In the last three years the Dallas Mavericks have tried to sign Deron Williams, Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony, and LeBron James.
They have failed every time.
In an article about the team’s successful pursuit of Chandler Parsons by ESPN’s Marc Stein, Mavs owner Mark Cuban explains why he keeps going after the best players in the league in free agency even though he knows he has almost no shot of signing them.
He says that merely being in the mix for a star player builds relationships that can help you down the line.
“You never win any games you don’t play,” he added.
His full explanation is pretty great:
“LeBron and Melo, those are long shots. But you do ’em because you have to run things out. People give you a hard time when you don’t get this person or that person, but you never win any games you don’t play. And in the worst case you develop a relationship for the next time something comes up. It’s as much about trying to develop relationships as it is about trying to hit the home run.”
It seems like a no-brainer, but going after big-money free agents actually comes with some risks. In order to pursue a guy like LeBron, you have to create cap space and keep that cap space available until you know you’re out of the running. As a result, you can potentially miss out on other players early in the free agency window.
While Cuban hasn’t been able to land a big fish to put beside Dirk Nowitzki, he has been successful with his other free agency moves.
The Mavs outpaced expectations in 2013-14, winning 49 games in the brutally tough Western Conference and pushing the NBA champion Spurs to seven games in the first round of the playoffs. Monta Ellis, who Cuban signed on a relatively frugal three-year, $US25-million deal in the summer of 2013, was a huge part of that success. So was Jose Calderon, another 2013 free agent signing.
Ironically, Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey — who’s Cuban’s nemesis du jour — told ESPN pretty much the same thing about trying to sign star players. He says it’s the only way to win in the NBA:
“We are always going to be swinging big. We’re only about trying to win championships and how to make that happen. We take big swings at things. Obviously, it worked out the last two summers, but the only way you can land a James Harden or a Dwight Howard is by taking big swings. Sometimes, you hit. Sometimes, you miss. Bosh chose to stay in Miami, but that’s not always going to be the case.”
Cuban and Morey are two of the most innovative minds in the NBA. If they say chasing stars is the right strategy, it’s probably wise to listen.
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