The reported deal at this point looks like this:
NJ gets Anthony, Billups, and Hamilton
Denver gets Favors, Morrow, and Harris (plus picks)
Detroit gets Murphy and Petro
So what might the Mavs be able to gain from trying to get in the middle - and why might the teams welcome them?
For NJ, there's a need to get rid of more salary somehow. In taking Anthony, Billups, and Hamilton, they still need to add almost another $2M in outgoing salary, and they don't have any easy way to do so.
After this article was largely composed (on Sunday) but before it went to press this morning, the Nets supposedly devised a solution by adding Graham, Uzoh, and Ross to the above deal
to meet this shortfall, shipping all three to Denver.
But that creates two more problems.
First, it appears the above deal (with Denver only adding
Favors, Harris, and Morrow) would result in getting the Nuggets a smidgen ($100,000-ish) below the tax line. Add the three extra players, and that
benefit suddenly vanishes, saddling Denver with an extra $2.6M of payroll, plus $2.5M in tax, and causing them to lose out on their share of tax
revenues (usually $3-4M).
Second, sending 3 more to Denver would require the Nuggets to waive 3 players - all of whom will have guaranteed deals - before doing the deal. There aren't any obvious candidates that are on cheap deals and are undesirables in Denver, and they'd need three of those, not one.
Dallas can solve this problem by trading Ajinca for Humphries. NJ does this simply as the way to make the Melo trade work. While Dirk is injured, Humphries might be a better replacement than extended minutes for Cardinal and the 3-guard lineups, although this swap by itself would probably provided too little benefit for the Mavs for them to want to do it. (Worth noting: The Mavs coaching staff is not enamored with Humphries. Nevertheless, he is performing well in New Jersey and is a talent that fits, for the moment, in many ways.)
But there are more angles that could hold even more potential to Dallas.
Let's look closer at Denver. They are looking to strip salary and build for the future. The word is that they really don't want to end up with Harris (and his $27M still owed), having a preference for the younger and much cheaper Lawson (already on their roster) to be their future PG.
Our Mike Fisher has long reported that Devin would eventually be included in the 'Melo deal, and on Sunday there was considerable media-level buzz about how the Mavs might someday be interested in reacquiring their former guard. (Fish checks in to note that on Sunday he visited with someone close to Harris who says the Mavs have always considered their former No. 1 pick "one of us,'' confirming their high regard for him.)
Dallas can do something about that later ... or now.
The Mavs can help as a facilitator in this deal by taking the long-term contracts of both Harris and Morrow and sending back the expiring contracts of Butler and Barea. In the short-term, it also reduces the Nuggets payroll by another $0.6M, taking them even farther away from the tax line and giving them some wiggle room if needed. For Dallas, Harris could become the starting SG alongside Kidd who brings needed offense, with Morrow, Stevenson, and eventually Beaubois as the rest of the guard rotation. In addition, having Harris available as a backup PG would provide a much solution than Barea in making sure Kidd doesn't have to be overworked at PG during the regular season, and a Kidd - Harris - Stevenson trio matches up much better against the Spurs' formidable guard rotation of Parker, Ginobili, and Hill. Harris in essence would immediately be able to provide the same thing that the Mavs hope (without certainty) for Beaubois several years from now.
Note that if the Nuggets want more than salary relief, the Mavs have the assets to add a player like Dojo or Beaubois or Mahinmi, and/or a pick (or several), and/or cash. What would it take, and would it be worth it?
Now to Detroit. They don't want to take Petro's ongoing salary in the deal, and with this trade are presumably rebuilding. Dallas can help by offering to take Petro in the deal - - as incentive to the Pistons for a Prince-Jet swap. With the Pistons headed for a rebuild, Prince is almost certainly gone at the end of the year, and this gives them the ability to keep Petro off their payroll as well. For the Mavs, the swap would offer an ideal replacement for Butler. Jet can replace the departing Hamilton (or if such a trade happened, would the Pistons simply waive JET, rather than keep him, with him ending up back in Dallas?)
Overall, getting involved has lots of potential. In addition, with a more restrictive CBA looming, could the Mavs gain a pick from someone for the extra $7M in immediate salary plus almost $26M in total salary they would add to their payroll by doing the above? Who knows ...but that big of a shift in payroll may be incredibly enticing.
However, there's also a risk for the Mavs in participating. Wouldn't facilitating this deal make them a competitor with themselves in the quest to get Melo?
In our view, not at all. At this point, there are only two ways that Melo lands in Dallas: (1) he has to decline to do an extend-and-trade with NJ (and his stance is still unknown), and (2) the Nuggets have to open the doors for a trade to Dallas or another team in the West.
By participating in the talks now, the Mavs do nothing to change Melo's decision regarding NJ. If he's going anyway, the Mavs are far better to gain from the urgency of the others in making it happen, and if he doesn't want to go there, nothing the Mavs would offer the various teams would change that.
As for the Nuggets apparent unwillingness to send Melo to the Mavs, don't forget that the main players in the Denver front office are all new on the NBA scene. That is still "the longest of longshots,'' as a source has explained to DallasBasketball.com. Still, the Nuggets hey'll need alternatives that they like if a deal with NJ fails, and working with them now might change their outlook on doing business later.
In conclusion if I'm the Mavs, I want in the middle of these trade talks. Hopefully Cuban and Donnie are way ahead of us.