Love him or hate him, it’d be hard to say that Mark Cuban doesn’t care about the Dallas Mavericks and their fans. He has reportedly lost money in the low nine figures since purchasing the Mavericks in January of 2000, and he seems somewhat nonchalant about it. For example, honoring Muggsy Bogues’ three remaining years of Bogues’ contract even though Cuban didn’t have to. In any case, a big part of Cuban’s losses during his tenure as Mavs owner has to be his ill-fated pursuit of big men to put alongside Dirk Nowitzki.
When Cuban bought the Mavs in the middle of the 1999-2000 season, he inherited a team in disarray. The Mavs hadn’t made the playoffs since 1990 while failing to finish with a .500 or above record. At this juncture, the Mavs were Michael Finley’s team with Nowitzki on the come-up and Steve Nash preparing to make some noise in the NBA. Their big men, however, left a lot to be desired: Shawn Bradley (77 G; 8.4 PPG; 6.5 RPG; 2.5 BPG; 17.0 PER), Sean Rooks (71 G; 4.4 PPG; 3.5 RPG; 0.7 BPG; 11.8 PER) and Bruno Sundov (14 G; 1.9 PPG; 0.9 RPG; 0.1 BPG; 7.8 PER). Obviously, Bradley’s blocks play a big role in his value, but if you’re 7-foot-6 and can’t average that many blocks, well, you’re probably an amputee.
In any case, in his first full season of ownership (2000-01), Cuban had the following center-eligible players: Bradley, Christian Laettner, Juwan Howard, Wang Zhi Zhi and Obinna Ekezie. This collection of bigs was so dissatisfying even Dirk started games at the five spot. However, some sliver of hope came the following season when the Mavericks shipped Howard, Donnell Harvey, Tim Hardaway and a 2002 first round pick to the Denver Nuggets for Nick Van Exel, Avery Johnson, Tariq Abdul-Wahad and talented big man Raef LaFrentz.
LaFrentz, selected third overall in the 1998 NBA Draft, averaged 12.7 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per contest in his first three seasons with the Nuggets. Before being traded to the Mavs, LaFrentz was averaging 14.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3.0 blocks and an excellent 18.9 PER in 51 games. He finished the season with 10.8 points, 7.4 rebounds, 2.2 blocks per game and a 15.8 PER in 27 games (25 starts) for the Mavericks. He was the only NBA player to amass 100 three-pointers and 200 blocks in the same season. In eight 2002 postseason games, LaFrentz contributed solid numbers — 11.3 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.8 blocks and a 16.1 PER.
LaFrentz was a player that could not only block shots, but he also had a nice offensive game, able to score from the inside and beyond the arc. He wasn’t afraid to bang inside and always gave a strong effort. However, that all said, was it a smart move for Cuban to re-sign LaFrentz during the offseason to a seven-year, $69 million contract?
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