Q&A: Bloom and doom for Mavericks

Tim MacMahon and Bryan Gutierrez of ESPN TrueHoop Network's The Two Man Game conducted a Q&A on the state of the Mavericks. Here's their differing perspectives:

Thinking ahead and knowing what we know now, how far should the Mavericks be willing to extend themselves when it comes to trying to keep O.J. Mayo in the mix for years to come?

MacMahon: We don’t know enough. Never mind what we do and don’t know about Mayo. How will this season play out with Dwight Howard in Los Angeles? Will he be the scapegoat for the Lakers’ failures and looking to leave L.A. this summer? If so, the Mavs will probably be at the top of his list, and they need to make sure they can offer him a max contract. That probably means there won’t be room for Mayo, unless they can find a taker for Shawn Marion without getting anything in return that counts against the cap this summer. Having said all that, I like Mayo a lot. He’s probably not as good as the guy who ranked among the NBA’s top 10 scorers for most of this season, but he’s better than he showed during his Memphis tenure. I think he can be the third-best player on a championship contender. He’s probably a $10 million per year player. If the Mavs aren’t in the big-fish market this summer and can get Mayo at that price, they ought to do it.

Gutierrez: Tim does bring up a good point with Howard and the possibility he could hit the open market. The thing is, I can’t see the Lakers failing, meaning they don’t make noise in the playoffs. The only way I can see that is if Steve Nash makes this the year he breaks down. Even with that, I still think the Lakers would commit to Howard and make Pau Gasol the fall guy. I think the idea of Howard coming to Dallas is still a reach. The way that Mayo has approached this season has been very refreshing to watch. He says and does the right thing, minus the turnovers. To me, it seems like he truly wants to learn and take that next step and develop into a player who can have an impact on a team with championship aspirations. If the Mavericks come away this season with O.J. Mayo as a major piece for the future, one who can continue to be groomed, I see that as a step in the right direction. In regards to the money, I think $8 million is extremely favorable for the team, but somewhere around $10-11 million is more realistic and a number that both sides could be happy with. The Mavericks are very high on Mayo’s upside.

What do the Mavericks do with Darren Collison?

Gutierrez: If the Mavericks needed Derek Fisher to groom Darren Collison, where exactly does that put them now with Fisher gone? Dominique Jones is still extremely raw as a point guard, but he actually does a better job of giving the Mavericks what they need. The Mavericks gave up a piece they didn’t feel they needed in Ian Mahinmi to acquire Collison. In retrospect, the troubling part of that deal is that the throwaway piece in the deal, Dahntay Jones, has been the better acquisition. This is a make or break season for him as he needs to show he can be a starting caliber point guard. At this point in the season, he simply hasn’t gotten it done. There is still a chance for him as Dirk Nowitzki returns. If Collison can mesh well with Dirk in terms of carving teams up with pick-and-pops, then he still has a chance. At this point, he seems like a more developed Roddy Beaubois. If the Mavericks can turn him into a polished J.J. Barea, they’ll take it. The jury is still out on if he can get to that level.

MacMahon: Well, they should start by taking down that billboard off I-35 that declares that Collison isn’t a starting-caliber point guard. Oh, that billboard never actually went up? Might as well have when they recruited Derek Fisher off the rocking chair to “mentor” Collison. What a crock of bull that bit was. Rick Carlisle needed about a fifth of the season to determine that Collison couldn’t do what he demands out of his starting point guards despite being a pretty good scorer. Collison just isn’t a good enough decision maker or defensive player for Carlisle to have any confidence in him. Then again, the other point guards on the roster have even bigger warts. We’ll keep chronicling As the Point Guards Turn this season, but who really cares which point guard starts for the Mavs? It’s a problem position that desperately needs to be addressed this summer. Collison clearly isn’t the answer, so ultimately what the Mavs will do with him is wish him good luck at his next stop, which will be his fourth team in five years.

As January comes and the trade deadline slowly approaches, should the Mavericks be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline?

MacMahon: They need to either be sellers or spectators. What assets do the Mavs have that other teams would want? O.J. Mayo is the obvious answer, but he’s the only guy on the roster without a no-trade clause in his $80 million contract who I don’t think the Mavs should shop. That’s because he’s the only dude other than Dirk who I believe can be an impact player on a contender in a couple of years if the Mavs pull off a rebuilding miracle. They should aggressively try to deal Shawn Marion to a contender for expiring contract(s) and perhaps a pick. That’s not a knock at all on Matrix, who will always be a hero in Dallas for his postseason defensive work on Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and LeBron James, and can still help a good team. It’s just that cap space is more valuable for the rebuilding Mavs than a role player who turns 35 in May. I can’t see any deal materializing that would be worth the Mavs sacrificing their beloved financial flexibility.

Gutierrez: With Dirk officially back, this will be something to monitor over the next 2-3 weeks. If the Mavericks are buyers, I would expect them to be opportunistic and find a piece that allows them to remain flexible for the future. Outside of O.J. Mayo, Darren Collison and Chris Kaman, the Mavericks really don’t have a lot in terms of appealing pieces. Shawn Marion is an intriguing piece. It’s hard to imagine seeing him get dealt, but it would give the Mavericks more cap space to work with going forward. I doubt Marion wants a change of scenery, but you can see that he’s been frustrated with how this season has played out. He’s been more of a leader on the floor and also been more vocal. His constant discussion of butts being whooped and guys needing to step up expresses that frustration. A contender might find an interest in him, but the market will be very limited if the Mavericks want to go down that road. Even with their history of being active at the deadline, the odds are looking more likely that they’ll be spectators.

Is the Roddy Beaubois era on its last legs?

Gutierrez: The Free Roddy B. movement created a lot of buzz and hype during the 2009-10 season. Roddy’s rookie shooting percentages from the field (.518), 3-point range (.409) and free throws (.808) are long gone. Roddy has seen setback after setback with injuries. His entire second season, the year the Mavericks won it all, was essentially a wash because he missed a majority of it recovering from foot surgery. He has been such a frustrating player to watch. With all of the injuries piling up, you have to wonder where his confidence level is at. With Roddy being a restricted free agent this offseason, one has to wonder if a change of scenery will do him some good. A fresh start in a new place, likely not a great one, looks like the projected next move. It’s a shame it hasn’t been able to work here.

MacMahon: It’s on his last legs with a broken foot that will require two operations to fix. The Mavs made a serious mistake not selling high on Roddy B. after his flashes-of-brilliance rookie season. In hindsight, it’s hilarious that Mark Cuban labeled Beaubois “untouchable” unless an in-his-prime perennial All-Star was the return. Remember Donnie Nelson bragging that the Mavs turned down an offer of a lottery pick for Roddy B. the night of the next draft? You reckon, oh, say Paul George might help the Mavs these days. Oh, well. It’s painfully obvious that Beaubois needs a change of scenery if he’s ever going to tap into his talent. He’s been unbelievably ineffective in his limited playing time this season. Just look at those shooting percentages (.308 from the floor and .214 from 3-point range). His confidence is obviously shattered. Maybe he can be a poor man’s Jet for someone else, but he’s definitely not going to be Dallas’ point guard of the future. Or present, for that matter.

What can possibly save the Mavericks this season?

MacMahon: Um, is there any way a midseason lockout might wipe away the rest of the season? In all seriousness, the best-case short-term scenario would be the worst-case long-term scenario. In other words, the last thing this franchise needs is to miraculously ride the big German’s back into one of the West’s last playoff seeds. Other than extending the playoff streak, it’d do the Mavs absolutely no good whatsoever to get swept in the first round by the Thunder again. And it’d be even more painful if the Spurs are swinging the broom. Even though this draft supposedly sucks, the Mavs would be best off taking their chance with lottery ping pong balls. That would at least force the front office to come to the harsh realization that this franchise is very much in rebuilding mode.

Gutierrez: The thing that could change the course for the Mavericks is having it all finally click. With Dirk back, this is the first time they’ve had everyone together. Rick Carlisle will have to coach his butt off, even more than he’s done now, to find to make it all fit into place. If the Mavericks figure it out, they would be primed to peak at the right time, heading towards a playoff push. That’s all they’re really shooting for, at this point. If Dirk is healthy, that makes them a threat. It’s funny how sports can work. Outside of the Heat and Thunder last year, no matter the sport, it’s felt like the team that gets hot at the right time ends up winning the championship. We’ll have to see if last year was an aberration or the start of a new trend where regular season excellence is sustained over the long haul. An aberration definitely favors Dallas’ chances. That being said, the organization does need to start preparing to fully rebuild. They’re going to look do so in the hardest way possible: without hitting rock bottom. It’ll be interesting to see what Mark Cuban, Donnie Nelson and Rick Carlisle can come up with.