Melo & The Mavs, Devin & The Tax Man

A Melo-to-NJ deal is moving closer to fruition – albeit with Melo's maybe-noteworthy mention of the Mavs as a suitor. Beyond that longshot, we look into Denver's desire to remain tax-free … and we explore a creative way to help … with Dallas landing Devin Harris and Al Harrington in a surprisingly affordable way.

Ongoing rumbles keep emanating from Denver over revisions to the deal. Harrington has to be included, we first heard. Now we're hearing they'll settle for moving Balkman rather than Harrington in the deal, although still wanting to move Harrington elsewhere if possible.

All of this stems from one core issue that's gone under the radar: at the end of a Melo trade, the Nuggets are demanding to be under the tax line. At one point, this seemed like an impossible request. But now it's close, and if Balkman's $1.675M salary is included on top of the other names already being discussed, it does the trick - for the Nuggets.

In a deal with over $80M in player contracts, you might think that's a minor adjustment. But it's not. There's a fragile balance with all the existing pieces, as each team has its goals and also has to stay within trade-matching rules, and Balkman's $1.675M salary upsets the apple cart. If he goes to NJ (along with the others already included), then the Nets will violate the trade rules. And the same is true if he's sent to Detroit. In addition, there's no easy way for either NJ or Detroit to simply adjust their side of the trade in a way that allows Denver to toss Balkman into the mix.

As a result, if Denver stays committed to its demand to end up tax-free through this deal, it may take the inclusion of an additional team - who will take some salary from the Nuggets - to do the deal.

Does this open the door for the Mavs?

Smile The simple solution would be to ask the Mavs (or some other team) to use a TE and take a minor player out of the mix. Or they could do the trick with any player exchange in which the Mavs take back an extra $1M in salary more than they send the Nuggets. Is this an angle for a swap for Devin Harris or other pieces? Maybe there are other pieces that Denver would want to move in the wake of a Melo trade, that the Mavs would like to have.

As for landing Harris to help the Mavs' need for scoring, we think it would take something more than minor salary savings for the Mavs to pull off such a deal. One idea that's been discussed would be to also take Al Harrington, whose future years at $27.5M have the Nuggets eager to move him and who might provide useful depth at forward in the wake of Butler's injury. But the cost of that contract as a means of getting Harris is probably prohibitive even for Mark Cuban.

Maybe we have a solution.
The last two years of Harrington's deal (totaling $14.8M) are currently only 50% guaranteed. This means in essence he only has $20M set in stone, but the framework of that non-guarantee being spread over two seasons offers no potential angle for a team to really benefit. To go to Dallas, would he be willing to adjust those guarantees in a way that still guarantees him the same $20M, while making his contract potentially more valuable for the Mavs in the future? Salary cannot be renegotiated mid-deal, but guarantees can.

Here's how it would work. Instead of having Year Three 50% guaranteed and Year Four 50% guaranteed, revise the contract so that Year Three becomes 100% guaranteed, with little-to-no guarantee in Year Four. Afterwards Harrington would still have a guarantee for the same $20M or so, but (with little-to-no guarantee in Year Four) the Mavs would be able to use him (if desired) as a Damp-like chip in free agency in the summer before his final season. That gives him added value, and may make the contract much more palatable.

Let's be honest: Harrington with $20M in future year guarantees may still be too much for the Mavs to consider. But a Harris-Harrington combo, which in one deal addresses the Mavs needs for scoring, better PG backup behind Kidd, and some depth at forward, looks quite enticing if the players needed are merely something like Butler (or Jet) and Barea (or Ajinca) and the cost is primarily future salary. Could altering that potential salary commitment in such a manner make everyone happy, and make a deal with the Nuggets more of a possibility than a fantasy?


Speaking of "fantasy'' here – or, the way Dallas officials like to term it, "the longest of longshots'' – Melo's comment about not wanting to be directly involved in communication with prospective teams is a bit intriguing.

"I don't want to talk to nobody," Anthony told the media while in San Antonio. "I let the front office handle that type of stuff. It ain't my job to be talking to New Jersey, New York, the Lakers, Dallas, no one. That's not my job to do."

We'll take that to mean nothing more than Anthony-to-Dallas is within the realm of possibility … but still the longest of longshots. will continue to work that angle, of course … while also dealing with ideas like the one above that we believe has a higher probability and a high-enough payoff for the Mavs.

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