One thing has been clear throughout 2012: the Dallas Mavericks have had one eye on fielding a competitive team and one eye on the the prospect of adding big name free agents in the 2012 summer. You could smell it in the puzzling departure of Tyson Chandler. You could feel it in every one of the 300 ring ceremonies they conducted this year. You could hear it in the quotes of Jason Terry.
The greatest cardinal sin a general manager can make is admitting he isn’t putting the best product possible on the court. This is the lie that Donnie Nelson has been saddled with the last 5 months. This team would be better with Tyson Chandler. Yet he’s in New York. This team would be better with JJ Barea, and he’s still in Minnesota. This year is about clearing money, improving the young players, and remaining competitive enough to not alienate the fan base. In that order.
These are the names that the Dallas Mavericks have guaranteed contracts tied to next season; Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, Brendan Haywood, Roddy Beaubois, Dominique Jones, Brandan Wright, and Vince Carter. That’s roughly 44-45 million dollars of a 58 million dollar cap spoken for.
The new CBA (collective bargaining agreement) includes a neat little provision that allows teams to just dump one bad contract currently counting against their cap number before the 2015-2016 season. The player in question must have been signed prior to the 2011-2012 season, and the exception can only be used once. It’s called the amnesty clause, or “Allan Houston Rule”. Which is rather misleading, because the original amnesty clause from 2005-2006 was never used on Allan Houston.
So, which one of the aforementioned names would it be most wise to “amnesty”? Not the face of your franchise. Neither of your young guards who make comparatively little (Roddy $2.2M, Jones $1.2M). The player pool comes down to Brendan Haywood and Shawn Marion. If the judgement comes strictly from on court production than the amnesty hammer will no doubt be laid on Haywood.
Not only is Haywood a marginally above-average center soaking up a huge cap number this season ($7.6M) but he also has the longest guaranteed contract on a rebuilding roster. Haywood’s contract extends to the 2015-2016 season and escalates every season. The center's number jumps to 8.3M, then 9M and onto 9.7 -- then to 10.5 million in concurrent seasons.
Amnestying Haywood would clear $37.5 million in the next four seasons and $8.3 million from next year's cap. However, I'd be remiss not to introduce the counter to this argument. The other school of thought is that Shawn Marion should be the target of the amnesty clause, seeing as defensive-minded small forwards are easier to find than 7-foot lane cloggers.
In addition, Haywood has a termination agreement in his contract that reads as such, “Any team that waives Haywood can spread out the payments for the remainder of his contract until 2026”. That means the team that owns his rights and waives him would be responsible for no more than $2 million per year over the next 14 years. This makes Haywood's contract easier to move than, say, Marion’s.
Why stop with just ridding yourself of one of these contracts? Why not amnesty one and trade the other? Then the question remains as to which contract should be amnestied and which should be traded. If you’re trading with a team that is seeking on-court production I would have to believe that Marion carries more value. If your trade partner is seeking cap relief, then Haywood would be the more valuable commodity. If we’ve learned anything in the last few months it’s that cap is king. You amnesty Marion and do your best to find a team that will willingly trade for Haywood just to release him. Obviously, you have to include some Splenda in that deal to make it worth it for the other team.
If the fairytale comes true and Deron Williams decides to take his talents to Victory Plaza, $17.4 million of that pool would almost certainly be eaten up -- Deron is a superstar player and deserves a max contract. If he decides to settle on some sort of hometown discount, things could get very interesting. That’s not very likely, though. A sign-and-trade would be preferred, because that allows the team receiving the player to exceed the 58 million dollar cap. The problem with that: Dallas has literally zero young, contributing pieces that New Jersey would or should be interested in.
Then again, the Mavericks front office is incredibly creative. The incentive for Deron to approach the Nets about a sign and trade comes down to the approximate 20 million dollars he could make in his fifth year of the contract if he signs with his previous team. A player with 10+ years of service that signs with his previous team is entitled to a maximum salary totaling 35% of the salary cap. Roughly 20 million dollars. If he just plainly signed with the Mavericks with no sign and trade, his max contract would be 4 years at 17.4 million dollars per season.
Most teams that have a premium free agent like to claim they won’t play ball and work a sign and trade to be cooperative. That is until they realize the alternative is losing the player and getting absolutely nothing in return.
So, we’ve done it. We’ve rid ourselves of the 16.9 million dollars that Marion and Haywood would have soaked up this season and we’ve lined out how to get Deron equal money if he wants to come here. What can the Mavericks do with this money?
The team acquired a trade exception of 8.9 million dollars in the recent Lamar Odom deal. Let me briefly explain what that means. The NBA only allows a team to trade a player(s) to another team if the salaries totaled are within 25% of each other. A trade exception is a complete loophole through this. Now it can be within 25% and 8.9 million if the trade exception is used. 8.9 million dollars can bring you a very nice player in this new era of the NBA. Under the assumption that Deron lands here, the Mavs will also have a $3-million mid-level exception to toy with. The full mid-level is 5.8 million but a team that paid tax the previous year is only allotted a 3 million dollar MLE.
Here are the numbers you are looking for...
If a combination of Haywood/Marion are amnestied or traded, the total cap number up to date would be 28.3 million of a 58 million dollar cap already spoken for. If only one of them are traded or amnestied it creeps up to roughly 37 million of a 58 million dollar cap.
I’ve constructed a few different rosters, taking into consideration the potential addition of Deron Williams and the subtraction of Haywood/Marion or just one of them -- and options if the master plan falls through. Take note that I haven’t addressed a player or players to acquire with the aforementioned trade exception because the possibilities are essentially endless.
But here are a few names that have been floated around as contracts that could be potentially dumped: Anderson Varejao, Luis Scola, Kyle Lowry, Jose Calderon, Josh Childress, Luol Deng. All of these players are in the salary range to make a deal with the trade exception. They're all also (reportedly) being shopped by their teams.
WITH DERON AT 17.4M AND SUBTRACTED HAYWOOD/MARION
ADDITIONS: Delonte West (FA), Jason Kidd (FA), Deron Williams (FA), Ersan Ilyasova (FA), Sam Young (FA), Greg Oden (FA)
Guards: Deron Williams, Delonte West, Jason Kidd, Rodrigue Beaubois, Dominique Jones, Jared Cunningham, Vince Carter
Forwards: Dirk Nowitzki, Ersan Ilyasova, Brandan Wright, Sam Young, Brian Cardinal, Jae Crowder
Centers: Marcus Camby, Brendan James, Greg Oden
In this scenario I’ve added one of my personal favorites Ersan Ilyasova at roughly 6 million for four years. I re-signed Jason Kidd because teams can go over the salary cap to retain their own players. The same goes for West and Cardinal.
I’d be thrilled if Delonte West was the starting SG next season. The real flaw in this roster is the center position. Mahinmi looks to be on his way out the door which is a damn shame.
Is this a top 4 team in the western conference? Hard to say.
Here’s another roster that shoots out of the salary cap linear equation.
WITH DERON AT 17.4M AND SUBTRACTING ONLY HAYWOOD OR MARION
ADDITIONS: Delonte West (FA), Jason Kidd (FA), Deron Williams (FA), Spencer Hawes (FA), Devin Ebanks (FA),
Guards: Deron Williams, Jason Kidd, Rodrigue Beaubois, Dominique Jones, Delonte West, Jared Cunningham
Forwards: Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, Devin Ebanks, Brian Cardinal, Jae Crowder
Centers: Spencer Hawes, Brandan Wright, Bernard James
The reason so many of the Mavericks' free agents are retained is because that’s the only situation in which a team can exceed the salary cap other than a sign and trade. It also makes sense to keep the bit players who have proven their roles in this system. Hawes might cost you more than the MLE, which could flaw this roster.
WITHOUT DERON AND SUBTRACTING MARION AND HAYWOOD
ADDITIONS: Raymond Felton (FA), Delonte West (FA), Ersan Ilyasova (FA), Spencer Hawes (FA), Carlos Delfino (FA), Chris Kaman (FA), Patty Mills (3 MIL EXCEPTION), Marcus Camby (FA), Lou Williams (FA)
Guards: Raymond Felton, Delonte West, Brandon Roy, Lou Williams, Rodrigue Beaubois, Patty Mills, Jared Cunningham
Forwards: Dirk Nowitzki, Ersan Ilyasova, Brandan Wright, Jae Crowder
Centers: Chris Kaman, Bernard James
There is some thought that if the Mavs miss out on Deron, the correct move is to hit 'repeat' on this season and sign a handful of cheap veterans at one year deals. The premise: hopes and prayers the team's number would be called in the Chris Paul -- Dwight Howard -- Josh Smith -- Andre Igoudala -- John Wall -- Tyreke Evans -- Andrew Bynum class of 2013. I’m not interested in that.
Another season of musical chairs is not my idea of how to run a franchise. Every single one of the aforementioned 2013 free agents will simply explore ways to get to L.A., Miami, or New York for the next 14 months anyhow. If the Mavericks are good enough and keep themselves flexible, as they always have, one of these players will find their way here. If they keep the powder dry for yet another season the rifle is going to get rusty.
I’ll leave you with a list of free agent players that could end up in a Maverick uniform very soon.
Goran Dragic-likely heading back to HOU
Steve Nash-he’ll price himself out of our range
Raymond Felton-not flashy but not super expensive either. You can do worse at PG
Jose Calderon-soon to be amnestied. completely depends on the number
Aaron Brooks-only as the very last option
Patty Mills-solid cheap back up
Ronnie Price-if there’s nobody else
DJ Augustin-(RFA with qualifying offer)
Andre Miller-if the pool dries up, why not?
Jameer Nelson-older than you think he is (30)
Ramon Sessions-5 mil plus for an average PG is not my plan
Eric Gordon (Restricted Free Agent)
Brandon Roy-if a witch doctor fixes his knee (with plasma! science!) we’ll kick the tires
Landry Fields (RFA)
Carlos Delfino-good rotation player at the right price
Lou Williams-a younger Jet Terry
Ray Allen-somebody will give him a pile of money before we offer our little mound of money
Nicholas Batum-(RFA with qualifying offer)
Jamal Crawford-I can’t see the Mavs approaching this guy, but I never would have imagined Vince Carter as a Mav...
George Hill (RFA)
You can keep all of them.
Kris Humphries-gonna get big dollars in his divorce...have fun playing for the Suns
Ersan Ilyasova-(can also play SF)-quite possibly my favorite free agent
Brandon Bass- he's going to get Glen Davis money. that’s big if you didn’t get that joke
JJ Hickson (RFA)
Roy Hibbert-(Restricted Free Agent) Max player. Already has an offer from Portland, Indiana will likely match.
Spencer Hawes-the best passing big man in basketball. please come to Dallas. 2nd favorite FA.
Omer Asik-going somewhere for big dollars/big mistake
Chris Kaman-you can do worse at backup center
Kyrylo Fesenko-just a bruising pain in the ass. I like his style
Greg Oden-if he’s dirt cheap I’d give him a chance
Marcus Camby-I can live with Camby as long as it’s not at 25+ minutes a night