Our 3 Mavs Deadline-Day Predictions

It's sexy to talk Dwight and Deron. But we also obliged to talk 'tax limits' and 'brick walls.' We've got the very latest on the two available/non-available stars, and our three down-to-the-deadline predictions for the Mavs ... Deron, Dwight, Kaman, Odom and ... Josh Howard?! Take our free 7-day Premium trial and get the Mavs goods!

Our 3 Mavs Deadline-Day Predictions - by David Lord and Fish 922a march 15 2012

Confusion has taken over the NBA trade market as we march through Trade Deadline Day, as it's still fuzzy what might happen with Dwight Howard. Whether he gets traded (and where) is a huge domino that will send others flying no matter which way it falls. If he locks into Orlando as rumored, will Deron Williams be swapped by the Nets to avoid losing him in the summer? The ripple effect could be substantial as the day unfolds.

Yet regardless of what happens, the Mavs themselves are telling the truth when they predict they won't make a trade today.

One major reason for that is the new CBA. With a slimmed-down payroll in recognition of the increased tax penalties for big spenders in the new agreement, along with a desire to maximize cap space this summer, the team has created a roster that now lacks much of the "excess" talent and payroll that in other years could be used to manufacture deals. While there are certainly some needs that could stand being addressed, it's now more difficult to match salaries ...and every salary carries with it a loss of otherwise needed talent. They can no long scoop several of those together without creating problems on the floor.

In addition, while the team has multiple expiring contracts, their unwillingness to take back longer-term salary makes those contracts essentially unusable in a trade. The Mavs want to get the cap space when they expire, and while such a contract could theoretically be swapped for a similar expiring contract in return, the shuffling of similarly-valued players at this point in the season would likely be more negative than positive in its effect.

Of course, those expiring contracts are not sacred. For example, if Orlando came looking to trade Dwight Howard or New Jersey wanted to trade Deron WIlliams, such contracts would certainly be made available ...but nothing indicates possibilities like that are looming.

Within the Mavs' self-imposed limit, which is essentially to have their core plus some minimum contracts, there's little-to-no flexibility this year to create a trade package.

Needs do exist, however. The offense often struggles, and the center rotation is woefully thin for a team built to have a traditional big man on the floor alongside Dirk. But how would they add another playable traditional center with little to offer in return and working under their constraints?

With all that as the backdrop, is there anything we see that might surprise? We've looked, and we see little out there that looks promising enough to outline in detail. At one point Steve Nash held some attraction, but he's going nowhere. At other times the frustration from Lamar Odom's extended absence brought the thought that he might need to be jettisoned, but now that he's back and playing, there's the renewed promise that he might round into form and really be able to help when the playoffs arrive. And then there are the vague goals of solving those needs noted above. But that's a fairly bare trade cupboard we're seeing.
But for the record, we'll offer our top three predictions for the day for the Mavs.

(1) Do nothing.

For the reasons outlined above, this is far and away our greatest expectation. Dwight's opt-in opt-out goofiness makes him a target hard to hit. We're hearing that New Jersey is at least feigning disinterest in offers for Deron ... but that if any offer is ever deemed attractive enough, it's most likely to be a Pau Gasol offer from LA.

So Dallas is left with no big prize. And maybe no prize at all. ... Cooling its heels for next summer ... but that could be cool indeed. If Deron doesn't move now ... he can move to Dallas in the summer. So let's watch the Nets and Gasol and hope nothing goes down.

(2) Trade away Odom in a salary-reducing move.

While the Mavs are still intrigued with Odom for the on-court potential he provides, this has to present a very real temptation to them. His struggles to turn potential into production in Dallas have been well-chronicled, he carries an $8.9 million salary this season, and while he's likely to be waived after the season to remove his salary from next year's roster and gain additional cap space, in such a move the Mavs would have to still pay him $2.4 million for next season (which would reduce available summer cap space by that amount).
In addition, and perhaps just as important to the team, the Mavs can end this season as a non-taxpayer if they reduce their cap total by about $4.5 million. Although most of a player's salary for this season has already been paid, trading away a player at any point before the deadline removes the entire year's salary from the team's cap (and tax) computation. Moving Odom and taking back a player earning $4.4 million or less would remove the Mavs from the taxpayer list.

That current tax savings would be a plus for the Mavs, but the future consequences would be the biggie. The new CBA has a "repeater" tax that only allows a team to be a taxpayer in 3-of-5 years or be forced to pay a greatly increased tax amount. Being tax-free this season would have an effect on payroll flexibility for the next four seasons.

Three teams (Utah, Indiana and Sacramento) have the cap flexibility to take Odom without being forced to send any player back to Dallas, and two others (Cleveland and Toronto) could send a little salary back (less than $4.4M) and get it done. Why would one of those teams be interested? Perhaps they would feel they might realize his potential and improve their playoff chances at a relatively low cost. Or maybe they'd hope to trade him at draft time or next summer to a team needing his talent. In addition, one of those five teams might merely provide the cap savings in a 3-way trade where Odom landed elsewhere.

The key for Dallas in this idea would be to get back an expiring salary player of $4.4 million or less, or no one at all. If they could land a player that could also replace Odom's potential, or provide a needed boost in another area, so much the better. For example, would Utah be interested in an Odom for Josh Howard swap? Or Odom for CJ Miles? Would Dallas?

We suspect that the Mavs will opt to roll the dice with Odom, choosing his potential to help them in a playoff run over the present and future tax savings. But if the Mavs make a trade, something in this vein is what we'd expect.
(3) Trade for Chris Kaman.

The history of the Mavs' success in the Dirk Era has been built on using Dirk alongside a traditional center that can provide the defense and ruggedness that frees him to do what he does best. In that history, the team's greatest success has come when they've had two of those guys, to allow them to play without fear of fouling out, have depth in case of injury, and to push each other. Last year the presence of the combination of Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood was instrumental in the run to a title.

In December financial considerations forced the team to pare down from two traditional centers to one, and they've suffered as a result. The team's defense sags considerably when Haywood sits, and when he's injured as he was last week, it's a disaster.

One center that might fit the bill to complement Haywood is Chris Kaman, and he's very available. His contract expires at the end of the season, and New Orleans doesn't expect to re-sign him. The Hornets have hoped to reap some value from him in trade, but no one wants to pay very much for a short-term guy, and his $14.1 million cap hit has made it difficult for most teams to even consider a trade for him, as the trade match requirements would require a sizable amount of talent or salary being sent back to NO for a temporary addition.

Golden State had interest, but they have landed Andrew Bogut and are no longer calling. Houston has been looking for a center, but we're guessing they won't want the $14.1M on their cap for a rental. Boston and Miami want a center but don't have the expendable assets to match.

That leaves Dallas, if he's to be traded.

Does he make sense for Dallas? We think he definitely does. He was an All-Star only two years ago, he's a traditional center, he can score (a definite weak spot for the Mavs), he rebounds, and he has experience playing next to Dirk on Germany's national team. Against the Mavs recently, he was a beast (20 pts 13 rebs) as the Hornets beat the Mavs, and his per-36 this year of 16 pts and 11 rebs is strong.

For Dallas, his $14.1M cap figure to trade-match would present a bit of a barrier, but is it insurmountable?

We see three practical trade matches. In two of them, the bulk of the salary match required ($11.144M) would be Odom's $8.9M, leaving another $2.244M additional that would have to be either a package of both Roddy Beaubois and Dominique Jones, or Vince Carter. The third possibility would be to send Jason Terry for Kaman in a 1-for-1.

We also have to recognize that NO wants some value for the longer term in whatever they get.

So the Mavs would send one of the following packages for Kaman:

*Odom, Roddy, and Dojo

*Odom, Carter, and _____ (probably Williams or Dojo)

*Terry and _____ (probably Williams or Dojo)

There has been public back-and-forth between Dallas and New Orleans over the Hornets desire to get Roddy, which makes us wonder if Dallas had inquired about Kaman, had been given a price tag of Odom - Roddy - Dojo, and said, "No way." In any event, we can't see the Mavs saying yes to that one. On the others, it seems doubtful as well (too pricey in relation to the contributions they need from those players), but ... we'll see.

There's another way the Mavs might try to get Kaman, but it's a longshot. If they don't trade for him and no one else does either, there's a possibility he might get a buyout soon after the trade deadline, since he is a veteran not expected to return (traditionally such players are often waived or bought out at that point to allow them to try to land with another team for the playoffs). The Hornets would do it so they could save some money (maybe as much as $2M) by such a move.

While it's been said that NO wouldn't consider doing so, there's a distinct possibility that stance has simply been a bluff to try to create some trade interest in him ...and they'd drop the pretense after the deadline. It's hard to tell, and the fact that he might not be available in that manner would be part of the risk.

The other part of the risk would be the fact that if he were bought out, the Mavs would have to compete with other center-needing teams for his services. In the vast majority of cases, the competition is not monetary, with all the offers tending to be for a rest-of-season minimum contract. Instead, he's likely to pick a destination based on the role and playoff potential he might gain, combined with his desire to play for that team.

For Kaman, the leading suitors would likely be Dallas, Miami, Boston, and Houston. Given his relationship to Dirk, the Mavs' chances, and the role available, we think Dallas would be his choice as the best fit for him, but the risk is that he might think differently.

But if he does get bought out and the Mavs did land him, the reward would be sizable, because the Mavs would be able to keep their other players while adding him on a cheap contract, rather than sending away talent and having him tie up over $14M of the team salary. For that reason, our guess is that while the Mavs would love to have him, we think they're more likely to roll the dice on grabbing him after a buyout rather than trade for him.

THE TRADEABILITY OF TRIX by Lord and Fish - march 13

As the Dallas Mavericks plow toward the 2 p.m. Thursday trade deadline, they have expressed no sense of urgency to make moves to gain additional cap room for the summer. ‘Trix for Nocioni now? Dumping Odom now? Nope. No urgency. If the Mavs are to have any chance at creating The 3D Blueprint, are they taking a big risk by keeping these assets in the bank?

According to one very knowledgeable NBA connection with inside sources everywhere, the definitive answer is "Absolutely not."

As the Mavs are game-planning it, here's how the 3D Blueprint would work from here going forward (in an ideal world):

* First, they will get the commitments from Deron Williams and Dwight Howard in early July to sign with Dallas. (In a sense, better to do it all then than to do part of it now, as you can read about in "Deadline Dwight.'')

* Second, they will clear out the rest of the cap space needed to sign those players, with the key (and most difficult) move being a trade of either Shawn Marion or Haywood with no players coming back to Dallas.

* Third, they would then sign the players to the agreed-upon deals.

It's the second step in that process that has been the subject of debate, as fans and media have questioned whether the Mavs would be able to find a willing trade partner (or two) in July to take Marion or Haywood in such a deal. While we've accepted and promoted the idea as doable based on similar deals this season involving Lamar Odom, Mehmet Okur, and Corey Brewer/Rudy Fernandez, the skeptics have continued to express doubt as to whether either Marion or Haywood would have any appeal to other teams in such a circumstance.

In a Monday conversation on ESPN's Ben-and-Skin radio show, ace reporter Marc Stein was asked about the possibility of the Mavs finding another team willing to do such a trade, and he had no doubts.

"I've actually run it past a few GMs," Stein said, noting that Marion's trade value has skyrocketed with his play in the Mavs' title run as well as from his incredible defensive work this season. "Someone will be willing to take him on in a deal where the Mavs don't have to take back any salary. Remember there are gonna be a lot of teams with cap space this summer.''

Stein went on to emphasize that his stance isn't based on assurances emanating from the Mavs themselves or his own evaluation, but rather from asking that question of multiple GMs around the league.

We've put ourselves in position to know the numbers. Stein is in a position to know league-wide opinions. But most important to note: if Stein knows this is the climate around the NBA, so do the Mavs. And that helps to explain why Dallas will be more interested this week in deals that might improve the team rather than cap-clearing ones.

That is effectively our shootdown of any rumor of a Dallas dump. (And yes, that includes the dumping of Lamar Odom, as tempting as such a notion might be based on his play and persona.) Specifically, we can apply this to the Chris Sheridan push for Dallas to "dump'' Marion on the Sixers in exchange for Andres Nocioni. Chris' logic: If the master plan is to clear enough cap space to make a run at free agents Dwight Howard and Deron Williams, the Mavs need to find a taker for Shawn Marion and the two remaining years on his contract. A straight-up deal for Andres Nocioni (a favorite of Rick Carlisle) makes sense for both teams.

Truth: Nocioni is not more "favorite'' to Carlisle that Marion is. Not for this year's team, for certain. Not even close.

More Important Truth: The Mavs do not "need'' to find a taker for Marion. Not yet.

What changes that? Maybe the gauging of the vericity of the Yahoo report that states oh-so-matter-of-factly that Dwight Howard is a sure bet to go to the Nets, either now or in the summer.

We can at this point correct Sheridan on what the Mavs are thinking and we can support what Stein is reporting. But we cannot at this point refute or confirm the "automatic'' move of Dwight to the Nets except to wonder about the logic of a player and his representatives narrowing a choice down to one team four months before he is required to do so.

Woj seems quite certain of this, however, tweeting of Dwight Howard: "He's determined to leave the Magic for the Nets, either now or later.''

If Woj is right, it means Deron stays in NJ, too, one might assume. It means The 3D Blueprint is shredded. It means the Mavs go back to the Asset Management drawing board.

And maybe it means a change in deadline urgency, too.

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