Are the Mavericks Really Better Off Without Dwight Howard?

Just when you thought the "Dwightmare" had subsided for a minute, the NBA's purveyor of controversial comments brought it back Thursday.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban told ESPN that his team is better off sans Dwight Howard. Dallas had ardently pursued the center this summer, but Howard opted to join the Houston Rockets instead. Thursday's ESPN.com poll shows that Texas is the only state to agree with Cuban.

It's hard to believe that the Mavs are really better — as Cuban put it, "shorter and longer term" — without the NBA's best center. Yes, Howard's been injury-prone of late and carries a rep of being bad for locker rooms, but the fact remains that his interior defense and prowess on the post would have made the lackluster Mavericks a much better team.

Dallas likely wasn't going to win a title with Howard, but their starting rotation without him is pretty ugly. Two shells of veterans in Shawn Marion and Vince Carter occupy the small forward spot, while Bernard James, the current assumed five on a Howard-less Mavericks, has minimal NBA experience and little size for the position. Those three, coupled with the aging Dirk Nowitzki and one of the league's most erratic players in Monta Ellis, make up a lineup that isn't scaring anybody. Jose Caulderon's a nice add at point guard, but are Ellis and Caulderon really better than a seven-time All-Star? Ellis ranked 51st in player efficiency last year, while an injured Howard still sat 14th. A year ago, he finished fourth.

The Mavericks' -3.65 rebounding differential was third-worst in the NBA last season. Adding Howard would have immediately improved that. Only three teams in the bottom 10 in rebounding differential made the playoffs last year (none of which reached the second round), and Dallas has yet to add anybody that will help them on the glass. Dwight was the best rebounder available — you don't need a poll to know that.

This ultimately comes off as another desperate PR ploy from Cuban, who's lost out on a superstar for the second straight summer. Cuban cleared out the 2011 champion Mavericks to open up cap space for the 2012 offseason, when Howard, Chris Paul, and Deron Williams were supposedly on the market. Howard and Paul didn't opt out of their deals and were eventually traded to the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers, respectively, while Williams remained with the Nets as they made their move to Brooklyn. Now, the Mavs come away empty-handed again, and it reeks of desperation.

The Mavericks were 41-41 last season and it's hard to see Monta Ellis and Jose Caulderon improving that record substantially. Cuban can try to keep morale high with post-breakup (were Dallas and Howard ever a thing to begin with?) compensation, but this reminds us more of Cleveland's Dan Gilbert than anyone else.

Disagree? Let me know by dropping a comment.