MAVNALYSIS: How Mavs Can Return Whole Roster
The negotiators for the NBA and its players, David Stern and Billy Hunter, have finally reached agreement on a new labor deal. Nitpicking details and the specific wording will be worked out over the next week ... the owners and players themselves will have to vote to accept what their representatives have accepted ... but we can now expect to have an NBA season beginning Christmas Day.
THE NBA'S PATH AHEAD
At this point, the parties are essentially committed to a deal. We'll focus on the deal points that have been negotiated – some of which have yet to be determined – at another time. But we do know that the schedule will be tight. The next month in the NBA will feel like organized chaos. With all they have to do prior to the season, they really need two months from handshake to games, but they'll be starting in one month instead and accepting the consequences. Fish addressed some of the most important topics in Saturday's Mavs Donuts. Let's take some deeper steps …
The first thing on the plate is the CBA itself. It's not as simple as shaking hands and going to work. Instead they will be crafting a 200-300 page legal document, where every little detail has to be perfectly worded. As they go, there will inevitably be disagreements on how to make it reflect what each side thought they were getting when they shook hands. In 2005, with far fewer changes being made than this time, it took them about 3 weeks to write and agree on the wording. They've given themselves only two weeks this time, to December 9.
While the attorneys (with input from negotiators on both sides) are creating the document, the owners will vote on offering the deal, while the players will have to become a union again and then vote on accepting it. In the coming days (hopefully), the written agreement will be finished and both sides will then sign it and go back to work.
From that point, it will be a rush. Free agency will begin on Dec. 9. Teams will be assembled on the fly, as training camps will open on that same date. That leaves only about 9-10 days for them to gather, get on one page as a team, and be ready to start the season. Some free agent signings are inevitably going to happen after camps begin, creating even more uncertainty.
THE MAVS SITUATION
From the standpoint of the CBA itself, the Mavs will be in great shape. The Dallas Mavericks should have the ability to retain all of their free agents, provided team and player can agree on the price. And the price might be workable. Here's one run through the known and potential numbers:
* Currently players under contract for the 2011-12 season: 10 (Nowitzki, Terry, Kidd, Marion, Haywood, Brewer, Fernandez, Beaubois, Jones, and Mahinmi)
* Roster slots left to fill: 5
* Total salary commitment for those 10: $62.33M
* Total Mavs' player payroll last season: $86.63M plus tax
* Difference in tax structure in 2011-12: none. This was based on what we knew of the proposed CBA as it was being negotiated. The tax line, and tax amount (dollar-for-dollar tax on payroll over the line) were to stay the same for the first two seasons of the new CBA in those proposals. How vastly different will this CBA be? I'm guessing not vastly different enough to greatly alter my math. In fact, we're hearing that the new agreement removes some of the harsh penalties for tax payers -- a boon for the Mavs.
* Mavs free agents from last season: 6 (Chandler, Butler, Barea, Stevenson, Cardinal, Stojakovic). There appears to be a mutual interest between the Mavs and the first five of those to return, if the two sides can agree on the money.
* Proposed CBA impediments to those 5 returning: none. The first four would have full Bird rights, which under the proposed CBA would allow the Mavs to sign them at any amount up to the maximum (if so desired). Cardinal could return under the minimum salary exception, the same as he played under last season.
* Amount the Mavs would have available to spend in 2011-12 (under the same internal budget): $24.3M
* How the five players could fit into that budget: Chandler $10M, Butler $6.5M, Barea $4M, Stevenson $2M, Cardinal $1M (approx minimum)
* Other exceptions available, if needed: tax-payers MLE ($3M), minimum salary exception
The conclusion is this: with the same budget for player outlay (payroll and tax), the Mavs could bring back the entire team if they wanted. (Including Haywood, meaning they wouldn't use the amnesty option on him.) Based on the details we have seen as things have progressed, the finances might get more complex after the first year, but no less workable to keep the team together if desired, with the Mavs.
IF THE MAVS CAN RETURN THE SAME TEAM?
Bringing back the title team virtually intact would be huge for the Mavs. Not only are they a proven commodity, they would have familiarity from already playing together under a system they all know. Teams with new coaches, new key players, or other integral changes will lag behind early in the season, with the greatly-shortened training camp scheduled.
But just as importantly, with the season compressed to squeeze in extra games, there will be far fewer chances than usual for the teams lacking cohesiveness to make it up with practices during the season. Expect some really sloppy games for a month or more, and it's likely that some teams that we expect to be good to be totally derailed.
If the Mavs can return all 5 of their free agents somehow (Chandler, Butler, Barea, Cardinal, Stevenson), they may have a huge advantage. And they were already the best team in the NBA as constituted.
Three issues I want answered ASAP if I'm the Mavs (and most everyone else): 1) Can I begin contacting my players right now, or do I have to wait until a deal is done, or even midnight Dec. 9? 2) Can Dirk and Kidd and the rest show up, say, tomorrow, at the AAC and start working out? Can Roddy B consult Mavs doctors right now? Are players and coaches allowed to confer? And 3) When is the trade deadline? That info might help me structure contracts, and for the trade-minded Mavs, that's important.
THE TOPPER: THE PERFECT WAY TO START
An imperfect season is probably ahead. Consider just one thing for now: Are we looking at a division-weighted schedule that would hamper teams that are in stronger divisions? Still, for the Mavs, the stage is all set for a perfect beginning to whet the appetite as the Mavs charge ahead to defend their title.
It will start at home. With banners being raised, a ring ceremony, and all sorts of hoopla. ("The Mavs Event of the Centuries,'' as Fish calls it.) And the opponent is perfectly cast: the villainous Miami Heat, who were conquered in the Finals. Christmas Day, national TV, at 1:30 pm Dallas time. A perfect stage for the Mavs to get the attention and praise they've earned.
We've been waiting and waiting. There is much work to be done, by the Mavs -- and by the 75-Member Staff here at DB.com. Now it's time.