The Mavs, The Big-Men Chase, And The Cap

The Mavs have filled the guard and small forward spots for their roster, but the bigger positions of power forward and center are far from settled. We saw plenty of movement in those areas in the last few days, some of it drawing attention and some flying under the radar. What's happened and where does this put the Mavs roster and cap as they move forward? It's time for a detailed update.


The Dallas Mavericks ended the day Monday with their 3-deep roster more than full at one end, and almost bare at the other.

The team will almost certainly add three or four more players to Nowitzki and James to fill the roster at PF and C. Names on their radar recently have included a pair from last year's squad (Brandan Wright, Elton Brand), an over-30 veteran (Samuel Dalembert), and a promising-but-injured youngster (Greg Oden).

Developments on that front in the last few days:
James – The second year of his contract was non-guaranteed if he was waived by July 15, which gave the Mavs latitude to remove him from their cap before then at no cost if they so desired. Alternatively, if the Mavs wanted to waive him for cap space but have him on the roster for another season, they could choose to waive him by July 15, use their cap space thereafter, and then re-sign him to the very same contract using the minimum salary exception. But that entailed a degree of risk: by waiving him, he would become a free agent and open to negotiate for a bigger deal or with any team.

The deadline to act was Monday at 5 p.m. Eastern, when waivers must be submitted for that day. If they did nothing, his contract became fully guaranteed.

Monday evening (about four hours after the deadline), a Mavs source told us that they hadn't made any decision regarding James and that the deadline was "later." Later, as in "the deadline has been moved to a later date" (an action allowed by mutual consent)? We figure that must be the case, but are still seeking clarification.

Wright – He and the Mavs are rumored to have settled on a two-year deal nearing $4M. Because he will have to be signed using Early Bird rights (giving permission for the Mavs to exceed the cap and offer him a deal up to about $5.5M), he will have to be signed after the Mavs have otherwise used up their cap room. Nothing is official until signed, but he's apparently coming back to help fill one of the holes.
Brand – He accepted a one-year $4 million offer from Atlanta on Monday. There was some mutual interest between the Mavs and him in bringing him back as role player who could help at both C and PF, but the Mavs could only fit him into their salary maneuvering as a minimum-salary backup earning about $1.4 million.

Oden – The Mavs are definitely interested in the highly-talented often-injured youngster, and as reported here early Monday, Oden may be way more of a potential answer for what the Mavs need than anyone had previously thought.

Dallas' gaping hole at center may make the team an appealing destination for Oden, especially if the Mavs have some money they will risk. The other reported finalists are Sacramento (backing up Cousins), Miami (in some sort of rotation with Haslem, Anthony, and Birdman, and perhaps an offer limited by tax conisderations), San Antonio (behind Duncan and Splitter, and limited to a minimum salary offer), and New Orleans (minimum salary only, as well).

The Mavs and Sacramento both had meetings scheduled with him in Las Vegas Monday, but no word yet on whether progress was made in signing him to a deal.

Dalembert – The Mavs brought him to town to talk about a deal last week, but may not be offering as much as he wants. Word continues to circulate that he is talking to other teams as well.

The Roster

Here's where the Mavs currently stand, including players with whom they have commitments but who have not been signed yet for technical (salary cap related) reasons:

PG – Calderon, Mekel, Larkin, Akognon
SG – Ellis, Ellington, Ledo
SF – Marion, Carter, Crowder
PF – Nowitzki, Wright
C – B James


Dallas lacks enough cap room to do everything they wish they could do, but there is some flexibility.

If we add together all the existing salaries (Nowitzki, Marion, Carter, Crowder, Mekel, BJames, Akognon, and estimating Calderon's starting salary at $6.8M), plus pencil in Larkin, Ledo, the Early Bird rights for Wright (who will have to be signed after the cap space is spent elsewhere), the commitment to Ellington (who will also get signed after the cap room is full), and one cap hold for an empty roster slot, the Mavs have $10,658,574 in cap room. From that, they have agreed to a deal with Ellis starting at around $8 million or so, and have room for another player at $3,148,754 (the remaining cap space, plus the cap hold for that previously-empty roster slot).

But they have ways to bump that number a bit higher. The cap space for the most financially-favorable scenario would be $12,236,318, allowing perhaps $8 million to Ellis, and $4,236,318 to split between two other players.

Is that enough to enable them to land both Dalembert and Oden, as we believe is Dallas' goal?

If numbers and math isn't your thing, you might want to skip the rest. But what follows is an explanation of where those numbers come from, and how they might vary under a few variables, for those that like to calculate such things for themselves.

The current cap room is about $10,658,574. (Because the exact numbers on Calderon's contract are not yet available, we've estimated the initial salary from what was reported, and rounded it up a hair, just to be safe). Working from there ….

When they split that remaining cap space among more than one player, in the process they eliminate the need for some empty roster slot holds. They regain $490,180 in spending room for each added player on whom the cap room is split.

In addition, if the Mavs waive the non-guaranteed contracts of BJames and/or Akognon, they increase their cap room by $298,692 by turning each of those $788,872 salaries into an empty roster hold of $490,180. For both, they regain $597,384 in cap room. (Note that if this was done with the cooperation of the player, they could later re-sign them back to the same deal after all their cap space was used.)

The cap space for the most financially-favorable scenario (waive both BJames and Akognon, and use the resulting cap space to sign Ellis plus two other players with that room) would be $12,236,318, allowing perhaps $8 million to Ellis, and $4,236,318 to split between two other players.

To increase that spending room even farther, if the Mavs could acquire the last of the players using the sign-and-trade process, they could increase that cap slot remainder for that final player by 150% in the process.

For example, let's say they sign Ellis for $8M, and Oden for $2M. (Neither can be obtained by S&T, either due to rule or to practical considerations.) Using our $12,236,318 total, that would leave $2,236,318 that could be used for outgoing contracts for a sign-and-trade.

In the most reasonable scenario we can think of, let's say that the $2,236,318 is used for $788,872 for the not-yet-waived and non-guaranteed contract of Akognon, and the balance for a re-signed (and traded) Beaubois at about $1.5M. In return, Milwaukee sends back Dalembert on a new deal starting at about $3.5M. Obviously, that takes the cooperation of Milwaukee (who would have to want Beaubois at $1.5M) and Beaubois (who would have to want to play there for that amount), but on paper it's doable.

Various other scenarios would look like this cap-wise:

*Waive Akognon and sign one player with cap space – 10,957,266 for one player
*Waive Akognon and sign Ellis plus one other player with cap space - 11,447,446 total possible (perhaps $8 million to Ellis, and $3,447,446 to another player)
*Waive Akognon and sign Ellis plus two other players with cap space – 11,937,626 total possible (perhaps $8 million to Ellis, and $3,937,626 split between two other players)
*Waive BJames and Akognon and sign one player with cap space - 11,255,958 for one player
*Waive BJames and Akognon and sign Ellis plus one other player with cap space - 11,746,138 total possible (perhaps $8 million to Ellis, and $3,746,138 to another player)
*Waive BJames and Akognon and sign Ellis plus two other players with cap space – 12,236,318 total possible (perhaps $8 million to Ellis, and $4,236,318 split between two other players)

That's a lot of numbers. But the point is, while the Mavs cap room at the moment is about $10,658,574 and it looks like they'd only have around $2.65M left after paying Ellis $8M, they could very feasibly add to that by about $1.6M. More cap room equates to more flexibility, and they will need all they can get as they try to get the big men they need to complete their roster.

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