Dallas Mavericks free agency grade: A

A month and a half ago, with free agency looming, Mark Cuban and the Dallas Mavericks were in the running for All-Star center Dwight Howard.

The Mavericks, who dumped key players from their title team three years ago (Tyson Chandler, Jason Terry and J.J Barea to be specific), have struck out in free agency before. They tried to get Howard last season as well as point guard Deron Williams, but weren’t able to make a deal. The result was the Mavs missing the playoffs last season for the first time in 12 years.

Cuban was expected to give Howard a max deal to get him to Dallas and be the face of the team once Dirk Nowitzki retired, but after some thought, Howard decided to head 250 miles south to Southwest rival Houston.

People may think that by striking out on Howard once again, the Mavericks might be trouble with the upcoming season, but with six new faces (excluding rookies), I have to give the Mavericks an A during this season’s free agency.

Why go for one superstar (who has had his share of injury and drama issues) when you can get six guys who have been in the league long enough to make an impact for any team?

JOSE CALDERON
The 8-year pro from Spain is arguably one of the most underrated players in the game. The longtime Toronto Raptor, who played 28 games for the Pistons last season, has averaged 10.1 ppg and 7.2 apg in his career, with a career-high 8.9 apg coming in 2008 and 2010. It is a major upgrade to last season when longtime vet Mike James and Darren Collison shared time at the point, with James being the starter near the end of the season. Calderon will turn 32 next month.

MONTA ELLIS
Ellis brings an array of crossovers and shooting skills to the table and is a bona fide scorer. Ellis, who turns 28 in October, immediately jumps into the second scorer role for the team behind Nowitzki, as he’s a lock to be the starting two guard. Ellis has been in the league for eight years too, and played all 82 games for the first time in his career last season with the Bucks. Ellis, who came right out of high school, spent his first six and a half years in Oakland and has averaged 19.4 ppg in his career, with a career-high 25.5 ppg coming in 2009.

SAMUEL DALEMBERT
Dalembert is no Howard, but he knows what his role is. Howard may think he’s the number one player on any team and wants the ball every possession, but with Dalembert, he won’t be calling for the ball a lot. Dalembert will score when needed, grab offensive rebounds, and score putbacks, but his role on the team is to be the defensive presence like Chandler was in 2011. Dalembert doesn’t have to be the defensive player of the year like Chandler was in 2012, but just be enough to make a difference whether it be blocking shots or just alternating one’s shot. Dalembert, 32, has averaged 8.0 ppg on 52 percent shooting and 1.8 bpg in his 12-year career. Dalembert played all 82 games in four straight seasons back when he was on the Sixers.

DEVIN HARRIS
Harris returns to the Mavs after playing for Dallas his first three and a half years before he was traded to the Nets for Jason Kidd. Harris has played for three teams since and has been in the league for nine years. His shooting has waned since being traded, but his assists have increased noticeably. Though Harris had a down year last season with Atlanta (only 58 games), he still has averaged 12.2 ppg and 4.9 apg while shooting 44 percent. He will likely be the first guy off the bench and step in for Calderon.

DEJUAN BLAIR
Blair spent his first four years playing for rival San Antonio, but now looks to start fresh with the Mavs. Once a starter, Blair was forced to go to the bench after Tiago Splitter improved big time in the past couple seasons. Blair is expected to compete for playing time with Bernard James.

WAYNE ELLINGTON
Ellington, the 4-year pro out of North Carolina, might be under the radar as well. Not much is known about him, though he did split time with Memphis and Cleveland last season. Ellington averaged 10.4 ppg and 3.0 rpg while shooting 44 percent in 25 mpg in 38 games with the Cavs (all career-highs).

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