Exclusive: Mavs Eye Bid On Roy Hibbert
THE SCOUTING REPORT The Dallas Mavericks believe Roy Hibbert has star power, having bounced back from a slow NBA start to become an All-Star level force on both ends of the floor. At 7-2 and 280, he moves with aggression, is a fine shot-blocker (if foul-prone) and an offensive player who would blossom even more if properly fed by a point guard. On the defensive end he struggled in defending the pick-and-roll in the Miami playoff series. But at the same time, he was the one offensive weapon that the smallish Heat could not answer for.
Hibbert is 25, was a 12/12 guy throughout the playoffs (after a 13/8 regular season), and would, depending on the dollars involved, be a player penciled in to be Dallas' third-best player for the long haul in the SuperTeam Era.
POACHING THE PACERS
The Pacers are now a budding contender in the East who gave Miami a second-round scare. With Hibbert and Granger and company, they are a team on the come. The Pacers finished with the fifth best record in the NBA and the third seed in the Eastern Conference.
"The theme is basically we have a chance to do something really big," coach Frank Vogel said. "My system is brand new. I'm a young coach and we have a young core of players in place. So I feel like we have more room for growth than any team that's competing for a championship right now. We're excited to get back to work at some point here soon and build on what we started."
But in part because of their small-market status, Indy is also a team constantly on the brink.
Executive of the Year Larry Bird's future is unclear. Even if that stabilizes, the Pacers do not draw well and they do not spend. They've been an under-the-cap team for two years, a difficult trick to pull off going forward while trying to keep Granger happy and keep Roy Hibbert and fellow restricted FA George Hill paid.
I love Indiana," Hibbert said recently. "They took a chance on me when they traded Jermaine O'Neal and a couple of other guys to get me with the 17th pick. This is the place that I feel I'm very loyal to."
Hibbert has developed into the real deal at center. He will get paid, and maybe overpaid. The way the restricted FA game is played, a team will sign him to an offer sheet in hopes that the Pacers will not match. (Dallas fans will recall the same dance with Orlando and Marcin Gortat.) The Mavs certainly have a devotion to employing centers, multiple ones – and a willingness to overpay.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF OVERPAYING CENTERS
We know the Mark Cuban Mavs will spend money for a center. We also know that Mavs centers, once paid, tend toward a lessened production. To wit:
*In 2002, Dallas re-signed Raef LaFrentz to a seven-year, $69.9 million deal. In the following season his scoring average dipped by a bit and his rebounds went down by almost half, and a year later he was traded away.
*The year before Erick Dampier signed his seven-year, $73-million contract in August 2004, he was a 12/12 guy at Golden State. The year after he did the deal he slipped to 9.2 points/8.5 rebounds. The year after that he settled into Damp reality at 5.7 points/7.8 rebounds.
*In 2005, Shawn Bradley retired with three years and $14.5 million left on his contract after a season in which he scored 2.7 points per game.
(Sidebar: When did we start noticing that the Cuban/Nelsons Mavs valued the idea of collecting centers? The 2004-2005 included newcomer Dampier, veteran Bradley, the developing Calvin Booth and rookies D.J. Mbenga and Pavel Podkolzin.)
*The year before DeSagana Diop signed his five-year, $38-million contract in 2008, he was at 3.5 points/5.2 rebounds. The year after he came back with a new deal he was 1.6 points/3.5 rebounds.
*The year before Haywood signed his six-year contract worth as much as $55 million in 2010, he earned Dallas' trust with 8.1 points and 7.4 rebounds per following his February trade to the Mavs. The year after he got his money – and after being beaten out by Chandler at training camp – he spent part of the season as the Mavs' third-string center before popping back to life in the playoffs and doing fine work in helping to beat Portland, LA and OKC.
This past year, he served as the starting center in the wake of TY's departure in free agency. Mavs coach Rick Carlisle praised Haywood's defensive work this season, but nevertheless, Haywood's salary and situation makes him a candidate for amnesty.
In short, the Mavs value center play and depth at the position. They take big swings to find answers. (The DUST Chip for Chandler even qualifies here; TY was viewed by some as an injury-plagued talent when in the summer of 2010 the Mavs took on his remaining one year and $12.75 million.) The answers have sometimes come, but they've come at a premium price.
THE TWO GAMES OF DOMINOES
Should the Pacers match? Will they? Forget reports that guarantee anything; the Mavs know more than "reports'' know and if there wasn't a shot at this, however remote, Dallas wouldn't bother doing this much homework.
No, Dallas' problem with a Hibbert bid is the timing of it all … the juggling of it all.
For the Mavs to turn in an offer sheet on Hibbert, they must first clear the room to make his signing possible. The details here represent Grad School-Level Capology, and DB.com's David Lord will be following up this story with more information. But here's a rounded-off version of the issues at hand:
Barring the unexpected between now and then, on July 1 the Mavs will have hard-salary commitments totaling in the range of $45 million. But they will also have soft-salary commitments (cap holds, available exceptions and so on) that add another $30 million to their working "team salary'' total. Therefore, with a cap in the $58-to-$60 million arena, to sign any premium free agent, they would have to first toss $30 to $35 million in roster-building assets in the trash in order to push their team salary down to the $40 to $50 million range so that there is room for the signing.
To strip down in that manner for Deron is an obvious action, and can be done in conjunction with Deron (or any other unrestricted free agent) agreeing to a deal. But Hibbert (or any of a host of other restricted FAs, from Brook Lopez to Javale McGee to Eric Gordon to Nic Batum) is bound by his existing team during a 72-hour deciding period.
So the problematic scenario: Dallas signs Hibbert to an offer sheet while at the same time slicing down its roster of assets to make room. Seventy-two hours later – because Indy is likely to take all the time possible, thus putting a competitor on freeze, unable to make other moves – the Pacers match. Bird and agent David Falk hold a happy joint press conference.
The Pacers keep Hibbert. The Mavs not only don't get him, but have also renounced other assets they cannot get back.
Oh, and one more thing: Once a team has pushed its assets onto the table in this way, there is no room to simultaneously send out additional offer sheets. In other words, the Mavs can't make bids on restricted FA's Hibbert and McGee and Lopez at the same time. The eggs will be in one basket, and while Dallas is involved in its 72-hour process with one guy, other teams will be locking in the same way with their targets.
It would be helpful if Dallas could somehow know for certain that Indy will match all comers, thus saving itself the time and trouble. Hey, Bird and Carlisle are pals; would the Pacers do Dallas that favor?
Nope. Sorry. That's not how this game of dominoes is played.
There are some RFAs not worthy of such a risk. DB.com is under the impression the Mavs are working to convince themselves Hibbert IS worth it.
If the Mavs do lose out on this bid, they have created room for an alternative move, a chase for a restricted or unrestricted FA as yet unclaimed. (That can be spun as a positive, though it might put the Mavs in the position of spending on a product they don't truly love.)
Or, they could remain stripped down and deal with the fan disappointment of one more season of "Keeping Our Powder Dry'' – a some temporary pain made more tolerable if Deron is a Mav and fans understand that Nowitzki and Williams are supportive of the long-term path.
That's all part of the downside. A more rosy scenario: A combination of Plan A and Plan B: The signing of Deron Williams paired with an offer sheet to Hibbert that ideally, Indy fails to match. (Pacers owner Herb Simon's breaking point is not known. Does he blink at an arguably outrageous starting salary of $14 million?)
It's a dreamy concept but a worthy alternative to waiting on The 3D Blueprint, with Dwight Howard still facing an unknown future: Dirk under contract, Deron as the centerpiece, and Roy Hibbert as the younger sidekick, the third best player, with a salary slotted nicely under his two veteran teammates.
So Deron remains Plan A. An offer sheet to Roy Hibbert is a possible Plan B. Finding a way to build with both players is a pipedream worth examining … but losing assets for a chance at it is the risk that must be weighed against the reward.
Friend of the Mavs and DB.com "Flamethrower'' Pat Reeves is battling cancer. Please consider a donation -- no matter how big or small -- to help her with her visits for treatment.
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