CARON AND THE TAX SAVINGS: Being precise is usually just an exercise in compulsive perfection. That applies to the nitpicking details of the CBA, contracts and trades. Using close approximations are often all that's needed to enlighten. But as rehabbing Caron Butler does his part to contribute – ‘I've got a helluva resume,' he says – we do ours. And we've found a Caron trade situation where our approximation is trumped by precision.
First there is Caron's own plan: Rehab in a miraculously fast time, return to the floor and help Dallas to a title.
"I plan on playing in this year's playoffs,'' he said.
Yes. Or …
We've written that if the Mavs don't find a Butler trade that brings them someone they like, they could understandably entertain the idea of trading him to an under-the-cap team simply for a future junk draft pick, in order to gain a major tax reduction. Using this technique, Caron's salary for the whole season for tax purposes would not be counted against the Mavs. That would bring them a savings of $10.56M - which for the average NBA franchise is the equivalent of 2-3 years profits.
In such a deal, the other team would end up paying Butler for the rest of the season. Using our rule of thumb that the season is usually about 2/3 done at the deadline, we quickly figured he would still be due another $3.52M, and that the Mavs could send the max-allowable $3M cash in the deal to offset most of it, plus something else of value to make up the difference.
But we spoke too fast.
The NBA season started and ends a bit earlier this year than usual. As a result, at the deadline we'll be farther into the season than the 2/3 mark, and Caron's remaining salary will only be about $3M at that point. (The precise number depends on how the league would allot the pay for the trade day, but the end result is $3M within about $35,000-ish or so one way or the other.)
In other words, the Mavs could conceivably end up saying the following to one of several teams: "Please take Caron off our payroll, and here's the cash to pay his entire remaining salary. Now what do you want for your trouble?" If they want to make it happen, it should be an incredibly easy deal to negotiate.
Of course, the other team might even be willing to buy out his contract and waive him, where he could return to Dallas after 30 days to rehab and for a possible playoff role if he recovers in time. But for the Mavs that sort of scenario would simply be icing on a $10.56M cake.
Caron seems aware of some of the possibilities here. As he attended Tuesday's practice and visited with the media while aboard an exercise bike – a big step back after the knee surgery that followed his January injury -- he noted both his desire to "stay'' and his desire to maybe "return":
"Anything can happen, and I understand the business,'' he said. "I'll be a free agent this summer and obviously I'd love to come back here and play
many-a-year because I feel like the window of opportunity for winning titles has definitely come for this organization. So we'll see what happens. I'm
a proven winner in this league who can be pretty effective out there. I know that will come. I got a hell of a resume.''
Caron may be a proven winner … but his contract can be a winner, too.
Will the Mavs make the sort of trade we outline above? We hope and believe that as Feb. 24 approaches, their first priority will be to use his contract to look for an upgrade. And if one is not available, they still might prefer to keep him. But as easy a deal as this would be, and given the fact that he's injured, is he worth $10.56M in tax, to keep on the roster?
Are his Bird rights, with the uncertainty of contracts and rules in a new CBA, worth $10.56M to them?
He's a "helluva player'' … but this is a heckuva chance for the Mavs to gain talent or save money. We're about to find out which way they lean … and we're continuing to fine-tune our calculators in preparation for a move.
SO … WHICH WAY DO THEY LEAN?: They lean, as always, to trading Butler as part of a deal to acquire Carmelo Anthony from the Nuggets.
So much has been written … and so much APPEARS to have happened … but while Denver continues to move the bar in its talks with the Knicks (just as the Nuggets did in their talks with the Nets), the Mavs' proposal is unchanged from when it was first suggested (and reported here) back in August:
Butler's $10.6 million expiring, DeShawn Stevenson's $4.1 mil expiring, the promising Roddy Beaubois, cash, picks, another young player … the kitchen sink.
The Nets might re-enter these talks with higher picks and a lotto guy in Derrick Favors. (Denver has told Dallas they want a lotto-level kid … Dallas has countered by saying Roddy B IS that.) The Knicks are closing in on specifics to give the Nuggets for Carmelo … But it seems every time Denver nods its head at some package that includes Wilson Chandler or Danilo Gallinari or whatever, the Nuggets follow up by saying, "Oh, and Raymond Felton and Landry Fields, too.''
If the Knicks come out of the Feb. 24 deadline tunnel with a lineup featuring, say, ‘Melo and Billups joining Stoudemire … that's fairly stout. And it
can be a path to adding Chris Paul in the future. That's NY's vision, and that – being in NY – remains ‘Melo's vision.
We think that the only way ‘Melo-to-the-Knicks doesn't happen now is if Nuggets bosses Josh Kroenke and Masai Ujiri, both new on the job, fumble the ball.
If they do? Dallas has a lesser offer. But that offer has been on the table for six months. It's the most the Mavs can give – and don't believe this
hooey about Roddy B being "untouchable''; he's central to the proposal.
Do, however, believe Denver's reluctance to deal Anthony within the conference. It is the reason Denver has specifically given to Dallas when it turns down anything the Mavs bring up. Likewise, don't put too much stock into the ‘Melo-to-LA stuff. Imagine how haunting that would be to Kroenke and Ujiri, scared enough of having to face Anthony in a Dallas uni.
So it's the Knicks in the post position. The Nets are considering re-entering the race. Chicago gets discussed in media circles, certainly. Houston is among the teams talking about themselves while no one is really acknowledging what they're saying. The Nuggets could keep ‘Melo, of course, and make their own playoff run before losing him this summer … a risk that could make them the Rocky Mountain version of Cleveland.
And there is Dallas, with its willingness to give ‘Melo his extension for a guaranteed $65 million, or to take him on without the extension, to offer
everything it has in its stable this side of Dirk/Chandler.
The Mavs are not negotiating, exactly. Because there is nothing to negotiate.
Here's the kitchen sink. If the Knicks don't give you what you want, and as the afternoon of Feb. 24 approaches and you fear eventually losing
Anthony for nothing … here's a lot of something. Call us.
WHAT'S THIS ‘RODDY B UNTOUCHABLE' BUSINESS?: It is still, a source tells DallasBasketball.com this morning, "the longest of longshots.'' But the Dallas Mavericks have submitted their bid.
That bid features Caron Butler … even as Tuff Juice proudly touts his "helluva resume.''
And make no mistake: That bid features Roddy B … even as Mavs staffers are apparently whispering the word "untouchable'' to reporters in an obvious attempt to increase his perceived value.
Beaubois' return to action (tonight at home against the Kings) is fortuitous in many ways. The Mavs need the boost he can give them should he remain in a Dallas uniform, which certainly is the most likely scenario. (If Dallas makes a mid-level trade for, say, Tayshaun Prince, the cost will not include Beaubois.) The Mavs also need to see what they look like with Roddy B on the floor before they do much tinkering of any sort.
But also factored in: The rest of the league needs to see Roddy B, too. You think scouting eyes in Denver and elsewhere won't be watching the Mavericks game tonight?
Again, when it comes to ‘Melo, there IS NO NEGOTIATING. Roddy B is automatically part of it.
It's the kitchen sink and it's all Dallas can do. There is some juggling to be performed, some dominoes to be knocked down. Example: How long does Denver wait to decide, and if it decides not to deal with Dallas, will there be time to turn around and flip Caron to someone else for savings?
But the decision is all Denver's. The juggling cannot happen until Denver decides. The dominoes cannot fall until Denver decides. The Mavericks are in the poker game, but they are in other poker games, too. In a sense, not only is Denver instrumental in what happens to Carmelo Anthony, it's also in some control of what happens to Caron Butler.