Mavs' Realities Of So-Called '2-Year Plan'

‘Plan Powder' - our phrase so universally despised that even Mark Cuban himself tells us he hates it (even while using it!) - served its purpose. The Mavs got the opportunity to pursue stars to build around and did so while avoiding cap-clogging contracts on their roster for the '11-12 and '12-13 seasons. ‘Plan Powder' is a bridge. But … to what? Well, to a '1-Year Plan,' for one thing ...

DONUT 1: Shut up, Einstein "If you can't explain it to a 6-year-old,'' Albert Einstein once said, "you don't understand it yourself."

Albert puts down the gauntlet here, when it comes to the Dallas Mavericks' and their proud mastery of the CBA. We can start with four simple words – "The Two-Year Plan'' – as that is the title already developed as a result of Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban's state-of-the-team-in-free-agency address.

"The Two-Year Plan'' sounds simple. But it's not … first off, because it's not necessarily about two years.
DONUT 2: The Game of Semantics If you assume it to mean, "The Mavs won't be competitive again until sometime during the 2014-15 season, that's the second season from now. But it's the fourth season from when Cuban first decided to bow to the new CBA and undo the 2011 title team.

Or …

That was "Plan Powder.'' A two-year project to get us to this place.

Or …

"This place'' isn't really an anticipation of "two years'' but rather "two summers.''

Progress made in talent procurement this summer and next. That's 15 months, not "two years.''

DONUT 3: Faster than two years And one more: What if important puzzle pieces come together THIS summer? (As you read this, the Mavs are formulating their Chris Paul Pitch, as detailed here.) Then hasn't the '2-Year Plan' zipped its way to fruition in ONE year?

Q: "When IS a '2-Year Plan' not a 2-year plan?''

A: "When it happens in fewer than two years ... or never happens at all.''

DONUT 4: What do "competitive'' mean? Hey, we can even argue the semantics of Cuban's use of the word "competitive.'' What do "competitive'' mean?

Once Dirk Nowitzki was back from knee-surgery rehab and going full-speed, the Mavs went 28-18 to finish last season, despite the supposed "crappy roster" around him. That pace would yield a 50-win season, and maybe the sixth seed, over 82 games. So despite "Father Time'' talk, a team led by Dirk – even a team that looks a little bit like last year's team in terms of talent makeup -- may not be nearly as far away as we all felt when the season ended.

Would the sixth seed have meant those Mavs were "competitive''?

We don't find it difficult to envision Cuban opening the checkbook a bit wider and getting more aggressive in "attacking the cap'' with contracts that pull in an even better tier of players … and then being "elite'' again or "competitive'' again becoming closer to reality than we presently realize.

DONUT 5: CBA complexities Things might get way more complex with The Two-Year Plan the Mavs are now embarking on. From Cuban we heard about "stretch provisions,'' hints of non-guaranteed money, contract tricks, player flexibility, ETOs, much more aggressive roster-building for current-year results, the ability to grab players using longer contracts … and meanwhile, all of it done in a way that can leave the door wide open for a star to be added.

One this year.

Another next year.

DONUT 6: No more one-years? Cuban suggested the death of the one-year contract in his address. (See all "Top 10 Cuban Quotes On The State of the Mavs in Free Agency'' here.) But what is he indicating? It this more complex than it seems?

We don't believe this signaled an intent to give four-year deals to players who only merit one-year deals . Perhaps he really means that he strongly prefers to give longer-term deals to the right players at the right cost … with the 2011 CBA'S stretch provision as some sort of escape hatch if needed.

Color us a bit skeptical here. We see the stretch provision as a last resort, not as a planning tool -- and we suspect the Mavs do as well. It's helpful to see that in the same context, Cuban was noting the use of all of Dallas' cap room this year. And that if he doesn't land the "big fish,'' he'll have a way to create even more room the next year and then will be able TO try again – possibly for TWO big fish.
The implication here (unsaid as it is): There needs to exist an option of having very little holdover from this year's roster to next year's … So that room can always be available for adding the next star.

So … until he gets the star(s) in place, in one sense, he's hiring "temps.'' Even if the contracts aren't one-year deals, some of the players will effectively be "temps.''

DONUT 7: The stretch provision On the matter of the "stretch provision.'' … Here's Mark's quote:

"They'll all be four-year deals because that gives you the most flexibility if you stretch them. Just to explain some more, you can sign a guy to a four-year deal and only have 10 dollars guaranteed. If you cut him and want to stretch him, you take the guaranteed money only and divide it by the number of years times two plus one. So you can stretch that contract out over nine years as long as you do a four-year deal. …''

The stretch provision is accurately described: if you waive a player, you can stretch the money still owed over double the length of his contract plus one, in years.

But …

Cuban – maybe for the sake of conversation or example-making – took a rule that in our view has some potential to allow some cap manipulation and seemingly transformed it into a new-fangled roster-building strategy.

The obvious elemental flaw would be in using this as a core-roster-building strategy. But we don't think that was what Cuban intended to convey. Stay tuned, and we'll break it down for you in the coming days. ... using Dallas' thoughts on Andrew Bynum as the basis.

DONUT 8: Don't be distracted by shiny objects ...

Along the way, as we try to dig out assorted truths, we do so with the guidance of CBA knowledge. That comes in handy in cases like this one, the "rumored'' coming trade of Shawn Marion to Cleveland.

DONUT 9: Plan Powder II, kinda?? In one way, "The Two-Year Plan'' is just another name for a New-and-Improved chapter of "Plan Powder.'' Or maybe its cousin.

We're still talking about "Asset Management.'' We're still talking about having ammunition in reserve for when it needs to be fired.

One aspect that makes it different: An aggressive approach to free agency now. And another - Dirk coming off the books in the summer of 2014 represents more than just "cap room''; there is a living, breathing unselfishness that goes along with the cap room.

DONUT 10: Fertile minds And by the way: None of these labels, whether they are created by or by Cuban's fertile mind or by a Madison Avenue PR firm, guarantee any sort of success. The DUST Chip was a creative innovation by the Mavs. Our unearthing of it made for fascinating basketball-talk fodder. But until Dallas actually swapped Erick Dampier's corpse for Tyson Chandler's one-and-a-half healthy legs, all it meant to even the most in-tune observers was something "conceptual.'' And until Chandler helped Dallas win big, all it was to 99 percent of basketball fans was "just another trade.''

"The Two-Year Plan,'' if ineffective, will be just another announcement from a deodorant company that their product is "new-and-improved'' – regardless of whether it really makes the stink go away.

DONUT 11: 'Have you read the CBA?' Our only reservation about Dallas' habit of shouting about it's CBA mastery from the highest rooftops is that CBA mastery alone doesn't win basketball games.

Cuban's method of subduing his critics is to scold them by saying, "Have you read the CBA?'' That cutdown of all the media folks who haven't done so puts him in charge of the room.

But in this space, we've read the CBA. We understand "stretch provisions,'' "non-guaranteed money,'' contract tricks, player flexibility, ETOs, much more aggressive roster-building for current-year results, the ability to grab players using longer contracts … all of the aforementioned tools that are at the Mavs' disposal.
DONUT 12: Reading ain't building Ultimately, though, being able to read a blueprint isn't the same as being able to build a house. The Mavs haven't demonstrated that they are as skilled at player procurement and development as they are at CBA Theory. What we don't want: the substitution of "cap tricks'' for superb talent evaluation and superb deal negotiation. The evaluating and negotiating skills are mandatory for creating success under the new CBA.

In general, "The Two-Year Plan'' itself and the things Cuban suggests we'll see in it are exciting. (Not unlike the Mavs' "Double Pipedream,'' there is nothing wrong with starting at the ideal of speculative options and then working your way down.) If you can combine superb talent evaluation and negotiation with slick aggressive capsmanship, you can open doors that might otherwise be nailed shut, and make great strides quickly.

Talent evaluation. AND Capsmanship.

For the success of "The Two-Year Plan'' – or any other plan by any other name – both will be needed here.

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