Exclusive: The Mavs Summer Planner
With the 2012 NBA title decided, the player draft is less than a week away and free agency starts in only nine days. For the Mavs a working blueprint for the summer has now emerged, and amid the team's constant quest to be flexible and adaptable, it has two key elements that will determine how they will ultimately construct the entire 2012-13 roster.
Here for the first time is the comprehensive outline of what the Mavs are aiming to do this summer, including:
•The primary plan itself, step-by-step
•Explanations of why this is the Mavs preferred course of action
•The two key issues in their plan, and how their outcome will alter everything else
Before we're done, in Part 2 of Your Mavs Summer Planner, we'll take a hard look at the Mavs blueprint from a contrarian angle, by examining where players and other teams might cooperate, and how they might not … and we'll include a look at the obstacles that could get in the way, along with available alternatives if needed.
(UPDATE: The What-If's - Flaws, Obstacles and Alternate Plans ... plus the latest on the Mavs and D-Will, Odom and Brandon Roy, here in Part 2)
STEP 1 – The Mavs' ongoing No. 1 priority
What the Dallas Mavericks will do this summer is intrinsically tied to a long-term quest which is easy to understand: get another superstar to Dallas to play alongside and eventually succeed Dirk Nowitzki as the face of the franchise – and while doing so, continue to contend for titles.
Keep in mind that the Mavs are not simply looking for some talent. They've made the determination that we are entering a SuperTeam Era (topped, of course, by the newly-crowned champion Heat). So it's all about adding a player good enough to carry them to elite status and whose presence makes everyone else's job so much easier.
Easy to say, hard to do, because in the NBA, demand for those types far exceeds supply. Every team wants them, and they are rarely available. In most cases they come through the draft as they enter the league, and once drafted, the NBA system is designed to keep them with the same team for many years. But to pick early enough to get one via the draft, the Mavs would have to do something they don't want to do: lose a lot.
As a result the Mavs have been forced to pursue one of the less likely avenues – via trade or free agency – to land that superstar. In prior years they amassed as many trade chips as possible, even creatively inventing some advantageous contracts for that purpose, hoping to bag a superstar with their inventiveness. In 2009 our discovery of The Stack Chip didn't bring a superstar as hoped, but did land Shawn Marion. In 2010 a DB.com classic, The DUST Chip, didn't land "Sammy Superstar'' but netted Tyson Chandler. In 2011 they won a title from the talent amassed, despite the fact they hadn't yet landed the next superstar.
That was great Asset Management by the front office, great coaching by Carlisle and staff, and great performance by Dirk and company.
The new CBA all but eliminated the trade angle, but made it a bit easier to entice a star with cap room. So the Mavs positioned themselves with cap room for potential free agents in the summer of 2012, with the knowledge that Dwight Howard, Deron Williams, and Chris Paul were all scheduled to be free agents then.
Howard and Paul delayed their free agency turn until 2013. D-Will did not.
All of that background is vital to understanding the Mavs plan. The clock is ticking down on The UberMan's prime. Simply stated, EVERYTHING the Mavs do this summer, and all their alternatives, will revolve around their quest of retaining and enhancing their ability to land a superstar (or maybe two) as soon as possible, while continuing to try to win another title.
Step 2 – December 2011 through May 2012
For the 2011-2012 season, you already know the story. The roster was put together to leave the Mavs in position to sign TWO superstar free agents after the season, while also trying to win during the season.
The concept – which we began writing about during last year's training camp, labeling it "The 3D Blueprint'' – continues to be scoffed at in some circles. Mavs management doesn't talk about it publically; to do so would raise expectations, invite scorn and would've tiptoed into tampering territory.
But Jason Kidd knows what we know, and he's saying it out loud:
"I really think Cuban is going to put the pieces together to give us an opportunity to get back to win it," Kidd says. "He put himself in position to go get two more studs."
The attempt to win got them into the playoffs but fell short. But their ability to clear and preserve cap room for free agency -- and "the big fish,'' as GM Donnie Nelson calls it -- did not.
Without wading through all the numbers again, there's one crucial point to understand : at the April trade deadline, the Mavs themselves (who would certainly know) were confident they had already hit the cap goal for the summer, and could clear out the entire roster as needed if they could land both stars. They left a few moves for July (if the need arose), but ones they already knew were doable.
So as we look at their working plan, we have to understand that while Howard is off the market, D-Will is not, and using their own expert analysis, the same room-for-two flexibility can still be opened if they need it. That means finding room for only one offers them choices.
Step 3 – June 2012
By the end of June the first key element to the Mavs' summer will hopefully happen, and it revolves around Lamar Odom.
As DB.com has outlined exclusively, Odom is on the books for $8.2 million next season, but the Mavs have no desire to be saddled with that obligation. His contract contains a provision that he can be waived, wiping out that final year, with a buyout of $2.4 million, if he is waived by June 29.
On or before June 29, we can rest assured that the Mavs will have taken some action regarding Odom. (Sources tell DB.com that the club is already in engaged with talks involving Odom agent Jeff Schwartz.)
The easiest path would simply be to waive Odom. But they prefer not to do that since the $2.4 million would be charged to the 2012-13 cap and reduce their available spending room that might be needed later in the summer.
An obvious alternative would be to trade him to a team with 2011-12 cap space, and let that other team waive him. Such a trade would include the cash for the buyout, plus something extra for the trouble and the tying up of a bit of cap space, and according to our calculations, Toronto and Sacramento are eligible if they wish.
But as we've noted in other articles, the Mavs prefer to turn that instantly expiring contract, which can go from $8.2M to $2.4M in a flash, into a trade asset. In order to maximize its potential as LOAF or in any other way, their first key to the summer is to negotiate a shift in Odom's buyout deadline from June 29 to mid-July.
Why is that so key? It's because of their big priority of pursuing D-Will.
The Mavs and Deron won't be able to talk contract until July 1, and a big part of his desire will be to go to a team already stocked with talent like Dirk, but also more -- players like Marion, perhaps a center like Haywood, and so on. If the Mavs trade Odom in June for another player, that simply reduces cap room for later and forces the Mavs to later clear out some they might want to add around a Dirk-DWill core.
In addition, as they sit now, having room for DWill in July is assured by the removal of Odom and by putting Haywood or Marion on the amnesty list. But bringing back another player in June would probably put the team in the uneasy position of having to trade either Haywood or Marion in July for no salary in return if they need cap room for DWill. While they are sure they can do such a trade on paper, they've been chasing a second superstar for so long that they don't like that risk.
In light of all that, if he's to be used as a trade chip in June, the return for Odom would have to be extraordinary. Making the decision in mid-July – after DWill has already made his choice – is far more desirable, as Odom then becomes a very flexible asset. At that point he could be waived if the space is needed, he could be traded to a team looking to reduce salary and willing to give up talent to do so (especially in any number of secondary scenarios where DWill goes elsewhere), and he could even be used as part of the salary match in a free agent sign-and-trade deal.
The Mavs prefer for him to be used in one particular way, in July, one which we'll outline later and which maximizes his value towards their big goal. So the Mavs' plan for June is simple: get Odom's deadline moved to mid-July.
(*In Part 2 we'll examine: Why would Odom do this? What do the Mavs do if Odom says no?)
The Mavs do have a few other tasks in June. On June 28 they'll use their draft picks, presently Nos. 17 and 55. And on or before June 30 they will have to make two other roster decisions: they can waive Brandan Wright by that date and clear his salary off the books completely for 2012-13 (they won't do this), and they can waive Vince Carter by that date and reduce the rest of his salary owed from $6.27M to $4 million, with a cap hit in 2012-13 of only $800,000 (they might do this). In all likelihood, rather than waive him they will try to get Carter to move his deadline to mid-July to be used as a cap-reducing trade chip.
But in June, getting Odom to move that deadline is the most important item on the Mavs' to-do list.
Step 4 - July 1, 2012
July 1 is the formal beginning of the new NBA season, and it's the day that teams can begin to pursue free agents. No contracts can be signed until July 11, but verbal agreements can be reached.
On July 1, the Mavs begin working on their second key element in their plan for the summer: sign Deron Williams.
On that day, look for the Mavs salesmanship team – maybe led by Carlisle and more (DB.com is told the team is still finalizing that part of "The Pitch'') – to begin DeronQuest. They'll arrange to see Deron and begin to try to get a commitment. Williams' personal timetable is to have it figured out by July 5 or earlier (right when his Team USA commitment in Las Vegas begins), so the Mavs should know in a matter of days, perhaps even the first day.
The reason this is key is obvious. If they land Williams, he's that long-sought second superstar. It's 2D. And they'll mold the roster accordingly.
(*In Part 2 we'll examine: What course will the Mavs pursue if DWill says no?)
Step 5 – beginning July 2 or so (after DWill decides) through July 10, 2012
The Mavs' preference, in/when they get a commitment from Deron, is not to clear out a bunch of cap room, but rather to get him to Dallas in a way where they never clear out cap room and stay way over the cap. That would entail a sign-and-trade of DWill from the Nets.
In the ideal scenario, once he's decided he'll be a Mav, Dallas will contact the Nets and explore their interest in a trade, rather than Brooklyn losing him with nothing going back. Or maybe the Nets will do the calling, hoping to salvage something.
Either way, the Nets won't take junk, but will say yes if the Mavs offer something they like.
Why would the Nets have interest in such a proposal? Because at this point (again, if the Mavs get their way), he's already lost, and half-a-loaf is better than none. However, they won't want to clog up their roster with junk, preferring cap space over junk, so the Mavs might offer them trade pieces like Roddy, DoJo, a pick, or the like, and nothing more.
This doesn't satisfy the salary-matching rules for trades, so the Mavs would then add two other pieces to the deal: Odom and Carter.
With both having contracts that almost completely vanish when waived, they might go to the Nets, or perhaps a third team along with a keeper of an asset and some cash. Or perhaps the Lakers might want Odom – not as a cap reducer, but to keep – and Odom gets sent to the Lakers, Roddy B and Carter go to some team like Sacramento or Toronto, and a pick goes to the Nets (who might also get a giant $17.2 million trade exception in that scenario).
(*In Part 2 we'll examine: Why would the Nets help, and why wouldn't they shop DWill elsewhere instead? What do the Mavs do if the Nets say no? What do the Mavs do if the Lakers don't want Odom in trade? Why would the Lakers be interested?)
While we don't know the exact trade or trade partners that they would settle on, that general trade concept – use Odom's instant-expiring to get DWill by sign-and-trade -- is the core of the Mavs' preference this summer, a plan we've hinted at and dropped snippets about at various times, and as hinted at by Rick Carlisle recently when he hinted at Odom's contract being "very desirable.''
Why not just sign DWill outright? The issue is one of preserving assets that can be used to keep or in additional moves later.
Here's how Dallas' situation will look in July, and we'll assume the Mavs have drafted at 17, kept Wright, and made a deal to move the deadlines for Odom and Carter to July:
At that point they would have about $55.5 million on their books in salary and there would be another $1.5 million-ish in cap holds for empty roster slots. If the cap is at $58 million (the lowest possible), they would need to get that $57 million total down to about $41 mil in order to sign DWill.
On paper, that means they'd waive/trade Odom (a reduction of $8.2M if he's traded for no salary coming back), and probably amnesty (or trade for no salary coming back) Haywood or Marion. That would leave them with a returning core of Dirk, Wright, Carter, Roddy, DoJo, Azubuike, and either Marion or Haywood, plus whatever can be added with an MLE of $2.57 mil and minimums.
But to clear their existing cap level down to $41 million, they would have to get rid of not only Haywood (their only real center) or Marion (their best defender) but also a pile of other assets that carry hidden cap charges.
They would have to renounce the ability to go over the cap to sign Kidd and Jet, they would have to discard several trade exceptions that exceed $4 mil, and they would lose their full MLE ($5 mil), and their BAE ($1.9 mil).
On the other hand, by sign-and-trading for DWill, they could keep virtually the entire playoff team intact (or the equivalents thereof, in trade), losing only those players sent away in the DWill sign-and-trade – Odom (not coming back anyhow), Carter (perhaps the same), and Roddy or DoJo (being replaced by DWill anyhow). In addition, they would have the ability to add more talent in free agency (via the full MLE and BAE) and via trades (including using trade exceptions).
In essence, instead of swapping out DWill for a bunch of cleared-out assets and then having to find ways to build much of their roster back, they would be adding DWill right on top of an already-existing playoff team.
Don't want Haywood as your center? No problem, you still have him as an asset for a trade instead of on the amnesty rolls. Think Jet isn't the right guy to bring back? No problem, you can still use him as an asset in a sign-and-trade that helps him get the contract he wants and helps you get more talent.
The plan is not about having the existing roster per se, but about retaining assets. Is it pipe-dreamy? If you believe Deron is a candidate to come to Dallas (and it is that, a "candidate'') … the other steps aren't pipe-dreamy at all.
It's a simple plan, one the Mavs are already working on, and based around a few key moves that are in line with smart NBA GM'ing.
Step 6 - July 11-15, 2012
When business reopens on July 11, the Mavs (with a Deron agreement) would first execute the sign-and-trade for DWill that moves Odom, Carter, Roddy, and/or DoJo.
Then they would look to re-sign key players like Kidd, Delonte West and Mahinmi. Maybe find a sign-and-trade that sends Jet to a team that wants him for several years, while getting back something useful in return, if he doesn't fit in Dallas. After the status of Jet and Kidd are resolved (thereby removing their giant cap holds from the equation), grab one or more players using the MLE, BAE, and/or using a trade exception.
The genius in the Mavs plan? It preserves roster-building tools like trade exceptions and MLE/BAE, and converts all the players into useful assets rather than cap liabilities and players to let go of. Odom can be used as an asset by moving his deadline. So can Carter. Jet can be sign-and-traded by keeping free-agent rights, and on and on.
The pipe-dream? If you accept that Deron is a real possibility, then it's not in any of the above, but perhaps in imagining an extra step to the Mavs' plan, where with a full roster returning, the Mavs would have retained the salary-matching pieces it would take should Dwight Howard decide he wants to join the fun, too.
The 3D Blueprint? Yup. If you're going to plan, why not include in your plans the possibility of grand-slam home runs?
Haywood-Marion-Jet (in a sign-and-trade) would be enough to salary-match Howard-Turkoglu and would give the Magic the competitive veteran core they reportedly would seek in return, and the Mavs would have a 2012 just-picked player (and future picks as well) to toss into the mix. Just in case.
By the way: Wherever Dwight Howard goes that isn't Brooklyn makes the Nets all the less attractive to Deron. At this moment, Houston is reportedly trying to assemble assets to bring Dwight to the Rockets. That might end up being a one-year rental with Howard free next summer. Dallas has the ammunition to shop elsewhere for help now, as illustrated above ... and/or concern itself with Dwight in next year's Summer Planner.
There it is. Your 2012 Mavs Summer Planner. … with some blanks to fill in and questions to answer in Part 2 …
*In Part 2 of Your Mavs Summer Planner we'll answer all of the questions raised here and examine: What is the hidden-yet-crucial factor in the Mavs' blueprint that may have the most impact in ensuring it all goes according to plan?
The What-If's - Flaws, Obstacles and Alternate Plans ... here in Part 2)
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