In the months following the end of the 2011 NBA lockout, the defending champion Dallas Mavericks were faced with an enormous luxury tax bill, a capped-out team, an enticing 2012 free agent class, and enough trading options to make a shakeup of the championship-winning roster worth it.
We understood the moves they made then as we do now, even though nothing – Lamar Odom’s lost year, Dwight Howard’s indecision, Deron Williams’ love of max contracts, Jason Kidd’s flight to New York, Dirk Nowitzki’s knee injury, the eventual 2012 acquisitions – has gone right. Now, faced with needing a probable 22-9 season-ending run in order to make this year’s playoffs, the Mavs have been hit with the worst news yet.
Eyeing Dallas’ 2013 cap space, former Mavs and current Atlanta Hawks DeShawn Stevenson and Devin Harris may want to come back. DeShawn Stevenson may even want to play for three more years! From the Dallas Morning News’ Eddie Sefko:
“I’d love to play my last two, three seasons here,” said Stevenson, who will turn 32 on April 3. “This was the best franchise I ever played for, here and Washington. They handle things and treat people great. They do everything the right way.”
Devin Harris, meanwhile, was the point guard for the 2006 team that went to the Finals and lost to Miami.
“Sure, it would be great to come back here. I loved it in Dallas.”
Devin Harris did preface his quotes by telling Sefko that he is happy in Atlanta – where he has started 18 of the 33 games he played in (including Monday’s 105-101 win over Dallas) while averaging 8.6 points and 2.6 assists in just under 24 minutes a contest. Those numbers mark a third straight season of both per-game and per-minute decline for Harris, who is two weeks away from turning 30 and was once thought to be one of the NBA’s future top scoring point guards.
Harris made a deserved All-Star appearance in 2009 around the time he turned 26, and averaged 21.3 points and 6.9 assists a game that year for the New Jersey Nets. Since then, though, he’s faltered – his quickness looks diminished and his footwork strangely doesn’t look the same. He’s bounced from New Jersey to Utah to Atlanta, and hasn’t made a huge impact since that All-Star turn. A return to Dallas, one that would be free of former coach and sometimes combatant Avery Johnson, might be the best post-prime tonic.
For Stevenson? Eh, it might be a different story.
For years NBA followers familiar with advanced or even basic NBA statistics have had a tough time understanding why Stevenson remains such a fixture in rotations. His defense, once stellar, has fallen off. And while he did well to shoot nearly 40 percent from long range during Dallas’ 21 games during the team’s 2011 championship run, those two months aren’t worth putting up with years and years of single-digit Player Efficiency Ratings, zero rebounding or passing, and an overall shooting mark that hasn’t topped 39 percent since 2007.
DeShawn Stevenson has made exactly one-third of his shots since the Mavericks won the championship. And based on what he was arrested for in the days following the championship, perhaps you could blame his woes on the world’s longest hangover.
From ESPN Dallas, back in June of 2011:
Irving police said they were called to the Grand Venetian apartments about 10:30 p.m. local time Tuesday to check out a report of an intoxicated person walking in the area.
They found Stevenson, who does not live there, and he did not appear to know where he was. He was given a field sobriety test, and based on the test, his statements and police observations, he was arrested for public intoxication.
[Irving public information officer John Argumaniz said:] "Basically, he was intoxicated to a point where [police] didn't feel comfortable letting him walk away or leave. They didn't have any other options at that point."
This is probably why Dallas said goodbye to DeShawn’s pretty-good defense (remember, it was the Mavs’ modified zone that stilted LeBron James in that year’s Finals, not Stevenson on his own), sometimes-there long range shooting, and not-so-great everything else.
And probably why they won’t be paying DeShawn for those “last two, three seasons” until he’s 35 years of age.
The Mavericks are facing a heap of tough choices, though, with not a lot of options to bank on in order to aid the last season of Dirk Nowitzki’s current contract. Dwight Howard is often brought up as a possibility, but he’d have to turn down far less money to come to Dallas, and even with the current storm and stress in Los Angeles it’s hard to see Howard passing on another guaranteed year, $30 million more over the course of a contract to play in the city where he keeps his offseason home.
Josh Smith? A possibility, especially if Atlanta declines to offer him the same max that could sway Howard, and he and Dirk could switch off roles (Nowitzki playing small forward on offense, power forward on defense, while Josh does the opposite). Nothing’s guaranteed, though.
Which is where trades and flexibility come in, as Dallas looks at in upwards of seven free agents that have been in the team’s rotation this year. Then again, Dallas has been committed to flexibility for the last 14 months, with not a lot to show thus far, and potentially the team’s first lottery appearance in 13 years in the offing.
We don’t know what the answer is in Dallas. But we’re pretty sure they know the answer isn’t DeShawn Stevenson.