Odom Options: Mavs Benefits Of Deadline Deal
We established in our "Trade Rumor Traffic'' Premium piece earlier this week that The Lockout Season is responsible for some changes in trading timetables. But we also established that The Lockout Season hasn't altered the Dallas Mavericks' customary desire to Asset Management their way to possible deadline deals.
What Dallas discusses and what we discuss here will always keep top-of-mind the "3D Blueprint'' concept. Deron Williams and/or Dwight Howard along with Dirk … 3D's.
This season, the trade deadline is backed up to March 15. Therefore, "hot'' talk is backed up, too.
But we can tell you that the groundwork is still being put down by the Dallas front office. And when it heats up? Are there any trades the Mavs might consider at the deadline?
We see a number of options, including one big possibility: It involves Lamar Odom … and we have even identified the cities to where Dallas might dump him.
HOW TO MAKE AN ODOM TRADE HELP
Clip-and-save: In the next month, news will leak that the Mavs are involved in phone calls that mean Lamar Odom could get traded away to Indiana, Sacramento, or Cleveland.
Odom has been an enigma for the Mavs. He's clearly underperforming a reasonable contract despite a versatile skill set and strong history as a player. At times there are flashes of exactly what the Mavs thought they were getting, but at other times he's not helpful at all. And the whole situation is layered with a strong possibility that the Mavs will simply have to waive him at the end of the season, in order to free needed cap space in the summer, compounded by his sensitivity that's incompatible with that future. (We've offered the educated guess that LO's funk in Dallas is related in part to his awareness of his future and him feeling "unwanted'' as a result.)
We can tell you this about the thinking of the Triangle of Trust, especially Carlisle: Despite the frustrations to date, the Mavs know that if they can hang on and harness the upside, Odom could provide a huge boost in their chance at a repeat.
But while they wait for him to show his talent, there is … or rather, will be … a big temptation out there for the Mavs.
From the coaching level, Rick Carlisle is saying the right thing. From January 26:
"Hey listen, we believe in Lamar," Carlisle said. "This has been a struggle so far, but this guy can play. We're going to keep supporting him and keep believing in him and he's going to get better and better."
But from a front-office perspective?
If they pull the plug and trade him away to a team with cap space, they can avoid paying luxury tax this season (which also becomes one of the tax-free years needed to avoid the repeater surcharge on taxpayers). An added benefit, avoiding the $2.4 million cap hit in 2012 if he's waived in June, could alternately be accomplished by trading him in June, but eliminating the taxpayer status for 2012 will be a now-or-never decision at the deadline.
In fact, to land below the tax line this season, the Mavs only practical option is trading Odom, and the places with the needed cap room would be Indiana, Sacramento, or Cleveland. The Mavs could take back a player with a salary up to around $4.4 million if necessary, and still avoid ending up as a taxpayer. They'd probably offer cash to help offset his future buyout if they had to.
We do need to remember that the Mavs deliberately put themselves into the taxpayer category when they acquired him, clearly having no intention to avoid it. Despite the frustration, we can tell you they prefer to keep Odom if he can play to his ability. His production between now and deadline time, as well as the difference that Odom can make in the playoffs, will be weighed over and over between now and then as the Mavs decide what to do.
If Odom isn't moved for tax reasons, what then?
As long as Howard and Williams remain in play for the summer, any trade the Mavs make will be for expiring contracts in return. But there's not any obvious weakness on the current roster, and the existing contracts are reasonably priced. Since they're not willing to take back someone else's bad long-term contract, and don't have any glaring needs to fill, what would they be looking for?
One idea is that of the Mavs pursuing a giveaway trade for an expiring, simply to try to free up even more cap space for the summer, but in general we don't buy it. We think the potential for winning this season trumps any such ideas. Instead, in theory they might look for a trade of fairly equivalent talent going each way, in which they trade away a continuing contract for an expiring one – except identifying such a trade might be a needle-in-a-haystack proposition.
For example, there's Shawn Marion, whose contract is reasonably priced and who is almost irreplaceable in his contributions and fit. Given those facts, he can't be traded without the team's chances taking a major blow. Since there's virtually no way you find another forward who can do what he does, for a comparable price, yet on an expiring contract, he's essentially a lock to remain.
Brendan Haywood looks like a more likely trade candidate, as his ongoing contract could theoretically be swapped for a comparable center with an expiring contract. But in a straight one-for-one, only Houston (with Dalembert) seems to fit the parameters, and they aren't a likely trade partner with the Mavs.
Chris Kaman also comes to mind, but he's disappeared in New Orleans and it's hard to know If he's as good as Haywood these days. And a bigger sticking point there is the presence of Emeka Okafor, already on the Hornets roster getting big money for multiple years at center. They wouldn't want Haywood as well. So if Kaman is worth getting, it would take a three-way trade, with the Mavs doing something like Odom to the Hornets, and then Haywood somewhere else.
Atlanta? Boston? Golden State? Toronto?
An alternate avenue that could be pursued would be to try to swap Odom for an expiring, if he's not fitting the bill, and see if some talent can be added that way. We're not going to scream this concept in a headline (yet) because we're simply spitballing, but ... How about someone like Steve Nash, whose time in Phoenix ends this season? If the Suns would trade him for Odom and Roddy B, knowing that Nash will leave in the summer, and opting for two very talented players in return, would the Mavs be interested?
The Mavs' trade possibilities as the mainstream media sees them are essentially nonexistent. In our view they are more likely to be "specific'' rather than "nonexistent,'' but limited by that specificity. But might that change?
What if New York decides that Melo doesn't fit in a pick-and-roll offense and puts him up for bids? What if the Mavs or other teams sustain some injuries that change needs and situations? Might a team "wow" the Mavs with an offer for a young backup player like Wright or Mahinmi that has shown some real promise?
Or what if Williams and Howard get traded to the same team, making summer free agency an awful place to look for players?
If any or all of those (or any number of other possibilities) happen, plans will change for the Mavs – and maybe change drastically.
Expect the unexpected, they say. And never say never.
SO IF WE'RE BETTING, WHAT WILL WE SEE THE MAVS DO?
The safe bet is the same as always: they will do nothing. Trades are hard to make, and even when you desperately want to do something, you never know if you can find a trade partner with the same wish.
But a Mavs front office that's disinterested at the trade deadline, and simply waiting for the summer? That's a lousy bet to make. A leopard doesn't change its spots, even when the landscape changes. The Mavs will be active, aggressive, and involved … and we can promise you, names like Lamar Odom's will be discussed as candidates for the outbox.