When the news originally broke prior to this season that Tyson Chandler would indeed be heading to another team it felt like a franchise misstep. With the scent of the sweep still fresh in the air emotion demands that regret to bubble to the surface once more. Should it? Donnie's belief that TY-as-a-Mav wouldn't have meant wins over OKC ring true to me – though not in the way you might imagine.
GM Donnie Nelson has now said repeatedly that Chandler wouldn't have changed the outcome of the series against what proved to be a superior OKC team, for me, carry some semblance of truth … though not in the way you would imagine.
To begin, pointing to the outcome of the New York series as a knock against Chandler is irrelevant – unless Dirk Nowitzki, Kidd, Marion, Terry and the rest of this past season's Mavs have been suiting up for NY and the Thunder's roster has been wearing the Heat uniforms. These are completely different teams facing entirely different opponents. The impact TY's made with his new teammates, which includes the Defensive Player of the Year award, has no bearing on what he could have accomplished here.
If you want to head the other way with it, ask yourself if New York even makes the playoffs without Chandler. The fact that he's a member of a collective that fell short to a Miami team many favor for the championship isn't a knock. Instead, the fact that they were there in the first place despite a coaching change, a superstar (if you view Carmelo as this) that admittedly wasn't giving his all for the complete season, and whatever you want to make of what Amar'e Stoudamire has become, should be viewed as a compliment.
But again, how Chandler has fared in New York is irrelevant.
I still believe the correct course of action would have been to retain Chandler (my thoughts when I began digging further into the numbers for this article – will they hold up?), but you can't blindly say it would have been this year's Dallas Mavericks-plus Tyson. If the dream of Deron Williams (and don't forget the hope for bringing in Dwight Howard either during the 2011-12 season or this offseason as a free agent was still alive at that time) was to survive, a dream that deserved to be nurtured, other sacrifices would have been essential.
We'll explain an alternative course of action involving keeping Chandler, contrasting it with what has taken place this year as well as with where the Dallas Mavericks now stand, ousted from the playoffs in four games (though this particular outcome won't weigh heavily in our reasoning).
We'll begin with our assumptions:
ASSUMPTION No. 1: The deal Tyson got from the Knicks would not have been the deal he signed with the Mavericks. His contract with New York came about only after it was blatantly apparent that he was not heading back to Dallas and was on the table as a means to exceed the rumored deal Golden State was offering.
Chandler was never going to settle for a significantly team-friendly deal to be a Maverick. He had openly stated as much. Yet, we're forced to wonder how different his free-agency approach changes if teams viewed him with a near certainty that he was only using them to negotiate with Dallas. Even setting that notion aside, if the Mavs showed from the start that they were desirous of keeping Chandler for the long term with a competitive salary, how far out the door does he get?
This was a team still basking in their championship glory and the Mavs could offer Chandler something no one else could: the chance to revel in that glory for a series of once-in-a-lifetime events to share with his comrades in arms, a ring ceremony or banner raising … the spoils of a championship team setting about its defense.
Chandler wanted a fair deal over multiple years. We'll ask again, had Dallas been offering something more substantial and with more security than a one-year deal (regardless of how fruitful), how far from the table does he push?
Where our first assumption leads: Chandler could have been had on a four-year deal starting in the $10-$12 million range. For the sake of argument, we'll use the $12 million number moving forward (meaning a full offer of four years and $51,240,000.00, factoring in 4.5% raises every season, only ends up being around $4.17 million less than the reported $55.41 million of his Knicks contract, and he would have gotten to stay in Dallas).
ASSUMPTION No. 2: A deal of Chandler to the Thunder was nixed due to their medical staff's concerns over his health viability. He may only be 29 (for the 2011-12 season), but his body wears the scars of multiple injuries collected over 10 seasons and 19,802 regular season and playoff minutes in the league (prior to the 2011-12 campaign) … not to mention international play, which he may again partake in with this summer's Olympic squad.
If the Mavs medical team was advising management against the probabilities of Chandler maintaining his health through a four-year deal, which isn't unreasonable to question, the risk quickly becomes exponentially greater. In the environment of the new CBA, a contract of this size for a player unable to contribute at levels near his salary is a near death sentence. For this purpose, we'll assume he was granted medical clearance, granted the same odds of health as any other 29-year-old 7-footer. If he wasn't, you have no choice but to do as the Mavs say they did: offer a significant one-year deal and walk away if those terms cannot be agreed to. Inherent to this discussion, our assumption must be that Chandler was not medically deemed too high of a risk to take. In this regard, any stance is admittedly a gamble.
ASSUMPTION No. 3/SACRIFICE No. 1: In light of his performance against the Thunder, many may view this as little to no sacrifice, but that ignores the significant role Brendan Haywood played in getting the Mavs to the Finals a season ago. True, the injury removed him from those Finals, but ignoring his contributions prior to that point is revisionist's history. With Chandler, there would have been little choice but to amnesty Haywood. Perhaps Cuban swallows the luxury tax hit to keep him for one last season, as his cap figure wouldn't have to be removed until the chase for Deron had begun … but that's a substantial monetary hit to take, guaranteeing the Mavs would have been well over the Luxury Tax line. (Side note for those looking to mark their calendars, Amnesties will be made official in the seven days after the July Moratorium, between July 11 – 17, though we're likely to hear whispers if a move is to come sooner than that)
WITH CHANDLER - SACRIFICE No. 2: Looking at the season as a whole, Vince Carter outshone the expectations of most. Granted, these expectations weren't set extremely high to start, but he was able to shoulder the offensive load for short stretches of the season as well as allowing Dirk brief respites within games while the team fed Carter in the post or through isolations.
Carter's contract is certainly reasonable, but once you add Chandler to the mix he not only puts the Mavs over the luxury tax line in 2011-12, even if you've already amnestied Haywood, but places a hold on additional dollars against 2012 free agency cap, which you have less of with Chandler on the books … though Carter's hit can be reduced to only $800k over the next five season using the NBA's new "stretch" provision which takes the remaining guaranteed money owed to a player and allows a team to "stretch" that over double the guaranteed years remaining on the contract, plus one. For Carter, that guaranteed money is $2 million for each of the next two seasons. So, $4 million spread over five cap years or $800k per once "stretched."
Given that a roster hold of $473,604 for each empty spot up to 13 players, that's not a significant penalty against the cap (only $326,396 cap hit above what it would have been without Carter) in 2012, but it is $4 million Cuban must still pay out of his pocket.
WITH CHANDLER - SACRIFICE No. 3: This is where it truly begins to hurt, and where the serious arguments may begin, as well as a heightened risk. For the efforts to sign Deron Williams outright to remain strong (without the need of a sign-and-trade) and have Chandler on the roster, Marion would have to go.
Again, nothing would technically have to be done until this (the 2012) offseason, but that would be a substantial risk … what happens if you can't find a taker for Marion's final two seasons and $17,463,160 in that short period of time? For one, you're likely out of the running for D-Will, or at least become dependant on a sign-and-trade.
In light of how this season went, it's reasonable to assume the Mavs may have been able to find a taker for Marion even under the understanding that Dallas would be required to take on no money beyond the 2011-12 season, or at least substantially less than what Marion is scheduled to earn … but what if he would have gotten hurt instead of showing he's still one of the best defenders in the league?
You can't ignore that risk.
Had they signed Chandler and not been able to shed Marion's cap hit, they would have become dependent on a sign-and-trade to acquire Williams … again, quite a risk … and that situation would have only gotten worse for the summer of 2013 when a number of non-Williams superstar options should exist.
(Note: you cannot use the "stretch" provision on Marion because his contract was signed under the old CBA … and due to its supreme unlikelihood there is little point in discussing a Marion buyout)
For example, making the following assumptions: Lamar Odom and enough cash to cover his $2.4 million buyout are traded to a team with cap space for no salaries in return (though if Chandler is in Dallas, Odom obviously never is), Dominique Jones and the $1.28 million he is owed in 2012-13 are given away via trade to any takers (perhaps using a draft pick as incentive to draw takers), Vince Carter is waived and the "stretch" provision is applied to the remaining $4 million he is guaranteed at $800k per year for five years and the options or rights are declined on Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Ian Mahinmi, Kelenna Azubuike, Yi Jianlian, Delonte West and Brian Cardinal.
With a 2012-13 roster of only Dirk ($20.9m), Chandler ($12.54m), Marion ($8.4m), Roddy Beaubois ($2.23m), 17th pick in the draft ($1,302,600*), Brandan Wright ($992,680) and the appropriate cap holds you're left about $11.8 million under the cap using the possible cap number provided by David Lord of $61,397,114.00 (though it may be as low as $58,044,000.00, which would obviously lessen the Mavs cap room by about $3 million) … not enough to sign Williams outright to a max deal that will start in the vicinity of $17.2 million.
(* the 17th spot in the draft is slotted for $1,302,600, but can be as little as 80% to as much as 120% of that amount)
If you work under the assumption that Vince Carter would not have been signed had Chandler been retained, you could up that $11.8 number to $12.6 million in space beneath the cap.
Remove Marion from that equation and you move up to $19.8 million in cap space ($20.6 if Carter was never signed), plenty to offer Williams a max deal outright. So, Marion has to go one way or another, and any chance to trade him during the regular season or around the trade deadline probably could not have been passed up on … meaning there's a fair chance the Mavs enter the 2011-12 playoffs without Haywood and Marion (and any sweeteners that may have been needed to trade one of them) but with Chandler.
So, do the odds of playoff success this year really rise with Chandler considering what is likely gone?
The drawback then, but one you face regardless, is the roster Dallas would be inviting Williams to join: Dirk, Chandler, Roddy, Wright, possibly the 1st-round draft pick and any players added later.
How does this differ from the current reality?
Maintaining the assumptions given above (being able to part with Odom for no return, trade Jones, "stretch" Carter, set free Kidd, Terry, West, Mahinmi, Azubuike, Yi and Cardinal), the current Mavs will have just over $16 million in cap space (using that $61,397,114 cap number) and the following players to join Deron Williams: Dirk, Haywood, Marion, Roddy, Wright and their 1st-round draft pick …
That $16 million isn't enough to add Williams at a max-deal outright, but that level of cap space wouldn't be hard to attain if needed … though it would likely require giving Roddy away for little to nothing in return, or picking up abundant space by using the amnesty on Haywood.
Essentially, the choice, the opposing landscapes, becomes simple. Would you rather have Brendan Haywood and Marion (both who would have had to be sent away via any combination of a trade and the amnesty clause) or Tyson Chandler?
Possibly, you could change that option to Haywood (or whatever may be obtained using the cap space created by amnestying him) and Marion … or Chandler?
Those options for Williams to join, placed side-by-side:
|OPTION 1||OPTION 2|
|Rd-1 Pick||Br Wright|
|--- ----||Rd1 Pick|
In a vacuum, you may still choose Chandler, but you must factor in that this choice creates multiple dependencies on other events, any of which goes wrong and the larger plans may crash.
Either way, with Chandler or with the current reality, the Mavs will be inviting Williams to join a roster that will be greatly altered from their current composition, and if needed, reality adds whatever may be signed with the money gained by amnestying Haywood, if desired.
You may also hear the name Nick Calathes make its way back onto the Dallas scene, a 6-6 product of the 2009 draft, a point guard who will be 23 at the beginning of next season after getting some seasoning playing overseas against top European talent with Panathinaikos and the Greek national team. Not to mention the fact that Jason Kidd likely comes paired with Williams (and don't forget that Howard fellow in Orlando, more in a moment) and the roster instantly starts to look a little better than first glances reveal.
If you don't like the roster above don't become too disheartened as the Mavs still hold another advantage in their pocket, a trait that should be attractive to a talent of Williams' caliber being courted. They have Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson. Like them or hate them, they have shown a complete devotion to getting the best possible players to surround their stars. It's taken for granted in Dallas, but it isn't a given for fans of teams across the league.
Having plowed through the numbers, one thing becomes obvious: the emotional response of wanting to see Chandler return is understandable, but comes with significant risks.
OTHER INFLUENCES WORTH NOTING: When looking at the money circumstances above, there are other factors that should be considered into the overall equation. We'll begin within Chandler the player.
Many questions have been cast on whether or not Chandler is worth $12 million a season. Set aside the above numbers and view this through a vacuum of how he fit beside Dirk Nowitzki and the answer arrived at should be an easy "yes" … to a point (that point being a max starting point of $12 million).
The defensive prowess of Chandler, of the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, has never been questioned. His offense, on the other hand, has … though this is oversimplifying the issue.
No, Chandler will never intelligently be relied upon as a post player capable of catching the ball on the block, backing down his defender and creating points on his own. However, I think this assessment of his offensive game is shallow and incomplete.
Due to his activity level without the ball in his hands, his knack for making himself available for a pass should his defender's focus wander, he must be accounted for by the opposing defense. Whatever his offensive game lacks, he remains a threat.
Far too often this season, with either Haywood or Mahinmi on the floor, the defender assigned to them was free to roam and help cutoff any penetration or contest mid-range shots. Never was this noticed more than in crunch time when it became commonplace to find a second lengthy defender free to help on Dirk with little fear of consequence.
The perimeter threats remained covered and if Haywood happened to make a catch near the rim, one tough foul removed the threat almost entirely due to his struggles at the free-throw line. In essence, Chandler created space and points never credited to his personal boxscore simply by keeping defenses honest.
Compound this with Chandler's offensive self awareness – something Haywood often seems to lack as he puts the ball on the floor and attempts post moves he has almost no chance of converting – and you quickly find of a near-perfect offensive fit beside Dirk Nowitzki. Throw in Chandler's defensive skills, the vocal leadership and accountability he demanded and you had an all-around fit that may exceed all but one other center in the league.
Speaking of Dwight Howard, worth noting when looking at any Dallas roster (whether Chandler had been here or not) featuring Deron Williams you find the odds grow significantly of Howard someday wearing a Mavs uniform. If D-Will were in Dallas that means he isn't in New Jersey, likely removing them from Howard's short list of teams he would be amenable to being dealt (should he once more voice his desire to leave Orlando – not a given, but not an unforeseeable circumstance either).
If rumors are to be believed, Howard already removed or at least lowered the Lakers on that list … just as Dallas would be elevated by the presence of Williams. In short, acquiring Williams could be a clear path towards picking up Howard. If nothing else, it certainly couldn't hurt … and don't think the Mavs and Williams aren't aware of this fact.
When looking at the roster Williams would be joining, more must be considered than the names currently written on the page. Instead, add names like Kidd, Calathes, the 17th overall pick (if it's kept), and/or the growing level of attraction for any other star … all under the respected guidance of Donnie and Cuban.
Nothing is guaranteed, foremost being that Williams will choose Dallas, but perhaps the supporting cast Williams would soon find isn't as dire as it may first appear … with or without Chandler.
CONCLUSION: Breathing in the above, where does your heart rest? And, your mind? Emotion is a powerful drive, but knowing more of the risks, of the sacrifices that become required; what would you have done?
And for a moment remember that Caron Butler and JJ Barea were likely never options due to what they were offered by other teams. You could argue they may have accepted less to stay in Dallas (as we did with Chandler), but the lump sum of all these players becomes a death knell to future hopes. Peja Stojakovic was retiring either way and it would have been hard to give DeShawn Stevenson more than a single season deal, a deal it seemed to take some humbling before he accepted with the Nets. This wasn't viably a "bring the entire gang back for one more run" situation. That was never a realistic option.
Do you sign Chandler and dedicate yourself to figuring something out, knowing that multiple variables beyond your control could send your hopes crashing? Or, do you believe letting go of the best NBA team this city has ever known in the hopes that it provides the quickest road back to ultimate prominence?
For us ... and as it relates to players considering joining the Mavs in the future ... It's not as obvious a decision as one would think.