In the first of our series of looks at how the Toronto Raptors' compare to this year's playoff teams, the HQ's Scott Campsall looks at how the Dinos match up against the first club that was knocked out of this year's dance, the defending champion Dallas Mavericks.
Dallas is widely held as one of the best markets in the NBA. They have one of the biggest television markets, and being in Texas, also have the built-in advantage of no state income tax for its residents--something that is often mentioned as huge positive in the discussion of possible free agent destinations.
Although Dallas hasn't been a free agent destination for big name players in recent history, they have had success in bringing in veteran players to compliment the core they already have had in place over the past decade.
Overall Dallas as a market is much more favorable than Toronto at this point. Toronto has a number of issues-which may or may not be overstated-including the high taxes, the weather and the mere fact that it is not in the United States likely scares away some potential free agents. However, that isn't to say that Toronto is a poor market, because, as a city Toronto is one of the best and it may just be a matter of establishing a winning culture that does away with all of those concerns that get talked about the most.
At this point, the Dallas Mavericks are looking at a roster that features Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry, Roddy Beaubois , Brenden Haywood and Shawn Marion-provided that those last two player aren't moved or Amnestied. The key for this team isn't necessarily the roster that is in place, but it will be their ability to add a big-name free agent or two in the offseason.
When you compare the players the Mavs have under contract for next season with what the Raptors currently have, the Dinos might actually have the edge. While the Mavs have a proven star in Dirk and solid veterans in Shawn Marion and Jason Terry, the Raptors will have a 20 point scorer in Bargnani, a poor man's Shawn Marion in James Johnson as well as Jonas Valanciunas and another lottery pick coming in June- we will count that as a part of the current roster for the sake of this argument-which puts them in a better position long term.
Given the veteran leadership that the Mavs possess, and the relatively weak Eastern Conference, both teams have a reasonable shot at grabbing one of the final playoff seeds in their respective conferences next season with their rosters as is; however it would be the Raptors' youth which put them in a better position long term and thus gives them a very slight edge in terms of talent currently assembled on the roster.
Slight Advantage Raptors
The Mavs have one of the most prolific owners in profession sports in Mark Cuban, and for better or for worse; he is the face of the franchise off the court. General Manager Donnie Nelson has also quietly put together a strong resume including pulling off some under-the-radar moves to bring impact players like Tyson Chandler and Shawn Marion at little cost to the team. As already noted above, Nelson also has a history of bringing in solid veteran role players to compliment the core he has in place in Dallas. His slight roster tweaks year after year have kept the Mavs relevant, and although they have won only a single championship during his tenure as General Manager, they have been one of the best regular season teams over the past decade.
On the Raptor side of things you have essentially Bryan Colangelo and his right hand man Ed Stefanski. At this point, I think we all know Colangelo's track record, which, is less than stellar. I am not going to waste your time by rehashing all of the failed moves he has made as General Manager of the Raptors, but I will say that he has put the team in position to make some noise going forward and with a good offseason this summer, could take a serious step forward in improving his once highly touted reputation.
This is an area that is huge for both teams. Both teams will have cap space this offseason-especially if Dallas opts to Amnesty Brendan Haywood-and the Mavericks also possess a number of Traded Player Exceptions that they can utilize to bring in potential free agents via sign-and-trades or other trade targets.
The Mavericks essentially forewent their chances at a title this year in favor of long term financial flexibility which, reportedly at least, was intended for potential free agents Deron Williams and Dwight Howard. Although the latter is no longer a possibility this season, the former is still very much in play, and the combination of all of these previous categories make Dallas a great potential fit for the All-Star point guard who is also a Dallas native.
This is all a long-winded way of saying that Dallas has as much, if not more financial flexibility than the Raptors at this point, and given all of the previous factors, as well as the fact that Mark Cuban can, and will, pay the luxury tax if need be, the Mavericks appears to be in a more favorable financial position than that of the Dinos.
Granted, if the Mavs are unable to make a big splash such as signing Deron Williams or something equally as impactful, then it is very possible that the Raptors may use their financial flexibility in a more advantageous manner. But, for the time being, the Mavs have a slight advantage financially.
Slight Advantage Mavericks
Judging by the criteria used above, it would appear that overall the Mavericks are in a better position than the Raptors as it currently stands. Yet, there is still a great deal up in the air for both teams. The Mavs only have a handful of players under contract for next season, and like the Raptors, will be faced with a number of personnel decisions that will go a long way in deciding the future of their franchise.
So while Big D gets the win in our first compare, a lot hinges on how these clubs complete their off-season overhauls. The Mavs have the luxury of a preferable market and ownership situation on their side, but an aging superstar in Dirk and little in the way of promising youth gives Toronto a chance long-term.