Decision Time for Dirk Nowitzki: Stay with Dallas or Leave?

Photo Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

“The only way I would ever leave is, like I’ve always said, if we start 5 rookies.”

Dirk Nowitzki said that a few months ago and the way it is looking now, it’s looking like a miserable reality. Now it is not looking like the Mavericks will literally start five rookies but Dallas has gone from hopes of building a championship team around Dirk for the last time to a potential rebuilding process around Dirk for his final seasons in the NBA. It is safe to say that Dirk wants no part of a long rebuilding era in Dallas. 

The Mavericks free agents targets are saying no to Dallas and it has just become embarrassing for the organization once again.

From Hassan Whiteside :

To Nicolas Batum: 

To Chandler Parsons but to be fair, Dallas rejected Parsons with their decision to not give him a max contract: 

To Mike Conley: 

Mike Conley still went on to meet with the Dallas Mavericks but not even a Shark Tank-like pitch by Mark Cuban could bring Conley to Dallas. The two options for Mike Conley were:re-sign with Memphis to form a Conley/Allen/Parsons/Randolph/Gasol lineup under new head coach David Fizdale or join Dallas where he would tag-team with Dirk for at least 2 more seasons and it is up in the air after that.

With Conley/Whiteside/Parsons/Batum all rejecting Dallas, this is sadly nothing new for Dirk and the Mavericks. The Mavericks have have basically secured their championship reign as losers of free agency once again. Going back to 2012, Mark Cuban has failed to acquire top stars to build around Dirk such as Deron Williams (when he was in top form), Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, and of course Deandre Jordan. For many teams, if they fail to improve through free agency, then the draft is the way to go… right? Well not for the Mavericks as since 2011, their first round picks which include Jordan Hamilton, Tyler Zeller, Kelly Olynyk, and Justin Anderson have either never played a minute for Dallas or have not made a substantial impact to help out the team. No help for Dirk through the draft or free agency and now Cuban could be taking this team back to the depressing time of the 1990’s where they went 10 straight seasons without a playoff appearance. 

Mark Cuban came into free agency with a potential $56 million in cap space, which was only behind the Philadelphia 76ers and the Los Angeles Lakers. Now the 2016 edition of the NBA free agency period just started and Cuban could make an incredible and desperate comeback by looking to get players such as Luol Deng, Ryan Anderson, Harrison Barnes and Al Horford but they would either be an awful fit or just plain unrealistic to convince them to join Dallas.

Now all eyes are on Dirk Nowitzki now. Once again, Mark Cuban has failed to build a championship contending team for Dirk and he might just end up saying that enough is enough. Dirk likely has no interest in taking yet another pay cut. Dirk agreed to take a $12 million dollar per season pay cut in 2014 and it all resulted in two first round exits over the past two seasons. As it stands now, Dirk Nowitzki will be on a roster where he will be forced to carry players such as Wesley Matthews, Devin Harris, Jose Barea, and Javale McGee to yet another playoff run in what it looks like a much improved Western Conference. Now it is evident that Dallas will be signing players to fill up the roster but unless they sign a star or two, this team is bound for the lottery where they will be hoping to select the highly-acclaimed Kansas freshman star Josh Jackson.

Dirk has given everything to the Dallas Mavericks over his illustrious career and now Cuban is re-paying him by surrounding him with players that will take him to a disappointing losing season. Is that what Dirk really wants at this point in his career? If not, then it ultimately means that Dirk will go to a championship contender next season and leave the Mavericks after 18 incredible seasons.

The Warriors and Raptors are two teams that come to mind for Dirk’s next destination if he leaves Dallas. The Warriors have been rumored to be interested in Dirk for weeks now. In the case that they miss out on Kevin Durant and Pau Gasol, they could be looking to get Dirk Nowitzki as they look to re-load on talent for a potential 3rd consecutve run to the NBA Finals. Now it also depends on how much Harrison Barnes will be getting from Golden State as the max that the Warriors could spend this summer is only $12 million. The Warriors will also need to think about the agonizing future, as next summer Stephen Curry AND Andre Iguodala will become free agents and it is a guarantee that they will be cashing in on a huge contract with the rising salary cap. One scenario that could play out for Dirk is to sign with the Warriors for 2 years, $10 million and start as the power forward for the Warriors. With Dirk as the PF, that moves Draymond Green to the center position and that means goodbye to Andrew Bogut especially since the Warriors are rumored to be frustrated in you. 

Now the Raptors could also be another option for Dirk. The Raptors had around $32 million in cap space but obviously that is the not the case anymore with DeMar DeRozan agreeing to a max contract with Toronto. If Dirk were to sign with the Raptors, he would slide into the starting power forward position and start alongside Bismack Biyombo or Jonas Valanciunas. This team is fresh off of their first ever Eastern Conference Finals and adding Dirk to the team can make them a viable contender to reach that point once again and realistically challenge the Cleveland Cavaliers. 

Whether he would return to Dallas or sign with a championship contender, they will still be getting one of the more efficient power forwards in the game today. Dirk is coming off of another stellar season where he did not even play or look like an aging 38-year-old power forward. He averaged 18 points per game on 44% shooting, 36% from 3-point land, and he started in 75 games. He is still a solid and durable big that can consistently give nightmares to opponents defenses by doing a good job of spacing the floor and driving to the rim for a high percentage shot. Being a multi-dimensional 7-foot offensive player would be a huge boost to any contending team. Just imagine the enormous impact that he would give if he played in the Thunder-Warriors Western Conference Final or the Cavaliers-Raptors Eastern Conference Final. Dirk is a clutch player and most importantly, a winner with the mentality of always giving 110% in every single game.

Dirk will soon be presented with one of his most difficult decisions of his life, stay or leave. I hope to see Dirk stay in Dallas for his entire career. He constantly states that he loves playing for the great Mavericks fans and loves living in Dallas. His loyalty to the city of Dallas and to owner Mark Cuban is inspiring especially in a league where plenty of players care just about the money that will be in their bank account.

If Dirk does leave, it has been an honor to watch you play for the Mavericks. 18 seasons where you have solidified yourself as one of the best power forwards in NBA history, one of the best international stars in history, and one of the unique players that the NBA has ever seen. You stayed with Dallas during the dark times where the Mavericks were favored to win the NBA championship and only to see the team collapse in the playoffs but as the old saying goes, the best things in life come to those who wait.

The well-known “best things come to those who wait” might not fit for Dirk in his current situation. Dirk has waited for 5 years for Cuban to build a serious championship contender… and he will continue to wait. This might not even be a decision to thoroughly think about for Dirk as he probably has already made up his mind and is intending to commit to Dallas regardless of what they do in free agency but the opposite could be a near reality too. The unpredictable always happens during the NBA free agency period and Dirk could add another shocker if he leaves the Dallas Mavericks. Even though Dirk would be leaving for a contender, the grass is not always greener on the other side and he could have a miserable and disastrous tenure with his new team if they fail to make a run at a championship.