TRT: Are 'Well-Run' Mavs Running In Place?
On Demarcus Cousins' recent swing through Dallas, the mercurial King said, "I think (the Mavs are) a well-run organization, definitely one of the top organizations in the league.''
Most Mavs followers who've observed the last 13 years or so here feel the same way (even as we debate the merits of the CBA strip-down). And right about this time every year, the Mavs are not only well-run ... they are also sprinting to the finish line. The finish line of the season (which has 30 games left) and the finish line of Feb. 21.
Dallas is annually among the most active organizations in the NBA. What's happening now?
The short version: It's all about finding a Big Three. It's ALWAYS been about finding a Big Three. And more than ever, incremental moves that fail to clearly push Dallas closer to that goal are moves not worth making.
We can kick around ideas that allow Dallas to acquire Dwight (obviously the No. 1 of a Big Three, with Dirk as a No. 2). And the Mavs do so constantly. That's the easy part -- "easy'' to think about, that is, not necessarily "easy'' to pull off.
But virtually ever move short of that is saddled with the question: "Does it get us closer to making Dirk a No. 2 in a Big Three?''
We've begun studying the idea of trading Mayo for ... something. In the DB.com Lab, let's make it Mayo for Tyreke Evans. The salaries are close enough to do a one-for-one. Now come the problems ...
There are the usual ones: Mayo's value is lessened because he won't have Bird rights attached, making him a bit tricky to re-sign for either team. Is one player considered by whichever team really equal value to the other player?
There are the unusual ones: Sacto is in limbo and might not wish to make any changes at all.
And then there are the problems Cuban cited years ago regarding a "Nuclear Winter'' that is actually happening this summer: There is general inactivity on the trade front at this moment because of the CBA-forced uncertainty. Teams are hesitant to take on salary. Teams unsure of their ability to content are hesitant to do anything at all.
And for the Mavs? Go back to the Tyreke idea or any other top-of-the-page concept. To give up anything of value (or, more likely, everything of value outside of Dirk) the incoming player must be projected to be one of that forecast "Big Three.''
We're continuing to study the idea of someone like Danny Granger, too. With the emergence of Paul George, a 22-year-old still on his rookie-scale contract through next season and a talent showing he may be ready to supplant Granger as the team's starting small forward, maybe the injured Granger is superfluous on the small-market Indiana Pacers' payroll.
For the sake of argument, let's assume we all agree Granger is a "No. 3'' in a Big Three.
Assuming Dallas moves into the offseason with the current roster commitments, the Mavs would likely be just short of being able to offer Dwight a max contract (which should start just north of $20 million per season) … and that's including renouncing the rights to, or making no attempt to re-sign: Chris Kaman, OJ Mayo (who will almost certainly turn down his player option for $4.2 million), Elton Brand, Darren Collison, Dahntay Jones, Roddy Beaubois, Brandan Wright, and Dominique Jones.
Even if you remove Shawn Marion and Vince Carter from the books, replacing them with Granger, just over $2 million in 2013-14 salary is added … meaning, no Dwight.
That's right: Even adding a player making $14 mil almost certainly precludes the Mavs from also adding a max player like Howard.
Now, if you want Granger as a "No. 1'' in a Big Three? Different argument. And that different argument applies to people like Jennings and Gordon, too. But a Granger/Dirk/____ "Big Three'' doesn't seem much of a threat to Miami or OKC -- or, at least, it doesn't in the minds of Dallas management.
This is the message Dallas Mavericks execs have been saying, in one form or another, since TY left. They couch it differently from time to time. They make it an Easter Egg Hunt for information, it seems ... but the information is in there.
The Mavs are relatively inactive because unlike previous years, when a "little'' move could be justified because it wouldn't block a "big'' move ... and unlike previous years, when the "Bank of Cuban'' tossed cash atop the pile of every trade proposal ... now, "little'' moves are essentially meaningless -- especially if they clog the path to a "Big Three.''
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