Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Is Mark Cuban Ruthless Enough To Win It All?

It's been a fairly extraordinary offseason in a few respects, including this: a true NBA superstar appears to be on the trade market for the second time.

Back in May, we wrote a piece arguing that we thought Dallas should trade Dirk for KG in a heartbeat and, in a poll that we ran, about 60% of you agreed with us that the Mavs would get the better of that trade.

Now, Kobe Bryant appears to be on the market, with Dallas reported to be one of the few teams for whom he would waive his no-trade clause, and our analysis is similar to what it was in May: you gotta trade Dirk for Kobe if you're the Mavs.
Which team would get the better of a Dirk-Kobe trade?
Dallas
L.A.
Push
  

In general, we think that teams often overreact to playoff losses and end up making their teams worse by breaking them up prematurely, so we respect the approach that the Mavs have taken this offseason overall.

Despite Dirk's playoff shortcomings in '07 and the '06 Finals, we certainly didn't advocate Dallas shopping him around, as that's how a team usually ends up getting 50 cents on the dollar for its assets.

But this is a rare opportunity (though, amazingly, the second one of this offseason). I mean, we're not talking about just All-Stars here - Jermaine O'Neal-types who are important pieces. In Kobe (as well as KG), we're talking about one of the 5-10 true difference makers in the league - one of the very short list of players who is better than Dirk.

Yet, Mark Cuban has dismissed the idea out of hand, saying "Dirk is untouchable" and "If and when I talk to Jerry [Buss], I'll make it clear that we're not going to trade Dirk."

Why not? I think that it's related to this clip, which is of Mark Cuban talking about Dirk emotionally at this spring's MVP press conference:



It's a genuinely touching moment, and helps you understand all the reasons that Cuban is loyal to Dirk:
• Dirk was there when he first bought the team, and has been there with him all the way on the road from NBA laughingstock to model franchise;
• He's seen Dirk himself rise from the ridicule he endured in his rookie season, and develop into an elite NBA player;
• Dirk has done so largely due to an incredible work ethic;
• In short, as a person, Dirk is everything an owner would want in a franchise player. He's the type of guy an owner can be proud of.

That's the thing: all of this is admirable. We respect Cuban for his loyalty in standing behind his player in a time of adversity. And we're not trying to pile on Dirk - he is everything that's right about the league.

It's just a stark evaluation from a basketball standpoint: Kobe Bryant is a better player. It might not fit the Mavs as cleanly as a KG trade would have in terms of position, but we still think it would work.

The facts remain that Dallas should have won the 2006 Finals and they should have played San Antonio in the 2007 Western Conference Finals to essentially determine the league champion, and Dirk was a big part of the underachievement in both instances.

Kobe is a proven playoff closer, and it's an equal tradeoff in terms of age (both are 29). Kobe might not be as pleasant of a guy to be around, and it might require another move to balance out the roster, but we still think it would make Dallas a better team in the long term. We think Mark Cuban needs to put aside his personal loyalties, as he did with Steve Nash and Michael Finley, and make the deal.

Hey, maybe, since the market for Kobe is so limited, Cubes thinks he can get him without giving up Dirk - more power to him if he can.

And listen, we take no pleasure in writing this - if Dirk ends up leading Dallas to the title, we'll be the first to admit that we were wrong. We admire Dirk and admire Mark Cuban for the way he's backed his star - we're just analyzing this coldly from a basketball perspective, and wondering if Cuban is ruthless enough to do the same.

20 Comments:

At 4:12 AM, Blogger Flannel said...

Nice to read a balanced thought on the subject. Although Dirk played poorly in the series with Golden State he was fantastic against Memphis, San Antonio and the Suns in the previous' seasons playoff and aquitted himself ok when in the finals. Not as well as Wade but solidly. I happen to think he is a little underrated in terms of effectiveness as he is an incredibly efficient player. High use, low turnover and efficent shooters are extremely rare (Duncan is the God of this). Kobe is at the top of the heap and the Mav's would certainly be an interesting proposition with him, especially teamed with Howard, harris and the two headed centre monster.

 
At 8:46 AM, Blogger Big Red said...

There is no reason for

1) Kobe
2) The Mavs


To engage in a deal that just involves trading one superstar for another. The Mavericks do not improve by forcing Dampier/Diop into full-time starter positions, and Kobe ends up on a carbon copy of the team he leaves.

 
At 8:51 AM, Anonymous nikeball said...

The Lakers would most likely want another player along with Dirk to get Kobe..I am thinking either Jerry Stackhouse or Jason Terry. If this happens this would make the makeup of the Mavs roster much like the Lakers of 2005-2007. All swingmen and no quality big men. Josh Howard and Lamar Odom put up similar numbers. Terry/Stack/Walton are interchangeable. Dampier/Diop/Kwame/Mihm/Turiaf do the same thing.

 
At 9:02 AM, Anonymous Christopher said...

Of course, this completely glosses over the many, many reasons that this trading Dirk for Kobe is just a bad basketball move.

This trade would leave Dallas with an impoverished frontcourt and a brimming backcourt. They would sacrifice a solid starting 5 for completely unnecessary depth.

It would also damage the chemistry of the team. There is no reason to think that Kobe would immediately work out with the Mavericks other pieces. We've never seen Dirk on another team, so we can't say for sure, but it seems telling to me that Dirk has gone through several major reorganizations of the Mavs and has never had a problem adjusting. There are guys you have to build around (Iverson) and then there are guys that are highly adaptable. Everyone thought Dirk would suffer when he went from having one of the best playmakers in the league (Nash) to not having a true point guard at all. Didn't happen. My opinion is that Kobe falls into the build around category.

Finally, there's the question of why this is even on the table. When was the last time a superstar got traded for a superstar? Like every superstar trade ever, Kobe will not be traded for equal value. He will be traded for cap relief and young talent, period. The Mavericks can compete very well with the Bulls in this regard (Howard v Deng is close, and probably a wash).

And then there's Kobe's no-trade clause. Does he even want to go to Dallas if Dirk leaves? There is a small probability that this would make the Mavs better, a middling probability that it would be a lateral move, and the rest says it might be a serious problem. Why would Kobe demand a trade for Dallas if not to play with last year's MVP?

The fact that this possibility has even come up is ridiculous. No other team would even consider offering the Lakers this kind of parity.

 
At 10:29 AM, Blogger M. Haubs said...

Thanks for the well-argued comment. This is my response:

1. Roster imbalance: I noted in the story that Dallas would require another move or two to balance out the roster, but they have the assets to make it happen.

2. Chemistry: this is a fair point. It would be a risk for Dallas, no doubt. Ironically, this is one of the reasons that I wrote in June that Kobe is *not* the best player in the world, and I wish people would stop staying that he is.

But I still think he's better than Dirk.

3. Superstar trade value: another fair point. But if Chicago ends up making the deal after Dallas refuses to give up Dirk, and the Mavs end up falling short of the title again, and Dirk ends up collapsing at critical moments again, then I think it's a bad non-move for Dallas no matter what the "book" says.

4. Re: Why Kobe would want to go to Dallas if Dirk's not there. If Kobe is actually the best player in the world, as so many claim, and as one would assume he aspires to be, then one would think he'd be up for the challenge of proving that he can lead a 67-win team to a championship if he is subbed in for the other team's superstar.

 
At 11:00 AM, Anonymous Norkstroll said...

It only makes sense for Dallas (and Kobe) to get KB24 without having to give up Dirk. Of course LA would be happy to get a true All-Star in return for their All-Star, but they will only get any combination of Howard, Terry and Stackhouse/Harris (not with Terry), Diop/Dampier and maybe draft picks from Cuban - or have to do a trade with another team if they want more. Kobe without Dirk is no real improvement, and Dallas would just as likely loose against a team like Phoenix (as LA did the last two times) or San Antonio (with Bruce Bowen guarding him) in the playoffs than with Dirk alone.

What most people don't realize is that Dirk not only is a nice guy off-court without any diva behavior, provides great scoring numbers and rebounds, he also makes everyone around him better (which Kobe doesn't most of the time) and is a much better crunch time player than he is given credit for.
Case in point: The series against the San Antonio Spurs (including a critical shot and "block" against Duncan to force overtime) two years ago. And especially all his games with the German national team. No other player on the German team is able to consistently provide more than 10 ppgs, they have a horribly stiff centre (so Dirk often has to start at 4 and then switch to 5) and undersized point guards that either can't shoot or drive. So Dirk is very tightly guarded, double-teamed and hacked by every opponent on most possessions and has very little time on the bench. Yet still with him on the court Germany managed to reach top positions both in European (2 and 5) and World Championships (3 and 7, lost only against USA and Argentina with him while not even qualified before) with some big wins against clearly superior teams such as Turkey (totally dysfunctional due to Okur and Turkoglu), Italy, Russia and every now and then Spain.

The downside to his game is that because he desperately wants his team to win, he also takes bad contested shots / bad positions when nothing is going for his teammates. This happened last year in the series against Golden State and in the European Championship especially in the game against Spain (who can play a nasty zone defense with all their big guys). An inside player like Duncan will still look pretty good in games like this, but when Dirk's outside shot is not falling he starts to look horrible. Dirk knows that and has clearly worked on his first step to get better looks at the basket and drive more (look out for that this season). Yet a second scoring option in Kobe who is second to none in creating his own shots would greatly improve the Mavericks chances in the rare games when Dirk is too tightly guarded and doesn't get the ball in the right spots, and Cuban knows that as well.

 
At 12:28 PM, Blogger b1gdon said...

I just can't see how it would be a good idea to blow up a 67 win team that is still young. With a Dirk for Kobe trade, as you said, you would still need to make other trades to balance out the roster (hence "blowing up" the team). I can understand the frustration with the back to back playoff chokes, but I think there is a lot of context that gets missed.

First, two years ago, as had been pointed out before, the Dirk was more than clutch in the 7 game series against SA (greatest playoff siries in history). I think the collapse against Miami had more to do with a young and inexperienced team with a young and inexperienced coach getting rattled on the big stage. While an 8 beating a 1 has a built in "shock" factor, last years collapse in the first round shouldn't be all that suprising considering that 1) GS was no regular 8 seed. They were on fire at the end of the season going into the playoffs and 2) GS was built to beat Dallas. Speed kills Dallas because they can't punnish faster smaller teams inside.

Unless you are going to put Kobe next to Dirk, I just don't see how this would be a good move. Right now you have a 67 win team that can win a championship. The risk of ruining that is not worth the marginal improvement that you may get by trading Kobe for Dirk.

 
At 12:40 PM, Blogger Daniel said...

The whole argument is a moot point. Kobe has a no-trade clause and he wants to win a title. He's not coming to Dallas if Dirk is not here. The Lakers don't have the leverage to insist on a Kobe-for-Dirk swap. And it's far more likely that the Lakers will ship him to Chicago to avoid having to deal with him four times a year and potentially in the playoffs.

 
At 1:57 PM, Blogger M. Haubs said...

First of all, I just want to note that I fully understand that Dirk is an elite player. Despite the fact that I have now written stories arguing that he should be traded for two different players, I would note that - considering where Dallas is right now - there are only four players in the league I'd trade him for: Duncan, Kobe, KG, LeBron.

Even LeBron gives me pause because the Mavs are built to win a title right now, and I think Dirk is better suited for that, even though LeBron's age would make it too irresistible.

And the reason I'd trade the other three for Dirk boils down to this: mental toughness.

I guess I'm still affected by what I saw in the first round this spring. It was the mentally weakest performance I've ever seen from an MVP-caliber player. Beyond playing poorly, Dirk was out-and-out pathetic. As Kevin Arnovitz wrote more eloquently than I ever could:
"There isn't a worse crime in the NBA than dispassion, and that's why fans are turning on Dirk. It's not the losing, or the lousy shot selection, or even the historic nature of the upset. It's the close-mouthed manner in which Dirk absorbed the blow from GSW. That's the transgression."

To the idea that Dirk took bad contested shots because he so desperately wanted to win, Jay Aych has repeatedly written on this site that he doesn't understand why Dirk doesn't go down to the low blocks when guarded by smaller players. If Stephen Jackson is covering you, then get your butt down on the low blocks, shoot over him and get some tough hoops. Don't drift around on the perimeter and leave your team rudderless.

And while the argument may be moot, I just say again that if Kobe wanted to prove that he is truly the best basketball player in the world, then he should be able to slot himself in for another team's superstar on a 67-win team and have the team be at least as good. I understand it's not that simple b/c of the position differences, but in general, he should not need a higher talent level than what is there now.

 
At 1:58 PM, Blogger M. Haubs said...

This was the link I meant to post to K. Arnovitz:
http://www.clipperblog.com/item/355

 
At 2:34 PM, Blogger NotAfraidToSayIt said...

Trading Dirk for Kobe would definitely be taking a step backwards.

Backwards for the LAKERS.

KOBE > Dirk

PERIOD!!!

 
At 6:23 PM, Anonymous Mike said...

Remind me - how many titles has Kobe won without a dominant big man?

Seems like I've seen Dirk get a lot farther in the playoffs. For all Kobe's being a "proven playoff closer" it would have been nice if he had done it, I don't know, within living memory.

 
At 9:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As for why dirk doesn't go into the post I think if you watched the GS series you saw him go into the post but jason terry can't make an entry pass - so the ball just ended up swinging weakly around the horn . . .

 
At 12:34 AM, Blogger mj said...

Dirk is the best player in the league.

Why would you trade him with a loser like Kobe?

 
At 2:49 PM, Blogger pmac1271 said...

I am a die-hard Mavs fan, and I agree that Kobe playing for the Mavs would no doubt bring home a championship, but I disagree that you do it at the expense of giving up Dirk.
Dirk is more then just an MVP to Dallas, he's the glue holding the team together. If you give up Dirk, I think it disrupts the whole nucleus of the Mavs. I also think that Mark is doing the right thing by holding out and waiting to see what becomes of the Kobe trade talks with other teams.
Jerry Buss is out of his mind with his trade scenarios. No team is going to trade all their best players for one really good player. First of all it doesn’t make sense for the trading team. Especially teams who are almost sure win to make the playoffs this year. They'd be throwing it all away, all for what? One player? Get real! It's just not going to happen. Jerry is going to have to man up and decide how he wants to approach the future of the Lakers. He's not going to be able to trade Kobe for an instant playoff contending team. Just like Minnesota, once you give up your superstar player, you have to look at rebuilding your team. Jerry's crazy if he thinks that he's going to skip that process. Besides just think, if the Mavs do get Kobe, they can end up with a big three starring Kobe, Dirk, and Josh. Chew on that!

 
At 2:50 PM, Blogger pmac1271 said...

I am a die-hard Mavs fan, and I agree that Kobe playing for the Mavs would no doubt bring home a championship, but I disagree that you do it at the expense of giving up Dirk.
Dirk is more then just an MVP to Dallas, he's the glue holding the team together. If you give up Dirk, I think it disrupts the whole nucleus of the Mavs. I also think that Mark is doing the right thing by holding out and waiting to see what becomes of the Kobe trade talks with other teams.
Jerry Buss is out of his mind with his trade scenarios. No team is going to trade all their best players for one really good player. First of all it doesn’t make sense for the trading team. Especially teams who are almost sure win to make the playoffs this year. They'd be throwing it all away, all for what? One player? Get real! It's just not going to happen. Jerry is going to have to man up and decide how he wants to approach the future of the Lakers. He's not going to be able to trade Kobe for an instant playoff contending team. Just like Minnesota, once you give up your superstar player, you have to look at rebuilding your team. Jerry's crazy if he thinks that he's going to skip that process. Besides just think, if the Mavs do get Kobe, they can end up with a big three starring Kobe, Dirk, and Josh. Chew on that!

 
At 7:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Kobe is all that, why hasn't the Lakers gone further than the first round in the playoffs? Yes, Kobe is a better player than Dirk but, last time I chacked Basketball is a team sport. Its got to take the whole team to win a Championship. Everyone on the sam page, everyone pulling together to get the job done. I haven't seen in my lifetime one player on a 15 man team winning a championship. You can't tell me that Michael Jordan did it all by hisself. So, if the Mavericks are going to win a Championship they all have to step up not just Dirk.

 
At 10:21 AM, Blogger Polly said...

Latest news: Mark Cuban charged with insider trading

 
At 2:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi!
You may probably be very curious to know how one can manage to receive high yields on investments.
There is no need to invest much at first.
You may begin earning with a sum that usually is spent
for daily food, that's 20-100 dollars.
I have been participating in one company's work for several years,
and I'm ready to let you know my secrets at my blog.

Please visit blog and send me private message to get the info.

P.S. I earn 1000-2000 per day now.

http://theinvestblog.com [url=http://theinvestblog.com]Online Investment Blog[/url]

 
At 4:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good day!

Let me introduce myself,
my name is Peter.
Generally I’m a venturesome gambler. recently I take a great interest in online-casino and poker.
Not long time ago I started my own blog, where I describe my virtual adventures.
Probably, it will be interesting for you to find out my particular opinion on famous gambling projects.
Please visit my web page . http://allbestcasino.com I’ll be interested on your opinion..

 

Post a Comment

<< Home