May 27, 2013, 8:00 AM EDT
How close are the Dallas Mavericks to contending?
Owner Mark Cuban says he plans to have his team back at the top of the league in two years. Yes, two years.
“We want to be a championship team. We’ve never said we have to be a championship team this year,” Cuban said Saturday on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM during his first interview since the Mavs’ season ended. “We want to be a better team, a top-seed team. If we get the top free agent, that doesn’t leave us a whole lot of flexibility to add a lot of players, but we have a good nucleus around them. We know we’ll have a good team, but we won’t know if we have a great team.
“If you look at this like a two-year plan, then we think we’re on a track to have a great team by the end of next year.”
End of next year? That could happen if they first land Dwight Howard in free agency this year (possible but not exactly likely) or they land a major free agent in the summer of 2014 (LeBron James and the rest of the Heat’s big three can opt out, as can Carmelo Anthony, plus players like Danny Granger, Luol Deng and Paul Gasol among others will be on the market). The idea is one of them paired with Dirk Nowitzki hitting one-legged fade aways, and all they need is some depth and a point guard.
The smart money says we are looking at 2014. Chris Paul isn’t likely leaving the Clippers this summer, and while Dwight Howard is more of a possibility his options like the Lakers and Rockets seem more likely landing spots.
Dallas was a .500 team last season and missed the playoffs for the first time in a dozen years last season. That was the result of both an injury to Nowitzki that kept him out for the first third of the season (and didn’t let him become his old self until much later) and the stripping down of the roster Cuban did a couple years ago after Dallas won the championship. He saw the landscape of the new CBA coming and wanted to be ready.
It was smart by Cuban in the sense it’s better to break up too early rather than too late. But he knows as well as anyone the Mavericks need another superstar to contend in the near future and turn the team over long term. And while he’s put himself in position to get one, actually landing the big catch is another thing altogether.
Which is to say Cuban has a nice plan, now let’s see him execute it.