Mavs mailbag: Future at small forward?

You folks come off as a pretty pessimistic bunch this week. Might have something to do with the Mavericks losing four straight home games.

Let's get right to the questions.

@JohnnyPablo_ on Twitter: With the aging Shawn Marion and Vince Carter, what do you feel would be the way the Mavs should go once they retire?

First of all, don’t assume that this will be the final season for Marion and/or Carter with the Mavs. Their contracts expire this summer, but Mark Cuban reiterated this week that he’d like both of the old guys to return next season.

“Absolutely,” Cuban said. “Knowing how to play, there’s value. As long as you surround them with the right guys and they don’t have to play as many minutes, then it works out great. Those guys are hard to replace.”

The Mavs hope that Jae Crowder, whose plus-minus is much more impressive than his traditional stats, continues to develop and earns an increased role next season.

Of course, the Mavs would be fools not to explore opportunities to upgrade at small forward. Luol Deng would probably be the best fit in free agency, but he won’t come cheap, having reportedly turned down a three-year, $30 million extension offer from the Chicago Bulls before being traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Danny Granger will be on the market, too, but he’ll be 31 with a frightening injury history. And you can’t completely rule out Carmelo Anthony, although it’s debatable whether giving a 30-year old Melo a supermax contract would be a wise move for a franchise trying to build a contender.

In other words, Marion and/or Carter might be back with the Mavs, but the future of the small forward position in Dallas is wide open.

KG (Baltimore): At what point do we stop calling Vince's year a "slump?" He shoots a team-low among guys with 12+ MPG (39% FG, 34% 3PT), he needs 9.6 attempts to score 11.1 points, and he has the second highest turnover rate. Love Vince, but we can't have that bad of a production from a sixth man, especially when Dirk Nowitzki sits and given that Monta Ellis is not a pure shooter. Is there a plan in the coaches’ mind, a trade, or give somebody else more minutes?

Carter is the Mavs’ sixth man this season. Period. I don’t see that changing under any circumstances other than injury.

If Carter can perform like he did in December on a consistent basis, he’ll be one of the West’s best sixth men. He averaged 11.7 points and 3.9 assists while shooting 44 percent from the floor and 36.2 percent from 3-point range while the Mavs went 8-5 last month. Unfortunately, December has been the exception for Carter this season, but the Mavs have a lot of confidence in him.

@gnosys on Twitter: Samuel Dalembert -- keep, waive or trade?

Waiving him isn’t a realistic option. It’s not so much about the money ($3.7 million this season, a partially guaranteed $3.9 million next season) as it is the hole that dumping Dalembert would create on the roster. As flawed defensively as this team is, the Mavs need a rim protector in the rotation.

Could they trade Dalembert for another rim protector? I don’t see how, unless he’s part of a package for Omer Asik, which would mean that the Houston Rockets would be getting far less return than they wanted for that asset.

So the Mavs will keep Dalembert and hope it clicks for him.

@beevomav on Twitter: What's the chance the Mavs make a trade before the deadline?

This is by far the most popular question I get each week. My answer will continue to disappoint MFFLs. The Mavs will surely burn a bunch of cell phone minutes leading up to the deadline, but I just don’t see the assets necessary to pull off a blockbuster deal. The only way that might change is if they find a partner desperate to dump salary. Still, I’d say the Mavs’ odds of making a significant deal -- picking up an Anthony Morrow type doesn’t qualify -- are roughly equivalent to Monta Ellis’ shooting percentage on off-the-dribble, contested 3s.

Antonio (Dallas): Mavs offense looks terrible when Jose Calderon is not on the court running the show. Any chance the Mavs make a move to improve the backup PG situation?

This is the one midseason upgrade the Mavs are confident they can make. Devin Harris has stepped up his on-court activity over the last week and a half and will start practicing again next week if all goes well. There’s a chance he could make his season debut by the end of the month.

@Jonnybasketball on Twitter: Why did the Mavs call up Ricky Ledo instead of Devin Ebanks? Ebanks is the No. 1 player in the NBDL.

Ledo was already on the Mavs’ roster. Ebanks is not. To call up Ebanks, who ranks third in the D-League with 24.2 points per game this season, the Mavs would have had to waive a player with a guaranteed contract.

Dylan (Lincoln, Neb.): Wayne Ellington has been a fringe rotation player all year for the Mavs. Do you think that Ledo could play ahead of Ellington in the rotation if Marion or Carter were to be sidelined for a significant amount of time? Do you see any way that Ledo does get any playing time this year?

I’d be really surprised to see Ledo in the Mavs’ rotation this season. There’s no question that Ellington would get the first crack. It’s not like Ledo lit up the D-League. He was decent (14.4 ppg, 6.6 rpg), not dominant.

Wayne (El Paso): In your years covering Dallas hoops, who is the best high school player you ever saw?

This is a bit off the beaten path, but it’s relevant to today’s NBA. South Oak Cliff’s Darrell Arthur had the most successful high school career of the players I covered, leading the Golden Bears to two state titles, but the best player was Seagoville’s LaMarcus Aldridge. Now, Aldridge is arguably the NBA’s best power forward and is getting the attention he deserves with Portland fighting for the top spot in the West.