Mavs Planner III: Odom, Deron & '12-13 Roster

The Mavs Summer Planner III: In the final part of our series, we look closely at July, including the very latest news from our sources from inside Mavs HQ, with the latest on the critical Odom deal, the sign-and-trade issue with Deron that we believe the Nets will have to consider, and a glance at what the 2012-13 Mavs roster might look like once it all shakes out:

The Mavs Summer Planner – In the third and final part of our series, we look more closely at July, including the very latest news from our sources.

ON JULY 1 OR SHORTLY THEREAFTER, THE MAVS' PLAN IS FOR Deron Williams TO TELL THEM HE WILL JOIN THEM

Signing Deron Williams is the focal point of the Mavs' summer, and when we get to July 1 the Mavs will drop everything and try to make that happen.

Will they get him? No one truly knows. We can verify the Mavs' intent, and for months we've examined some of the issues he might consider, but the bottom line is Deron simply making a choice to play where he wants.
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That decision is days away and Dallas is apparently one of his two finalists. He continues to insist that he hasn't decided, so if he doesn't know yet neither can we, and we'll all just have to wait to July to find out.

We've noted this here for chronological clarity, but for now we're skipping past the impact if he says no, and we'll address that later in this article.

IN EARLY JULY, AFTER GETTING A COMMITMENT FROM D-WILL, DALLAS COULD WORK OUT HIS ACQUISITION FROM THE NETS VIA SIGN-AND-TRADE

ITEM 1 – Would the Mavs want to expend assets to get D-Will via sign-and-trade, when they could simply sign him instead?

While there is added value to be gained by the Mavs in a D-Will sign-and-trade, signs are pointing to the Mavs willingness to bypass that pursuit and simply move Odom in June if they can.

The added value would derive from the difference in assets still available once D-Will is acquired. While a sign-and-trade would cost the Mavs some assets that they would have to trade away to make it happen, a simple free agent signing would also cost the Mavs assets (the ones they would have to get rid of to clear cap space). And in this situation, a trade would cost less.

To be able to sign D-Will as a free agent, the Mavs would have to waive Odom (or give him away in a trade with no player coming back) and get rid of Haywood (their best center) or Marion (their best defender) by the amnesty process or by a trade with nothing coming back. They would also have to give up their Bird rights on Kidd and JET, lose their BAE and their $5M MLE (they would get a $3M one instead), and renounce their trade exceptions. That represents a lot of roster-improving assets lost.

At this moment, with the Mavs considering a swap of Odom now, this exists as an unfortunate possibility.

However by doing a trade, they could give up as little as Odom, Carter, Dojo and a future pick, allowing them to retain everything else to build a better team around the Dirk-DWill core. (This example presumes Odom isn't shipped to LAC via Utah.) That means they would keep Haywood, Marion, and JET to make the team better either by their presence or by what can be yielded by a trade, and they would also have multiple exceptions to add more talent by signing and/or trade.

The sign-and-trade attempt would follow a shift of Odom's waive-at-a-discount deadline to July (again, an option that may be slipping away), and a D-Will commitment to sign. If the Nets said no, the Mavs would go another route and simply sign him.

However, the sign-and-trade approach has some iffiness to it, and signs now point to the Mavs having a willingness to take the first Odom exit strategy available and being done. As of Thursday that consisted of a proposed three-team trade in which Odom would go to the Clippers, Mo Williams to the Jazz, and the Mavs would get a conditional pick and an $8.9M trade exception. The holdup to the trade was the need to get Mo Williams to exercise his player option for another season, which he has said he plans to do but has not done yet. Without a future year on his contract, he cannot be traded.

By making the Odom trade now, Dallas would have limited options available to them in July. If they got D-Will with Odom already traded in June, the sign-and-trade option would be moot and the trade exception gained here would have to be discarded in order to clear cap room. The willingness to do the trade now reflects either a sense that D-Will will stay with the Nets, or that such trades (Odom's, or a sign-and-trade for D-Will) would not be available in July.

Even if the Mavs aren't able to get D-Will, making the exact same Odom deal in July would afford far more opportunity to gain value in return, as the move of Odom to the Clippers could be made a part of a deal where the Mavs are taking a $12.3M contract or bigger from someone else within that trade. We will explain that further later in this article.

As we speak, the Mavs are already actively engaged in "shopping" most of their roster too. But much of the activity you're hearing about is to lay the groundwork for July, determining their options and who they would send where to make deals work in the best way possible.

If the Mavs do find a workable deal for Odom, perhaps with LA and Utah, it's always possible that the teams will agree to defer the trade to July in order to give the Mavs added flexibility for their contribution. We'll look at that more closely as promised, with the understanding that they might not wait.

ITEM 2 – If the Mavs did pursue a sign-and-trade for D-Will, would the Nets be willing to participate? If so, what would they get?

The Nets have taken the public stance that they wouldn't entertain the idea of a sign-and-trade for D-Will. And that makes perfect sense - they don't want to open the bidding to additional suitors, and if they lose him they have no desire to clog up their cap with a bunch of undesired bodies on big contracts. Given that choice, they would prefer the cap space.

But that stance doesn't mean that, once he's decided to leave, they would turn down a consolation prize of beneficial assets only. After the decision is made, they will move forward …and if there's something to be gained that makes their rebuild easier, they'd have no reason to decline.

Of course in theory they could still decline, and the Mavs apparent willingness to go ahead and move Odom now, eliminating that idea entirely, may reflect an existing front office belief that the chance to get a yes from the Nets would be remote.

But NBA history shows us that despite initial frustration over the loss of a player like D-Will, a team losing such a player will ultimately do that deal if they can get something to their benefit as a consolation prize. For example, just two years ago Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert, furious over LeBron James' decision to leave for Miami, swore he would never do a sign-and-trade to help Lebron get a bigger contract in the move. But before it was over, the Cavs took some picks from Miami in just such a deal. That same summer, other teams that lost stars such as Phoenix, Toronto, and Utah all expressed disinterest in a sign-and-trade – and ultimately did one to get consolation benefits.

Is Brooklyn any different?

The Mavs trump card would be the ability to fashion a trade where the Nets would only get assets they would want. Is that possible? Yes, as long as Odom is moved in July rather than June. While the Nets have to assume that a sign-and-trade from another team would require them to accept a large pile of contracts to match D-Will's salary, the reality is that the Mavs could offer far more flexibility than that, if the Odom deal was rolled into a sign-and-trade for D-Will.

Would the Nets turn down a simple gift of a future pick or two? That seems doubtful. And with Odom as part of the outgoing salary, the Mavs could be in position to be able to make just such an offer, as we'll examine below.

Keep in mind that the Nets would have a bit of leverage here, in that Dallas would prefer a trade, but it's not a lot. If the Nets became too demanding, Dallas could still send Odom to LA with nothing coming back, and sign Deron without their help, and under the new CBA he would have the same contractual limits with Dallas either way.

One side item to address – A sign-and-trade would allow the Mavs to forgo the final clearing of cap space for D-Will. We've been asked several times why the Nets wouldn't first force the Mavs to fully clear cap space, before agreeing to a sign-and-trade, in order to make it harder for the Mavs and perhaps make the Mavs a worse team for D-Will.

The answer is two-fold. First, the Mavs have the easy ability to have cap space if they need it, so they would not need to (and wouldn't) approach the Nets until D-Will has already decided to come to Dallas. At that point, with the Mavs able to simply sign him outright if forced to do so, the Nets would have nothing to gain by forcing the Mavs in that direction.

But more importantly, if the Mavs were forced to first make all those final cap-clearing moves, such as amnestying Haywood or Marion, and renouncing free agent rights and cap exceptions, they would lose all their reason to do a sign-and-trade and send something of value to the Nets. If the Nets want to get something, their decision point will be before Dallas clears out assets.

Wouldn't the Nets be able to get a better offer in a sign-and-trade than a pick or two, if that's what it comes to? Nope. Since D-Will picks the team, once he's picked Dallas, the Nets have one (and only one) team they can get free consolation assets from in a sign-and-trade, and that's Dallas.

ITEM 3 – How could a trade be allowed that didn't require the Nets to take salary from the Mavs, and what might it look like in its simplest form?
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Two things are in place that make such a trade possible: new trade rules in the 2011 CBA, and flexibility from the Mavs' trade assets.

The 2011 CBA opened the door for easier trades in some situations, by allowing salary-matching within 150% for some teams rather than 125%. As a result, by meeting the criteria for the 150% latitude, the Mavs would be able to salary-match an incoming max contract for D-Will with only $12.1M in outgoing salary.

We won't go into great detail here over the rule itself, but in practical terms the Mavs would have to do two things in order to use the 150% rule on a D-Will sign-and-trade: (1) position themselves to avoid being a taxpayer in 2012-13, and (2) make whatever moves they intend to make with Kidd and JET before (or within) the D-Will SNT, in order to remove their large cap holds from the equation. Neither of those would be a problem.

With that setting as the backdrop, the Mavs would then have to find ways to send away only $12.1M in outgoing salary, with none going to the Nets.

The first piece they'd use would be Odom and his contract that can be sent away with nothing coming in return. His availability would of course depend on him moving his waive-at-a-discount deadline to mid-July, which is why that change is a key.

But he would almost certainly be sent to one of the LA teams to keep, with the Clippers sending Mo Williams to Utah, and Utah would be able to take him without sending a player anywhere since they have a $10.89M trade exception. Maybe a pick is sent to Dallas which would get forwarded to the Nets as part of the consolation prize. Or the Lakers, with an $8.9M trade exception, could be involved instead of Utah.

The Mavs are already discussing these scenarios with the LA teams, where Odom wants to play next season.

The rest of the deal? With Odom outgoing to a place besides Brooklyn and nothing coming back to Dallas, that would provide $8.2M of the $12.1M in needed trade-matching salary, and leave only $3.9M in outgoing salary to add. Vince Carter and his $3.1M salary could go to a team that wants his talent on that inexpensive deal, and D Jones could go somewhere, and there are numerous teams that can legally take one or both with either cap space or a trade exception. Or maybe the Nets would want one or both as part of their consolation prize, who knows?

In summary, a bare-bones option might be Odom goes to the Clippers, Dojo and two future picks (one from LA and one from Dallas) to the Nets, and Carter to Charlotte.

That's not the only way, but that's one possible D-Will SNT that's legal.

ITEM 4 – In what alternative ways could such a trade be fashioned?

For a trade that brings D-Will to Dallas, it probably starts with the inclusion of Odom and his almost-vanishing contract. But after that, there are lots of choices.

We already mentioned Carter and Dojo. But if a bump in value is needed, they could include or substitute Beaubois, and/or Wright in some way as either replacements or incentives. For example, if they wanted to make Carter part of the deal but found lukewarm interest, offering a Carter-Roddy package might draw multiple takers and even elicit a pick in return, who knows?

Or perhaps JET is leaving to a new team because the Mavs can't fit his salary into their desired payroll, and the JET contract can be used as an outgoing sign-and-trade as part of the D-Will deal.

Taking things a step beyond, if a bigger salary like Jet's is added to that of Odom, and perhaps with others as well, it opens the door for the Mavs to be able to accept more salary. That creates the possibility for an expanded deal where the Mavs take back more than just D-Will. There are multiple teams around the league said to be willing to give up talent (rumored names including such talents as Noah, Deng, and Iguodala) to anyone who will take salary off their hands.

With possibilities that wide-ranging, it's no surprise that the Mavs are already "shopping" most of their roster, to try to determine in advance their July choices.

What about the idea of Odom going to the Nets as a reconfigured way to do the deal? Despite Odom's NY ties, I'm not seeing it. We have a hard time accepting a rebuilding Nets team and Odom as a fit with each other, and we certainly can't imagine Odom coexisting with Nets' coach Avery Johnson.

ITEM 5 – What would Dallas do if the Nets said no to a sign-and-trade?

This one is easy. They'd trade Odom (again, assuming they've delayed the deadline) in a salary dump to LA or a team with cap space, and get rid of the salary for Haywood or Marion via amnesty or via a trade to a team with cap room and no salary coming back. They'd also renounce their exceptions and cap holds, getting them under the cap.

Then they'd sign D-Will.

ITEM 6 - Back to the D-Will decision, what if he says no to signing with Dallas?

At that point, they would have choices to make. But three priorities would mostly likely exist.

First, if they had Odom still available as an instant-expiring deal, he would be their "insurance policy" they would use to bring in something desirable. As we've outlined already, Odom in combination with other assets would give them lots of salary latitude in a trade, and they would use it, most likely with a team in need of escaping a salary crunch. It would be like the DUST chip all over again - it would be the LOAF contract to the rescue. (Once again, you see how desirable it is to win the deadline extension.)

Second, they will position themselves to take another run at a superstar in the summer of 2013. Don't forget that the big priority in everything is to land another superstar, and if they don't get D-Will, the search continues.

Third, they will stay under the tax line.

WHAT ELSE NEEDS TO BE KNOWN ABOUT THE MAVS' SUMMER

ITEM 7 – What hidden-yet-crucial factor might work to ensure all the key pieces happen in the Mavs' entire plan, from Odom changing his deadline, to D-Will coming to Dallas, to Brooklyn and LA both joining in a sign-and-trade, and perhaps even more?

The role of player agent Jeff Schwartz in everything the Mavs are hoping to do this summer can't be emphasized enough. He is the agent for Lamar Odom. He is the agent for Deron Williams. He is the agent for Jason Kidd. He is one of the most influential agents in the NBA.

And he likes the Mavs. (The relationship is so good that Donnie Nelson almost gushes when talking about him.)

This is the agent that, when 6th man of the year Lamar Odom wanted out of LA, steered him straight to Dallas for next to nothing.

He was in the middle of J Kidd's trade to Dallas, and knows how Kidd has enjoyed his tenure with the Mavs.

He's a friend of the organization, because he knows it helps his guys.

Make no mistake – we're not theorizing that he would sacrifice his clients' interests in favor of catering to Dallas. Instead, what we know is that he is in position to orchestrate things where both his clients and Dallas win.

For example, the idea of Odom changing his deadline – in the hands of another agent, that request might be shrugged aside. But with Schwartz, he already has accepted that it could benefit the Mavs to do so, at little to no cost to Odom, and is willingly exploring the possibility. And as the agent for D-Will, he has a vested interest in Dallas being a better team if D-Will chooses to play here, so he has added reason to help it happen.

An agent can push buttons and open doors that team execs cannot, and he can gain cooperation from teams by the sheer fact that sometime in the future he might be advising a key free agent on which team to choose.

There are a lot of moving parts to get from where the Mavs are now. They have to change Odom's deadline, recruit D-Will, and roll Odom's contract into a D-Will sign-and-trade. But the fact that the same big-time agent is central to every one of those moving parts, and that they all can benefit his guys, matters.

ITEM 8 – What other factor could go very very right for the Mavs, to make things even easier than they are currently contemplating?

As the Mavs do their planning for July, they are working under the assumption that the salary cap and tax line in 2012-13 will be $58.04M and $70.3M respectively, the same as in 2011-12. That's the least they will be.

But on July 11, the league will announce the cap and tax numbers for the new season, and there's always the possibility there could be an increase.

An increase would help in multiple ways. It would create more cap room to sign D-Will, perhaps allowing the Mavs to keep more talent if they have to clear cap space to do so. And it would make it easier to qualify for a 150% trade using Odom's contract, which requires staying under the tax line.

The league has made no secret of the fact that revenues far exceeded expectations, in light of the fan unrest over the lockout that delayed the season. The cap/tax levels were set in anticipation of revenues that would ensue from unrest, but with full revenues and more from Christmas, the All-Star game, and the playoffs and the actual revenues multiplied by 82/66 to reflect the shortened season, we wouldn't be surprised if we see a jump in cap/tax lines.

ITEM 9 – If all goes according to plan and Deron Williams ends up in Dallas via the sign-and-trade process, what other actions might the Mavs consider this summer? Or would they stop there?
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After getting D-Will, the Mavs would still be active. (DB.com's report on Dallas being "very interested'' in Brandon Roy is just a start.) Using the assumption that he's arrived via sign-and-trade, the roster might look like this at that point:

Haywood – Wright Dirk Marion D-Will Three draft picks

However, before they made the trade, they would have to do something with Jet and Kidd to get rid of their very sizable cap holds..

Those choices are so far down the road, with so much between now and then that could change the landscape, that it's hard to predict, but we'll take a stab,

A – Amnesty is not used this season

B - Kidd and West are very likely to be kept.

C - Jet, and either Mahinmi or Haywood, will get traded (not necessarily in the same trade) and a player or two come back, probably at center and/or forward.

D – The rest of the roster is filled out with new players. Calathes may be one of them. All are on one-year deals. One may come via the MLE or a trade exception. And of course, the three cheapie rookies.

E – The Mavs stay under the tax line.

The roster and payroll ends up looking like something like this:

C – 2 of (Haywood, Mahinmi, trade target), plus pick James – total less than $13M

PF – Dirk, Wright, pick Crowder, trade target – total $24M

SF – Marion, free agent, free agent – total $11M

SG - Cunningham, West, free agent – total less than $4M

PG - D-Will, Kidd, Calathes – total $19M

Now, that's just a sketch. And in many ways, it's just a starting point, with more "fish'' to be pursued. But the Mavs believe it's a very good starting point.

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