Mavnalysis: Losing Oden & Cartooning Dwight
It's been widely reported: Greg Oden has chosen to sign with Miami. The deal was presented to the public as "a two-year deal at the league minimum with a player option for Year 2."
But we prefer to report that contract like it really is: Oden committed to one-year deal with Miami, and he gets paid only the minimum. While he's gotten a player option to stay a second year for another minimum salary, unless there's a disaster scenario he'll be a free agent again next summer.
Sometimes, we've got to go digging for stuff, which we do below on Oden. And sometimes, there is a refreshing level of transparency on stuff. Regarding sheer transparency, it doesn't get much better than this, Mark Cuban releasing the "Dwight pitch'' video that, before Oden ever came into the picture, was central to Dallas' pursuit of a center:
Give us a few moments to digest and dissect this, as Mavs followers are doing while reading Cuban's latest blog post ... But we'll note now: Should that video have been about analytics regarding how Dwight would fit on the floor? Or about the finances of making a move to North Texas? Or about the team's brick-by-brick plans to build a contender?
Or is a Superman-themed cartoon promising "World Domination'' the way to go?
To Cuban's credit, he's naked in this blog post, naked in the sense that he's letting the world (un-dominated as it is) see his approach to Dwight and other matters ... And again, more on all that in the coming hours.
Meanwhile, the Oden pursuit requires digging. There is no Greg Oden Cartoon Video to peruse. So, let's grab a shovel. What does missing out on the lesser center mean? Let's start with this: Across the league, how hard was Oden pursued?
While we have heard the names of various teams that tried to sign him, Sam Amico of si.com has offered some intriguing perspective to their pursuit. According to him, several sources said the Heat were willing to bear more risk on Oden that other teams wouldn't. In particular, the Heat were willing to give Oden a player option, while the others specified a team option 2nd year. In practical terms, that means thee others would have provided fewer guaranteed years for the Oden experiment, less guaranteed money to Oden, less control to Oden, and more potential upside to the team in case he is able to play. Per Amico, a GM who watched Oden's workout said he was "skeptical" over the possibility that Oden will even recover and play, but added that he thought it was "low-risk for the Heat" because of the salary being at the minimum.
Some takes from the "How did the Mavs lose this?" angle ...
1. The Dallas Mavericks did not lose by being outbid, so we know they pegged his value properly by offering the minimum.
2. Was Oden available for the taking if the Mavs had been willing to set aside more money? It looks like that could have been the case, although we can't know for sure.
3. We do know that Oden picked Miami because he wanted Miami. Among the teams willing to make an offer, the Heat didn't outbid anyone - at best, they matched other offers.
4. Did any team offer more than the minimum? We don't know. But of the three supposed finalists (Miami, SA, Dallas), it was all minimum-salary offers. There were others that had the ability to offer more, but we don't know if anyone did.
5. Was Bill Duffy being his agent a factor in the outcome for Dallas? When it comes to a Duffy client, does a tie inevitably go to the non-Dallas team?
Duffy's presence here as the agent pulling the strings may have been inconsequential. There's no way to know. But for what it's worth, it's now 10 consecutive summers that the Mavs have NOT signed any free agent repped by Duffy.
6. What happened to Oden's proclamations that he wanted something long-term? He could have committed for two seasons, and perhaps more if another team offered more, yet only committed for one.
The outcome makes it easy to think that he wanted bigger/longer offers, rather than stability, per se.
Some takes from the "What did the Mavs lose, and how much does it matter" angle ...
1. Let me preface these observations with the admission that I would have preferred the Mavs land Oden. And the Mavs felt the same way -- that's why they were bidding. But ...
2. In all likelihood, Miami only got Oden for one year, while he rehabs and tries to get back on the court.
3. The "max upside" on this deal is the value of whatever he gives them this season versus the minimum salary, because if they get any kind of a bargain, he's going to be a free agent again next summer.
4. In that scenario, where he has more value next summer: the cHeat are gaining nothing to make it easier to sign him next summer. It will again be a money equation - who wants to chase him, and how much will they offer.
5. The "max downside" on the deal is that Oden can't play this season at all. In that case he's going to exercise his option and cash two years of checks, not one, and Miami will pay minimum salary plus two hefty tax bills while potentially never getting a minute of play from Oden. A paid rehab assignment. (Something, you will recall, the Mavs were against getting involved in a few months ago, before circumstances -- their center needs and maybe positive reports on Oden's health -- altered that.)
6. Worst long-term scenario for Miami entails paying Oden for two seasons, getting nothing, and at the end he finally gets healthy and signs with someone else.
7. Oden has the leverage to be a free agent each year, if he wants, but he can avoid free agency and keep cashing checks if that's preferable. That's a good position for Oden, but bad for a team.
The bottom line for me ...
While I would have preferred for Oden to be a Mav, in my opinion this deal isn't the one that has the potential to be a big winner. This is the "pay-for-rehab-and-hope-for-the-best" deal, with very limited upside. The deal a gambling team wants will be the one next summer, if he plays this season and shows any promise.
That having been said, if I'm the Mavs and anticipating that next summer is more likely the ideal time to chase him, I'd still rather have him this season. Having him among the other Mavs centers in a crowded corral would've been a good thing, at minimum wage, obviously.
But more than that: I'd have preferred to have this season to be sure the proper groundwork is being laid for his future, both in ensuring his medical rehab is done properly (something Dallas touted due to Casey Smith's great track record) plus by acclimating him to the Dallas team and system.
The Oden-Mavs connection isn't lost forever, if the parties ever want to revisit it. But that groundwork opportunity is gone.
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