vicinity with the Spurs, it seems they didn’t learn anything. Problem is Cuban is too selfish to let alone pros doing their work.
    Bringing back Chandler is a late move to fix the Big Mistake made when they let him go. Now TC is a few years older, surely not quicker.
    Bringing Anthony in… To step on Dirk’s feet? To take all the balls away from Dirk? Seems a very costly idea, expecially when – to get back a good center – you had to let go your PG.
    Cuban is a businessman first. Acting as franchises GM there’s suspect that he’s looking too much to money to be earned by “selling” Anthony’s image to the fans.
    Anyway, don’t worry: too many factors against Anthony to Dallas. He won’t come.

  9. Heri says:

    Wake up… Melo played with Tyson and missed the playoffs. Tyson seems to be over the hill and heading downward quickly, an injury bug. Dallas is completely over the hill and heading to a rebuilding scene after the coming season.

  10. Kobe24 says:

    Mavericks has no chance of getting Carmelo or Lebron. Lebron is not leaving the Heat, he opt out just to sign a new offer of few millions less so they could get better bench. Carmelo is going to either Bulls or Rockets, Carmelo is signing a 4 year deal, not 1 year, not 2 years. And only Bulls and Rockets offer the surrounding cast that are young enough to be able to compete every year while he’s there.

  11. matthew says:

    I think melo has to team up with other free what others did in boston , miami , lakers.if he want to win a championship best option . No man is an island..

  12. matthew says:

    I think melo has to team up with other free agent in order to win I love new york , melo is a great player , he should consider teaming up with other just like what others did in boston , miami , lakers.if he want to win a championship best option . No man is an island..

  13. patrickmarc says:

    Carmelo with Dirk, would bel be just perfect

  14. Daniel says:

    If Anthony comes to Dallas, that would be great. If not then ok. I’m just glad we have a respectable Center again. Cuban screwed the pooch on letting Tyson go. And he knows it….

  15. Ryan41 says:

    Hi I’m Ryan from the Philippines. I think Carmelo should join the Mavs and his dreams of becoming an NBA champion would be fulfilled. Its a very very elite team when the Mavs will be composed of Dirk Nowitzki and Carmelo anthony on the Power and shooting forward posts, Tyson Chandler on the center and Ellis and Harris on the run and gun plays plus they have a deep experienced bench composed of Vince Carter and Shawn Marion. They could be a Title contender by next June.

  16. 44cease says:

    Carmelo is a great player but to compete on a championship level he has to make the best choice to finish his career strong

  17. imissthethunder says:

    Carmello Anthony will stay in the Leastern Conference, like Lebron. Why not?

  18. spguide says:

    It was great that Cuban brought Chandler back, but the PG position needs full attention now, Felton is a below average PG. If Melo wants so bad a tittle and money is not an issue, take 15 millions per year, join the MAVS and they still can bring a decent point guard like Lowry . But between Melo and Kevin Love i would chase Love.

    • Daniel says:

      They had to take Felton as part of the deal. But I seriously doubt he is in their long term plans. I would be surprised if he’s in the opening day roster.

  19. Joe Lakerland says:

    Honestly if they bring in kyle Lowry and Loul deng there looking great.Especially if they can resign the other vets and let ray go.

  20. Oakley34BLAM says:

    Mavs in a great spot for next season. I don’t expect Melo to sign there (although I think they offer the best opportunity outside of Chicago to win now), but they can do almost as well for much less with a true pro like Deng. Defense was Dallas’ biggest problem last season, and with Calderon gone and Chandler plugged in the middle, a defensive stalwart like Deng could complete a turnaround on that end.

    • Eder Santos says:

      True. I would love for Carmelo to join the Bulls,I’m a Knick fan but Anthony is wasting his last few years of his prime in a losing team. I think the Mavericks would be an ideal place too,it seems like a great organisation with a great coach.