How Troy Murphy Is A Potential Mavs Answer

Before you dismiss Troy Murphy as a potential Mavs answer, you might want to know what the question is. takes you inside Dallas' management's views on the Nets backup who may be on the move … and then may be on the move again after that.

The idea of Murphy begins with the most frequently-discussed (and to the chagrin of the Nuggets, publicly-discussed) version of a Carmelo Anthony trade:

At its inception, the proposed trade had the Nets getting Anthony and Chauncey Billups in exchange for sending Derrick Favors, Devin Harris, Troy Murphy (on an expiring contract and included only to satisfy trade-matching rules), and picks to Denver. That deal would have saved Denver just over $5M in payroll and tax this season, but the Nuggets wanted a deal that would reduce their payroll by the $13M+ needed to get them under the tax line.

The Nets found an answer by bringing Detroit into the deal. The Pistons have been looking for a way to get Rip Hamilton's two future years of salary off their cap and are willing to take extra salary this year to do so. So with some creative capsmanship, the deal has been revised and complicated. At its core, Denver will still get Favors, Harris, and some picks in exchange for Anthony and Billups. But now, Murphy will be sent to Detroit instead, with other players landing in Detroit, Denver, and NJ (including Hamilton going to NJ) and the Nuggets now able to end up under the tax line. Each of those added players has a varying value, but in essence none of them is of particular value to the teams in the trade, and they are all being included merely to satisfy trade rules and roster limits from team to team.

The point to learn is this: Murphy's value to Detroit is as an expiring contract worth $11.9 million. They have no particular interest in Murphy as a player.

But, has learned, the Mavs do.

You may have noticed that some reports have linked Dallas with Murphy as part of the ‘Melo trade. We've been told that's not quite accurate. What the Mavs are actually hoping for is that wherever he ends up before the Feb. 24 trade deadline, his employer opts to buy him out, leaving Murphy available to be taken on by a new team.

Each year, after the trade deadline, we see a few veteran players waived to allow them to land on a better team. These typically are players who are on expiring contracts, traded at or near the deadline to the team that waives them, and acquired only for trade-matching purposes with the new team having no use for them. The thinking in MavLand is that Murphy may be just such a player.

One suggestion from an NBA source: Dallas could hope that Murphy is available in the $3 million range.

Should that happen, we've learned the Mavs are likely to be very interested. One source who has knowledge of the Mavs' discussions tells us the Mavs may be willing to spend up to around $3M to sign Murphy if he's waived. And that's added incentive for the Pistons: the more the Mavs pay him, the less the Pistons will owe him as a result of the buyout.

(How does the buy-out work? Remember last year that after the trade deadline passed, another date, March 1, opened a window of time by which an NBA player must be released by his former club in order to sign with a new team and still be playoff-eligible. Remember that last season, after Cleveland traded away Zydrunas Ilgauskas, the Mavs made a bid on him before he boomeranged back to the Cavs. And when Dallas traded Drew Gooden away to Washington, the Mavs hoped he'd eventually win his buy-out release from either Washington or, later, the Clippers. Neither team, though, released him from his contract.)

One Western Conference scout gives a quick analysis of Murphy's game in relation to how he'd fit into the Mavs:

"He can hit the 3, which they need, and he's a banger, which can't hurt,'' the scout says. "Finding some answers in the half-court is going to end up being huge for (Dallas). He can be some of the things they are missing because they don't have Tim Thomas.''

Thomas, of course, was supposed to serve as a big-and-rangy backup 4 before leaving the club last year and again this summer to care for his ill wife.

We posed the Thomas/Murphy comparison to a member of the Mavericks staff.

"I see that,'' the staffer said, "but on the list of things that are really priorities, I don't see making sure we get help behind Dirk as one of them.''

"Priority'' is, of course, the wrong word. But Murphy is certainly in the doghouse in New Jersey – "Murphy is getting the full Avery Johnson experience,'' one long-time associate of Avery's tells us – and check these numbers: For the season, the 6-121, 245-pounder is averaging 3.6 points and 4.2 rebounds in 16 minutes. Last year, he averaged 14.6 points and 10.2 rebounds for Indiana. For his career, Murphy, 30, has been good for 11.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per.

Our opinion? While he might be worth chasing a bit, there's a reason Avery Johnson - who loves to play time-worn veterans - wouldn't. Our spies in NJ tell us Murphy's play has been quite mediocre this season (beyond even the numbers). So bringing him aboard for a minimum-salary rest-of-season contract might make a lot of sense, but $3M sounds like a massive overpayment. However, that $3M figure could be the pro-rated portion of the Mavs' full MLE ...or it could be the value of a 2-year minimum salary deal. If it's the latter, then he might be a feasible and affordable answer to the Mavs' lack of depth behind Dirk.

If Troy Murphy moves to Detroit, the Pistons will need to determine whether they want savings now or cap room later. Pistons ownership could opt to keep him … but that's impossible to determine right now inasmuch as we don't know who the Pistons owner will be when the Feb. 24 trade deadline arrives.

It's possible that the ‘Melo deal will occur this week, and that therefore Murphy's (first) move will occur as well. If and when it does, watch as Murphy's name is further knotted with the Mavs as a trade target – but now you know that acquiring him in that manner is not the Mavericks' plan.

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