The Dallas Mavericks are not going to make the playoffs this season (and have no business making the playoffs). Let's start there. An 18-12 record through the year’s end would get them back to .500 and well acquainted with their Gillette Fusion ProGlides (I mean they have FIVE BLADES) again.
A.500 win percentage doesn't get you in the playoffs, it gets you handcuffed to the safety rails on the treadmill of mediocrity set on level 8. If the Mavericks finish with any lower pick than 20th (currently CHI and GSW are tied for the 20th pick with a 57% win percentage. The pick is top 20 protected) its first round pick is forfeited to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
There's no real fear of this happening, but there is a fear that the Mavericks will foolishly charge back toward .500 never to get within shouting distance of a playoff spot thus never reaching the playoffs and also sliding out of the draft lottery.
I'm not telling you this to make you give up. I'm telling you this so the picture is crystal clear in the event that's there any hesitation when you think of the Mavericks as a trade deadline seller.
The Mavericks are in no position to be stuffy or prude or question whether Player X fits with Dirk Nowitzki. The Mavericks are hungry and the cupboard is all but bare. There isn't much in the way of outgoing assets that seem tempting to other teams that are in the position to bulk up or move unfavorable/expiring contracts. Here's how I rank the Mavericks assets in way of trade value:
- Shawn Marion: still an incredible perimeter defender and good soldier on a contract that isn't poisonous and extends into next season (he does receive a 15% raise if traded)
- Vince Carter: maybe the best $3.09 million the Mavs have spent in a decade. His contract extends into the next season so he wouldn't be a rental as a 6th/7th man off the bench.
- O.J. Mayo: he has been overexposed because of the situation he's playing in but he's still a lethal scorer that would flourish in a less demanding role. Player option at year's end.
- Chris Kaman: entirely dollars based. The expiring 8 million is 75% of the appeal here.
- Jae Crowder: obviously not good enough to base a deal around but as a 3rd or 4th piece he might tilt the scales in a deal.
Obviously, there are other assets that should be mentioned (Collison, Wright, James, draft picks).
Here are a few of the rumored trade situations around the league and how the Mavericks fit in.
DWIGHT HOWARD - CENTER - LOS ANGELES LAKERS
Mike: With a little research (tinkering with the trade machine) you can see how the dollars can stack up for Dwight to land in Dallas. Marion(8.6), Kaman(8), Carter(3.09), and James(simply sweetener) add up to an acceptable amount to swap for Dwight's $19.5 million salary.
Some parts of this deal are definitely intriguing from the Lakers’ side but I can't realistically see them trading Dwight unless he's assured them he's not re-signing in Los Angeles. Even if that is the case why wouldn't they wait until the summer in a sign-and-trade scenario when seemingly more teams will have greater flexibility?
I think the plan is for Dwight to resign for the $20ish more million and extra year in LA and attempt to wait out Kobe, who only has a year left. If he's wholeheartedly set on leaving the Lakers it can be done in the summer or with another team that has better assets to offer
Chuck: Dwight’s is clearly the biggest name available and rumors persist about his availability due to his highly public unhappiness with his situation in Los Angeles.
He managed to get everything he seemed to be seeking at this time last season, but for myriad reasons, it just isn’t working. He doesn’t fit into D’Antoni’s system, he seems allergic to playing the pick and roll with Nash (a basketball crime of the highest order), he’s openly feuding with Kobe and his presence alienates Pau Gasol on the court.
Still, the Lakers are highly unlikely to trade Howard since it’s next-to-impossible to upgrade their talent level (GM Mitch Kupchack’s stated goal), let alone get reasonable value in return. The best hope for Dallas to acquire Howard at the deadline is the highly remote chance that Howard gets so fed up with the Lakers that he demands a trade and scares other suitors away with promises that he wont resign.
Still, many around the league are beginning to think that the once impossible scenario that Howard would leave this summer in free agency is becoming more and more of a possibility.
JOSH SMITH - SMALL FORWARD - ATLANTA HAWKS
Mike: Your stepdad probably knows that Josh Smith is angling for a max out contract.
What that means in Smith's case is 5 years at $16.4 million the first year and $19.1 million the following four years. Smith is in his 8th year. He's restricted to a max of 16.4 until he hits his 10th season.
Very simply put, Josh Smith is not worth a max deal. You can easily get to an acceptable salary swap level by adding Marion, Mayo, and Roddy B (or some such) together but you have to question what Atlanta's motivation is. They've been rumored to be in their own Dwightmare chase and their roster reveals such.
They have very little money committed to next year’s cap number. The only players they are committed to for anything more than $2 million next season are Al Horford, Lou Williams (who doesn't count because he's on a MLE deal), and DeShawn Stevenson. They have a ton of money coming off the books, including Smith’s $12.4 million salary.
If they're simply looking for a way to lower their salary commitments into next season I believe the Mavericks would be happy to oblige (something like Kaman, Mayo, Da. Jones, Roddy helps them a clear a little more money than just letting Smith go) but why wouldn't they either use Smith to trade for Howard directly or wait and see if Howard chooses Atlanta in turn giving Smith a reason to return for less than max money?
The Mavericks have no business in any Josh Smith discussions. Don't forget, third tier max out players were never a part of “Plan Powder”.
Chuck: You raise a lot of interesting points here. Yes, the Hawks are clearly angling to sign Howard this summer, and they’ve bought themselves a seat at the bargaining table with any big free agent thanks to their ability to dump Joe Johnson’s contract on the Nets last summer.
However, there have been multiple reports hinting that Dwight doesn’t want to return to his hometown of Atlanta to play. Assuming that to be the case (which could look foolish in about 20 minutes given Howard’s capriciousness), Atlanta’s best case for landing Howard may just be pitching a Josh Smith-for-Howard trade.
They would need to include another piece to make the salaries work, but it’s a just-so-crazy-it-might-work type of idea.
Also, you mentioned that Dallas has no business trading for Smith, and for the most part I agree. However, given Smith’s ability to play both forward spots, he doesn’t have to conflict directly with Dirk, and like you mentioned, given the dearth of talent on this roster, Dallas also has no business worrying about what pieces fit alongside Nowitzki.
Bringing in Smith would undoubtedly upgrade the overall asset pool here, which is something I believe Dallas should be intrinsically pursuing.
Relevant also is what Atlanta wants in return, which has shifted from “a young center,” to “young players, draft picks and expiring contracts.” The ultimate rub will likely be in Smith’s own over-valuation of self. He’s not a max contract guy, especially not in the era of the new CBA.
BRANDON JENNINGS - POINT GUARD - MILWAUKEE BUCKS
Mike: It's hard to even fashion a salary matching deal with Milwaukee without hitting major roadblocks. One of the issues is Brandon Jennings makes very little ($3.1m. by NBA standards) another is Milwaukee has a handful of long-term bad contracts (Ilyasova 4 years $32 million remaining, Gooden 2 years $6.6m per, Moute 2 years $4.7m per) and some bad expiring deals that I'd have to believe they want to hold on to in order to clear cap space.
If you're dealing with Milwaukee I can't see getting out of a deal with them without making a very strong-handed offer towards Larry Sanders and John Henson while you're at the table. To get back to Jennings, what makes the most sense to me is an expiring swap of Kaman for Dalembert with a Jennings for Crowder/Collison/Wright/draft pick sweetener.
In the midst of doing that, you have to hope Milwaukee doesn't realize they can probably get a better deal considering how well Dalembert has been playing, you don't realize Jennings hasn't been much better than Collison this season, and you can stomach paying Jennings somewhere between 10 and 13.6 million a season while trying to retain Dalembert on a cap friendly contract. There are plenty of complications but don't forget this is a team that traded Andrew Bogut for Monta Ellis and is now taking calls on Ellis less than a year later.
Chuck: Your point about Jennings being a rich man’s Darren Collison is the biggest reason I’m afraid of him. Yes, he brings the perception of star-level talent, but so far he hasn’t developed into that player.
He’s two year’s younger than Collison, but Jennings’ shooting numbers will make your eyeballs bleed and the Comparison to Collison is all the more stark given the career year Collison is having from the floor. Further, though Collison looks lost at times on defense, it’s tough to argue that Jennings is better. Jennings only gets his numbers through dominating the ball, something that is tough to build a team around.
ERIC BLEDSOE - POINT GUARD - LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
Mike: Yes. Whatever it takes.
I just conducted (yeah, like I'm qualified to operate a train or symphony or something) a trade that went like this Bledsoe-Caron Butler-Grant Hill for Marion-Carter-Crowder-Wright-draft pick and I haven't stopped crying.
It would be very difficult to manage Butler's remaining year at 8 million but it's less than you're currently committed to paying Marion next season (9.3) understanding that Butler is a less of a player at this point despite being two years younger than Marion.
You would have your point guard for the next 6 seasons hopefully, plan powder would still be in place and actually in better position, and the Clippers could go to bed knowing they can roll out a lineup of CP3-Billups-Marion-Griffin-Jordan with Crawford-Carter-Crowder coming off the bench.
I've said it before on this very blog, it's easier to find a way to contend with an average center than it is with an average point guard. Going to tweet this to Cubes just in case he hasn't though of it yet.
Chuck: Love for Eric Bledsoe runs deep throughout the NBA, and also lust, given how many believe that it’s a foregone conclusion that he will be a free agent at season’s end when the Clippers resign Chris Paul. Word has it that the Clips want to hang on to Bledsoe on the extremely-small chance Paul signs elsewhere and would be unwilling to move him for anything other than the right piece in a trade.
What is that right piece? Teams as deep and successful as the Clippers need only that specific-need-filling, over-the-top piece. Currently, they view that piece as Kevin Garnett, who allegedly cannot be moved to waive his no-trade clause, despite lobbying from his old friend, Chauncy Billups.
While Marion makes quite a bit of sense for Los Angeles as both a versatile two-way player, and lockdown defender for elite scorers, the Clippers do not seem to covet him yet. The other factor working against Dallas’ hypothetical pursuit of Bledsoe is the Clippers haven’t yet fully gotten to see how well their roster plays together given how many injuries they’ve had.
That said, the best-case for landing Bledsoe via trade is after the Clippers realize they cannot land Garnett, and Dallas offering them an upgrade at a position of need (front-court defense) while taking back something the Clippers would be better-off without (Caron Butler’s contract).
Take heart though, he will likely be available this summer.
OTHER PLAYERS I'D WELCOME AND HAVE MAYBE PHOTOSHOPPED INTO A MAVS JERSEY IN THE PAST MONTH
PAU GASOL - If you think he's washed up and of little value you've been fooled; he’s still the best low post center in the league. His deal would expire next season right when Dirk's does, clearing a cool 40+ million off your books.
Chuck: Clearly not washed up. He’s just marginalized in D’Antoni’s system. However, him playing next to Dirk would be silly-fun on offense and softer-than-wet-single-ply on defense. Also the thought of paying him $19 million next season would keep me up at night, rocking back and forth.
SPENCER HAWES - A relatively cheap rotation center with good passing skills. I meank, I guess if you have nothing else going on.
Chuck: Don’t hate it. Dallas qualifies as “having nothing else going on.”
EVAN TURNER - Ah yes the little floppy headed board-op kid from The Ticket. Dude needs a serious change of scenery. I'm game if he's cheap.
Chuck: Philly has been gauging interest on the guy and he clearly still brings talent, but hasn’t developed into what he was drafted to be: a star.
AL JEFFERSON - I thought about touching on a potential Jefferson deal at length but I just don't see a fit in a trade scenario. I'll take my chances when he hits free agency if Howard and Bynum are gone.
Chuck: Mavs passed on him once, acquiring him now would be a mea culpa.
DAJUAN BLAIR - This would involve dealing with the unstoppable rebel force that is the Spurs and I'm not sure where on our roster he would value. I do like Blair's grit on the block, though.
Chuck: Mavs are the Rebel Alliance. Spurs are the Evil Empire, get your analogies straight. Han shot first.
MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES - I'm really not sure why they're anxious to move anyone. It seems to me their season has been deeply cheated by the Love-Rubio injuries and they have a good young core moving forward. It's almost a gift that their season hasn't gone as expected seeing as they'll have a top 8 pick and another chance to add a talented rookie to that core.
Everybody is locked up at least into next season besides Pekovic and Budinger who'll I'll gladly take off their hands. I suppose the wish list starts with Pekovic, Shved, Williams and Budinger.
When Mike Marshall and Chuck Perry aren't functioning as a comedy duo, they're usually tweeting about basketball, often directly to Mark Cuban's account. You can follow them on Twitter at @Machine1310 and @TheChuckP.