What a Texas two-step Cuban, Parsons and the Mavs pulled off in the first few days of agency.
Shooting guard Wesley Matthews was the first to jump in the boat, turning down a more lucrative offer from the Sacramento Kings to verbally commit to a four-year deal worth in the range of $52 million on Thursday night. The Mavs hooked their big fish Friday, when center DeAndre Jordan informed the Los Angeles Clippers he was leaving Lob City for Dallas.
Parsons' relentless recruiting and wining and dining of Jordan and, to a lesser degree, Matthews for days leading up to the official opening of free agency paid off in a big way. So did the efforts of Cuban and the Mavs' cavalry, who made it clear that Jordan and Matthews were their priority from the second coaches and executives could contact free agents, splitting up and sitting down to separate dinners with the shooting guard and center.
Plans B, C, D, etc. flew off the board over the next 48 hours, but the Mavs never deviated from their mission, knowing all along that they were running out a ground ball with their pursuit of LaMarcus Aldridge. This was a boom-or-bust summer for the franchise that had experienced so much agony in free agency -- whiffing on Deron Williams, Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony -- since its 2011 title run.
The Mavs finally have the 20-something foundation they wanted in place for face of the franchise Dirk Nowitzki's golden years and beyond.
"We have a great nucleus," Cuban told ESPN.com, declaring that Jordan is going to be the Mavs' "best player for years to come."
The first step happened last summer, when Cuban pried Parsons away from the Houston Rockets with a three-year, $46 million deal that the Mavs' Interstate 45 rivals declined to match. That gave the Mavs a talented small forward just entering his prime. It also brought the best recruiter in the business to Dallas.
The Mavs made the difficult decision to let center Tyson Chandler leave Dallas again, rolling the dice they could upgrade with the 26-year-old Jordan, who is fresh off leading the league in rebounding and field goal percentage.
The Mavs also made the not-so-difficult decision to also allow Monta Ellis, last season's leading scorer, to go, essentially opting to build around the 26-year-old Parsons instead of the 29-year-old Ellis. Matthews, 28, has the 3-and-D game and pleasant personality that should mesh perfectly with point forward Parsons, if both can recover from serious surgeries.
The Mavs entered the summer with a stripped-down roster and a determination to strike now, knowing that they’d hold a one-way ticket to rebuilding if this plan failed. Parsons, who prides himself on being the NBA’s premier recruiter, refused to let failure be an option.
The sales job on Matthews, whose former team in Portland will likely have only one starter returning next season, really wasn’t that difficult. He wanted to be part of what the Mavs had a chance to build with Jordan and Parsons. Let’s just say that Matthews had a pretty good idea that Jordan was coming to Dallas when he walked away from the Brinks truck in Sacramento.
All the Mavs had to do with Jordan was convince him to leave a much more glamorous city for a team that wasn’t nearly as good last season.
Here was the Mavs' basic pitch to Jordan: If you want to reach your full potential, you better come to Dallas.
The Mavs, well aware that Jordan had grown weary of being the third wheel in Lob City, painted the picture of how he could emerge as the NBA's best big man as a franchise centerpiece with the Mavs. Parsons put images in Jordan's head of the potential of their pick-and-roll partnership, emphasizing how much more shine the freakishly athletic center would get being involved in the primary action of the offense on a regular basis with shooters around them to space the floor. Coach Rick Carlisle diagrammed it in detail during the Mavs' official meeting with Jordan and his representatives, bringing the idea to X's-and-O's reality.
As Cuban told ESPN.com, the Mavs convinced Jordan he was an "underutilized gem" as an offensive afterthought in L.A. They made him believe he was "a franchise player for the rest of his career" with a fresh start in Dallas.
And Jordan bought in. The center will sign a max contract worth more than $80 million over four years, marking the first time in franchise history that Dallas sealed the deal with its primary free-agent target.
Dallas' offseason work is far from done. The Mavericks still need to find a starting point guard -- Parsons pal Jeremy Lin is the most likely fit -- and fill out their bench.
Their budget will be limited to the $2.8 million cap-room exception unless the Mavs can work some sign-and-trade magic. One intriguing possibility: a three-way sign-and-trade with the Clippers and Pacers that sends Roy Hibbert and the $15.5 million expiring contract Indiana wants to shed to L.A. through Dallas, which can do that deal because it hasn't renounced its rights to Ellis, who has agreed to a four-year, $44 million deal with the Pacers.
That deal should appeal to the Clippers, who would otherwise have only the midlevel exception with which to find Jordan's replacement in the leftovers of the free-agent market. It makes sense for the Mavs because it would create an extra $8 million-$10 million of salary-cap wiggle room, according to the calculations of ESPN's Kevin Pelton, as long as they made the moves to fill that space before officially executing the three-way trade.
There will be plenty of interest from the players in the second and third waves of free agency in joining the Mavs. Dallas has a history of success finding value in low-cost free agents, and landing a big fish like Jordan along with a highly respected player like Matthews makes the Mavs more attractive.
After so many disappointments in free agency, Dallas can finally claim that it’s an NBA destination city.