Wednesday Morning Mavs Donuts

Injuries, attitudes, visitors, rumors, secret plans, key dates, deadlines, options, rules, trades, whispers. We are at NBA Draft eve and we are on the horizon of NBA free agency. It's an intriguing time for Mavs fans to gather information. The place to do it? Inside in Wednesday Morning Mavs Donuts!

DONUT 1: The sales job on Trix ...

Dallas Mavericks boss Mark Cuban isn't just preparing to do a convincing sales job on free agents. He may be in the process of doing the same with one of his own players, who is under contract -- selling him on the value of becoming a free agent.

Marion's $9.32M contract for next season is set in stone if he wants it to be. But he can un-set it. Up through June 29, he can exercise an Early Termination Option and forfeit that final year to become a free agent this summer. If he does not wish to opt out, he may formally decline the ETO, or he can simply fail to exercise it by the deadline date.
To this point, he has done nothing. Opting out is still possible.

I've operated on the belief that there is little logic in volunteering to give up guaranteed money for one year with a wink and a promise of something that may not even be better to replace it.

But there are those in the Mavs/Marion camp who see merit in a three-year deal over a one-year deal -- that it's actually the one-year deal that means uncertainty for a player in his mid-30s.

So yes, the Mavs think maybe Marion could opt out. And if he does, that would eliminate any need to trade him in a cap-clearing move -- which is why all these stories of a "done-deal'' of a Marion trade are bogus.

There can be talks, and groundwork, and contingency talk. (Indeed, there IS contingency talk, as reports here.) But understand that if the Mavs have decided to make some sort of cap-clearing move of Marion, they may be in a holding pattern, waiting for June 29. If he opts out, no trade is possible.

Is much of this reliant on Cuban and Marion trusting one another? You bet. As of Tuesday evening, I don't believe a sit-down had occurred. So, I believe those conversations are happening right about now.

DONUT 2: What about 'The Hammer'? ...

This represents our thinking, as opposed to a whisper coming out of Mavs HQ. But try it on for size:

Is all this talk of a trade to Cleveland -- and it's all so open now, isn't it? -- a subtle, gentle squeeze play to get Marion to opt out of his contract?

It's not far-fetched to imagine that the Mavs want him to opt out; insiders have already whispered to about the supposed benefits of being able to re-sign in Dallas under a wink-wink agreement that gives Shawn a longer-term deal.

So if you wish Trix to opt out ... and he's not quite ready to budge ... you start talking trade somewhat openly in order to nudge him to budge.

If that is the case, Dallas could also have a backup plan in mind. They can line up a cap-clearing trade for him, and then tell him: "Shawn, we love you. So if you don't want to go there, you have to opt out. Otherwise, we are going to do this deal.''

If Marion has a contract, he can be traded. If he doesn't have a contract, he picks where he plays next season. (And can pick a return to Dallas.)

Is this too ruthless? Or smart business? Would the proud Marion appreciate the wisdom or be offended by the gentle squeeze? (Added note: Gotta play nice with the agent here, too. Dan Fegan reps lots of interesting names. Anderson Varejao. DeMarcus Cousins. JJ Barea. Delonte West. Oh, and Marion and Dwight, too.)

DONUT 3: Why has it been just Paul and Dwight? ...

Why, I'm often asked, has been so focused on Paul and Dwight -- maybe to the detriment of focusing on Target No. 3?

Answer: is focusing on what the Mavs are focusing on.

Their challenge in assembling plans (and our challenge in creating questions that get answered in ways that move the ball forward): Who else should they want to give max to? And if the answer is "nobody'' ... What next-level free agent wants to accept a piece of the $18-mil pie.
In other words, now that we are essentially crossing Paul off the list ... following Dwight, which guy who as of this writing is visualizing himself as a $16 Million Man is prepared to listen when Cuban explains the plan to pay him and a similarly-minded FA half that amount, so the two of them TOTAL $16 mil?



Big Al?


Josh Smith?

I truly believe, as I dig around and don't (yet) get solid enough answers to write a full-blown story on Priority Guy 3, that the Mavs are reluctant to mentally commit big bucks to the next-level-down guys ...

In a cap-smart sense, they should be reluctant.

At the same time, Cuban acutely understand that the natives are restless for action. One of the reasons he talks of "Two-Year Plans'' is to buy himself some patience from the mob.

So stay tuned while you understand this: "Breaking stories '' that announce "Dallas likes Ellis' are empty stories. Of COURSE they like him. Hell, at maybe $9 million, they LOVE him.

Now, who thinks Ellis' purpose in opting out of a deal that guaranteed him $11 million is suddenly excited to hear Dallas would like to give him $9 million? (We address that very issue here, in "Do The Mavs Like Monta Ellis?'')

That's the challenge with our investigation into the next-level targets. And in a sense, it's Dallas' challenge, too.

DONUT 4: Follow the Mavs on Twitter ...

Follow the Mavs on Twitter: Mike Fisher, David Lord and Michael Dugat keep you up-to-the-minute informed on all things Mavs!

DONUT 5: How complete is our Mavs NBA Draft coverage? ...

We even know which players available in the Thursday night NBA Draft have medical issues that might cause Casey Smith and the Dallas staff to have concerns. We get the job done with medical analyst Jeff Stotts, a certified trainer himself and a stickler for who's been hurt and what it might mean to the Mavs. Do your homework here.
DONUT 6: The Paul Pitch

One strength of Rick Carlisle's position in Dallas: This side of Pop, he's about as unlikely a "coach-killer'' victim as there is in the NBA. Yes, somebody will tell that to Chris Paul, who was on the verge of being given that label thanks to the ineptitude of his present owner. ... but now is a "coach hirer'' thanks to the Doc deal.

Question: is the fact that a Mavs recruit can't "kill'' Carlisle a lure? Or a detriment to a player who desires to acquire power?

DONUT 7: The Dwight Pitch

Meanwhile, just as Paul flexed his muscle in LA in a successful attempt to help the owner make massive improvements, Dwight would like to do the same.

So part of Dallas' pitch to DH12? A scary idea of giving him "assistant GM'' authority if he comes to the Mavs. Our analysis of that pitch angle -- and the pitfalls of it -- is here.

DONUT 8: Is your guy on their list? ...

Can you peruse this list of draft-eligible kids who've visited Mavs HQ in recent weeks and come to a conclusion of what Dallas is targeting?

At least in one sense, yes: There are just enough 13th-pick-worthy players in that bunch to assume that the Mavs haven't quite yet locked into "dumping 13'' -- a very good decision, if you ask me.

Check that list and see if your guy is there! Oh, and know this: Spending time in Dallas does not necessarily increase the odds of being signed by Dallas. Israeli PG Gal Mekel (not draft-eligible) has been hanging out in DFW, as we reported last week. But that -- or even a cozy relationship with the Mavs -- doesn't prevent him from signing where the money takes him. (ala Jeremy Lin.) Rudy Gobert, the French center, has been hanging around Dallas, too. But that doesn't necessarily mean he's even a candidate at 13.

DONUT 9: Your questions, our answers ...
I'm flooded with questions on Boards and on Twitter ... which is great. But here's a shortcut to lots of answers: The Mavs fan must-read breakdown of "The Two-Year Plan.'' Stuff from inside Mavs HQ here, with little room for homerism. Check it out.

DONUT 10: Thanks, Studio Movie Grill! ...

A great partner with us in charitable work and a great place to get a movie and a meal ... thanks for the relationship, Studio Movie Grill!

DONUT 11: Our final Mock Draft ...

In which Dallas uses the 13th pick and plans to Euro Cap Stash on Giannis Adetokunbo. That's right, Giannis Adetokunbo.

DONUT 12: The Final Word ...

My worst NBA nightmare: The Mavs having all this headline-grabbing cap space and failing to use it ... while the Spurs quietly gain cap space and do something brilliant with it.

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