DALLAS – The Mavericks had a bunch of conversations but no close calls before standing pat at the trade deadline.
As is the norm, the Mavs explored every potential opportunity in recent weeks. If a player’s name has been mentioned in trade rumors, it’s safe to assume the Mavs inquired about him.
But Dallas’ talks never approached a serious stage with any team, as no potential proposal made sense for the Mavs to undergo a major roster shakeup.
“When you talk about some of the names that were out there, the numbers were so high that you’ve got to put together two, three, sometimes four pieces to get into those conversations,” Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said. “For us, the nucleus is there to have a nice push for the second half. When you do make changes, even if it’s at the end of the roster, it takes a certain period of time to bring guys in. In the West, it’s so thick from top to bottom, you bring new guys in and drop a couple, three games here, it could be the difference in making it or not.
“We definitely did not want to do anything that was lateral. We weren’t afraid to do something if it took us to the next level, but that ultimately did not present itself.”
For example, the Mavs had preliminary discussions with the Cleveland Cavaliers about small forward Luol Deng, a playoff-tested veteran with an expiring contract who will likely be one of Dallas’ top targets this summer.
The problem with dealing for Deng, who has a $14.3 million salary, is that the Mavs would almost certainly have had to give up Shawn Marion along with another player or two, plus possibly a second-round pick.
A Deng-for-Marion swap would make sense this summer when both are free agents due to the difference in their ages, but not necessarily with only 27 games to go and the Mavs in the middle of a fight for one of the West’s final few playoff spots. Marion is an integral part of the Mavs’ chemistry and rotation and has been in Rick Carlisle’s system for five years. Deng would have to learn on the fly while adjusting to new teammates and surroundings.
The Mavs weren’t scared away by Deng’s contract uncertainty. They just didn’t see such a deal improving their team immediately.
“We’re not afraid of [trading for a player entering free agency] because we are in a good position to re-sign those guys,” Nelson said. “For us to make those kinds of changes this year, it would have to be with the idea that we don’t take a step backwards in terms of our plans for this year.
“The price of the change is something that is first and foremost on our mind. We’ve got a team that really fits well together.”
At the moment, the Mavs are in eighth place with a 32-23 record after winning six of their last eight games. The Dallas front office didn’t see any trade opportunities that would have made the Mavs significantly better this season, so they did nothing, which came as no surprise.
“I figured that,” Dirk Nowitzki said a couple of hours before the deadline. “We’re just going to war with the guys we’ve got.”