Dwight: Rockets-Vs.-Mavs From Cap Angle

The Mavs and Rockets are Dwight front-runners? And Houston is about to trade Robinson for a draft pick in the 19-20 range, and end up with all the cap room they might need to offer a max deal to Dwight? If we're buying that Dwight is interested in moving to either Dallas or Houston, we've got to stick our noses in here and say, 'Not so fast.'



As we've documented numerous times, the Dallas Mavericks have ways to find the cap room to acquire Dwight Howard, should he chose Dallas as his destination.

There is now a report that has him wishing to leave the Lakers, with Houston and Dallas as primary possible destinations.

Again, we know how Dallas can get their financially; (dig into DB.com Archives for detailed explanations.)

Can Houston get their simply with a dumping of Thomas Robinson?

And how does all the above fit into it being "unlikely'' the All-Star center will remain with the Lakers, or that Dallas is the "front-runner'' destination?

The valid base of the story is two years in the making. Howard has long admired the way Mavs owner Mark Cuban does his basketball business – business that includes shopping Dallas' No. 13 overall pick in the Draft in order to carve out the cap room needed for an outright signing of a player of Howard's stature.

(DB.com was told this morning that here at Mavs HQ, the team feels good about its work serving as "auctioneers'' for bids on 13 rather than "dumpers'' of the pick. Imagine Cleveland and Milwaukee both jousting for ways to acquire it ...)

But making room is the easy part; the Mavs can essentially do so with a give-away of Vince Carter's contract, freeing up space to give Howard a max deal that starts as $20,513,178. Convincing Howard that Dallas is worth forgoing the extra $30 million guaranteed the Lakers can give him with a five-year deal (as opposed to a four-year deal teams like Dallas and Houston are limited to) is the challenge.

The Lakers' max offer: five years and $118 million contract. The other suitors' max: $87.6 million over four years.

Howard has always planned to explore free agency. Dallas, Houston, Atlanta and the Lakers will be on his July 1 doorstep. Sources tell DB.com that the Mavs plan to explain to him how their cap flexibility will allow him a voice in future organizational decisions – a power Howard expressed a wish for when in Orlando two years ago, at which time the Mavs started angling for ways to acquire him.

The Mavericks can shed $1.66 million in cap commitments by trading out of the No. 13 spot. They can also gain $9.32 million in space by giving away Shawn Marion, though if you read DB.com, you know our view that neither of those moves are necessary until the point there is a commitment from Howard to come to Dallas.

(Oh, and if Dallas doesn't get Dwight? Here's a tough-love blueprint for what has to happen next -- including a shocker involving Dirk.)

Indications are that the Mavs' aggressiveness in those areas suggest a belief that Dallas will be granted a serious audience with Howard once the calendar turns to July. And when that happens, Dallas hopes the jostling with Houston (and other suitors) won't be about "styles of play'' or "supplemental pieces on the roster,'' as those sorts of things are fluid and changeable.

Dallas wishes to sell its track record for having a stable and consistent foundation of success – and Howard's ability to take the baton from Dirk Nowitzki and continue that success.

Meanwhile, there is Houston's financial situation.

In evaluating their cap room, we have to keep in mind that much of the salary on the Rox books for next year is non-guaranteed, and likely to be waived to erase the salary. But the tiny contracts of Parsons, Smith, and Beverley are certainly going to be kept; not only are they of value to the Rockets, but the total gained from waiving all three would only be about $1.1M.

After the other non-guaranteed deals were all waived, their remaining commitments would look like this:

Harden: $13,668,750

Asik: $8,374,646

Lin: $8,374,646

White: $1,719,480

Jones: $1,551,840

Montiejunas: $1,422,720

Honeycutt $100,000 (waived)

19-20 pick: about $1.2M

Parsons: $926,500

Smith: $884,293

Beverley: $788,872

Roster charge: $490,180

That makes a cap total of right at $40 million, and with a looming cap of $58.5 million, cap room of $18.5 million. With the max for Howard exceeding $20.5 million, that won't be enough.
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Can the Rockets make more moves, and get that additional $2 million of cap room? We don't see why not. For example, with the pick they get in the swap, they might draft a Euro and stash him to add another $700,000 of space (also among Dallas' planned ideas, and here's the primer on that) ; or perhaps they would opt to trade one or more of their youngsters for a future pick.

A few more moves, and the Rockets can have enough room. But the idea that they would be there already, with a TRob-for-a-pick deal, is simply not true.

We want to get it right, as it just might be the first of many Houston-vs.-Dallas factoids in the Dwight Howard saga about to unfold.

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