Mavs Mailbag: Best player in team history not named Dirk?

This season has been a case of right coach, right situation and right time for Monta Ellis. AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki

We couldn’t ask for much better drama from a rebuilding Mavericks season.

Every game will matter with the regular-season finale deciding whether the Mavericks or Memphis Grizzlies get the unenviable task of opening the playoffs in San Antonio.

Frustrating as the Mavs’ inability to hold leads might be, this is a fun team to watch. It’s one of the best offensive teams in basketball, featuring a historically elite shooter in Dirk Nowitzki, one of the league’s most relentless paint attackers in Monta Ellis and some beautiful ball movement in coach Rick Carlisle’s flow system. Sure, the Mavs are a subpar defensive team, but that’s entertaining, too.

Enjoy the ride. The odds of it ending with a parade through downtown Dallas are extremely slim, but at least Mavs basketball is fun again after one miserable .500 season.

On to your questions ...

I think it's pretty clear Dirk Nowitzki is best Mavs player ever. Who's the second? -- @JohnnyPablo_ on Twitter

I can make cases for Rolando Blackman, Steve Nash and Jason Kidd, but I’m going with Mark Aguirre.

Aguirre’s Dallas departure was ugly, but the dude filled it up during his time with the Mavs. He averaged 29.5 points per game during the 1983-84 season, a franchise record that might never be broken. He averaged at least 22.6 points per game for six straight seasons.

We’re talking about one of the best 6-foot-6 post scorers to ever play the game. It’s too bad his No. 24 will probably never hang from the American Airlines Center rafters.

Is Monta Ellis having a great season due to him changing his game under Rick Carlisle or more of a testament to simply being surrounded by a better supporting cast like he was with the Warriors? -- Parker (Dallas)

It’s a case of right coach, right situation and right time of Ellis’ career. He arrived in Dallas sick and tired of losing, recognized the opportunity he had here and attacked it with an open mind.

It’s not that Ellis has changed his game as much as he’s simply played to his strengths. He’s always excelled at attacking the basket. He just settled for way too many jumpers in recent years.

Of course, he never had a teammate that had anything close to the kind of gravitational pull on defenses that Dirk has. Ellis has much more space to operate in Dallas than he did in Milwaukee or Golden State after he became the go-to guy. Carlisle has done a great job putting Ellis in situations to play to his strengths, and Ellis has responded with a season that the Mavs front office considered a best-case scenario when they signed him.

If the Mavericks end up playing the Thunder in the first round, could Brandan Wright be the starter? He matches up well against Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins isn't that much of a threat in the post. -- Nick (Dallas)

I would be absolutely shocked if that happened. Wright hasn’t started a game all season. Carlisle isn’t going to make that kind of drastic change at the beginning of the playoffs.

The question isn’t whether Wright will start, but whether he’ll get extended minutes. I could certainly see that being the case if Oklahoma City opts to go small a lot, putting Durant at power forward and Ibaka at center.

Wright is a major weapon in a fast-paced game. His 12-point, 11-rebound, three-block outing of the Suns served as a reminder of that.

No one has written about the protected draft pick that the Mavs owe the Thunder. If we don't get in the top 10 this year isn't our window of unloading that protected pick drastically shrinking?? It would be great to have an article about it so we can watch the East's last few games this season. -- Nathan (Honolulu)

I’ve written about it a handful of times, including this post Friday. I’ll dig into it more Wednesday morning, but here’s a quick summary: The only way the Mavs guarantee they get rid of the pick this year is to win in Memphis. If not, they could end in a tie with the Chicago Bulls and/or Toronto Raptors that would be decided by a random drawing.

If the Mavs won that drawing, they’d ship the No. 21 pick to Oklahoma City and finally be done with the disastrous Lamar Odom deal. If not, the potential worst-case scenario of giving OKC a lottery pick once the protection expires in 2018 would still be a possibility, plus the Mavs would continue to be handcuffed in trade discussions.

Is there a chance to get Eric Bledsoe or Lance Stephenson? Maybe both? -- @EddieJimenez3 on Twitter

Don’t get your hopes up on Bledsoe. He’s a restricted free agent, and an on-the-rise Phoenix team with a ton of cap space isn’t going to let him go anywhere.

Stephenson is certainly a possibility, particularly because the Indiana Pacers don’t want to stray into luxury-tax territory. However, I get the feeling that the Mavs would prefer to sign a savvy, proven veteran defensive stopper who can score (Luol Deng) instead of stat-stuffing shooting guard who is best when the ball is in his hands.

Could signing Pau Gasol, and keeping Samuel Dalembert as a backup, solve the Mavs center problem? Follow up: Does Dallas have enough money to sign Gasol and also sign another valuable free agent? -- Jared (Richmond)

Just my opinion, but I think the Mavs would be better off spending their money elsewhere. Gasol is more of a power forward than a center. I don’t think he’d be a great complement to Dirk, especially at this stage of their careers. If the Mavs are going to pay big money to a center, it needs to be a big man who can be a rim-protecting defensive backbone.