Austin York, 1080 KRLD | 105.3 The Fan | CBSDFW.COM

Last year at this time the Mavericks were on their way to the NBA Finals and would soon win their first championship in franchise history.

This year they were swept out of the playoffs in the first round, and with the majority of their roster looking at free agency, the team that once was the toast of the town, now is full of question marks.

It appears the franchise is on the decline and that Dirk will win just one championship during his Dallas stay, even if the they do sign Deron Williams in the off season.

So how did this happen so fast? And how do the Mavs get back on top?

One way…follow the lead of the San Antonio Spurs.

The team is on the cusp of another NBA Finals berth, and continue to get better despite being called old. The average age of the team is 27.4 years. That’s younger than your Dallas Mavericks.

They have been able to keep the big three together (Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili) and surround them with talented players, not through huge free agent signs, but skillful scouting and innovative trades.

The Spurs only have one lottery pick on their roster and have continues to thrive despite being in a small market. Most of the big time free agents tend to migrate to markets like New York and Los Angeles. But the Spurs keep away from big names, instead worrying about depth and role players.

It helps that the team has Tim Duncan, probably the most under appreciated player in the game. He continues to be a dominant force in the post season and a team leader off the court.

While Dirk may be a more talented scorer, Duncan is far more well rounded, playing great defense, as well as making everyone else around him better.

The Spurs also load their roster up with players that know and understand their roles. Danny Green and Gary Neal are such players, who could start for some teams, but embrace their roles off the bench with the Spurs. Ginobili would start for any team in the NBA, but comes off the bench for the Spurs.

The Mavs rely so heavily on free agency and cap space, the were forced to let key pieces of their championship team go, so they could try and win again sometime down the road.

So while the Spurs continue to re-load, the Mavs will have to rebuild. And maybe its time for Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson to take a look at the team down south and strip a page from their playbook.

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