Inside Mavs HQ At The Trade Deadline

The NBA Trade Deadline is on the horizon. Are the Mavs talking trade? Yes, they are. What are the chances they make a trade, and who is and isn't on their radar? Allow us to take you inside Mavs HQ for a detailed look the landscape now, with thoughts on Sanders, Varejao, Asik, Hawes, Stephenson and more ... and how the landscape can change.

This season the NBA landscape has a crazy mix, and it has the trade market primed for chaos. About half the league's teams feel they are in position to get better, looking for one more addition at the right price. The other half have decided to "prioritize the long-term" (cough "tank" cough) this season and will give up any talent they don't see as a long-term keeper, to anyone who will pay their price. And with so much talent landing in free agency under the dynamics of the 2011 CBA, a team can swap away talent now and replace it in free agency. On top of all that, the riches of the 2014 NBA Draft and the chance to land young talent at a bargain salary has fueled desires for 1st-round draft picks in every deal.

In other words, we should have potential buyers galore, potential sellers galore, and talent everywhere.

The Dallas Mavericks admit they want to be "opportunistic." So does that mean they're buyers, or sellers? And what are they looking to do?

From sources close to the team as well as around the league, learned some of their thinking as we head to the deadline. We can't share all we know (yet), but here is a bundle of things to look for.

First of all, let's put to rest the idea that the Mavs might be on the "selling" side of things this year, trying to turn a Marion, Carter, Harris, or other expiring contract into a pick for later help. That holds no interest for them. They like the promise of the team they have, and are perfectly willing to run with it and see how far they can go. ( That even extends to their response when the Wiz called them about point-guard help.) But they prefer to buy, if they can find a trade they like at a price they like.

Second, with only a week remaining until the deadline, the asking price on talent right now is beyond exorbitant. Remember the trade that the Mavs made a few years back to land Keith Van Horn as a talented backup for Dirk, for virtually nothing? There are multiple players being offered with far less talent than Van Horn had, some as expiring contract rent-a-players - and we have been told repeatedly by multiple execs from multiple teams that the asking price starts with a first-round pick for every such player!

Yikes! is being told of one specific team that's willing to bundle a talented backup or three in a package, but is sticking hard to demands for a star-caliber talent in return (for a "superstar" is the way one GM described it to us).

Demanding a huge package for Rondo? That's what Boston's doing, and it's fair enough. Our Team X wanting a superstar for a backup? That's how a Mavs trade doesn't get made at the deadline.

We've also been told by two sources very specifically that when Dallas calls Philly to kick the tires on ideas (Spencer Hawes more than Evan Turner), Sixers GM Sam Hinkie kicks back with demands for first-round picks.
Are we saying the Mavs are out of the trade market? At those prices, absolutely yes. The Mavs are no more willing to trade away a first-round pick than anyone else is (and of course, you have to have one to swap one) so the prices will have to come down considerably before they will do a deal.

Sitting on the sidelines, however, might not be a catastrophe. Rather than waste assets now, the Mavs thinking is that there will be huge opportunity in the summer if they need to wait. For example, they could use another center, and we're likely to see talents like Gortat, Gasol, Asik, (all of whom they like at the right price, we understand) and perhaps several other good ones be on the market then.

One name to watch in the summer (who definitely is off the market now) is Larry Sanders, the young and defensively-talented Milwaukee Bucks center. He developed nicely for them in prior years, but he's been a huge disappointment this season on the court after signing a massive extension before it began, and he's had off-court issues as well.

His shooting has gone down, with the free-throw percentage sinking from 62 percent to the worrisome 47 percent, along with notable drops in field-goal percentage, points, rebounds and blocked shots. And after missing 25 games earlier this season because of an injury sustained in a nightclub altercation, he's just broken his orbital bone (eye socket) this week and will miss most of the remainder of the season.
The Bucks have been saved from a rushed deal to get rid of him and his possibly-albatross contract by the fact that he's almost impossible to trade until July and get back commensurate value. (As an extended rookie contract where the extension hasn't begun yet, his contract falls in the "Poison Pill" category, only counting as $3.05 million in outgoing salary in a trade but as $9.41 million incoming to the other team, creating huge trade-matching obstacles.)

A Mavs source tells us Milwaukee never wanted to deal Sanders at this time anyway. (That tells you Dallas at least looked into the idea.) And now? Many expect he will be back in their good graces by the time we get to July. But the big contract and the off-court issues mean the door is ajar.

A trade then would be for a player with four years ahead, at $11 million per season, and all kinds of huge question marks. High-risk, a boom-or-bust type of deal, but we have it on good authority that the Mavs are not scared of the money he's owed, if he gets shopped.
Same on Omer Asik, by the way. We can tell you definitively that Dallas has touched base with Houston GM Daryl Morey there, and that one aspect is locked in: The Mavs are not frightened off by Asik's coming "balloon payment.''

But the Sanders idea is one for later day. (And we're continuing to work on Asik details and will have more for you shortly. ... ( in addition to one powerful Rockets voice who doesn't want to swap Asik within the Southwest Division. ) So how about now? If asking prices do come down on various players before the deadline that they want, how could the Mavs be in the mix without a pick? If no one is willing to offer one, using the Mavs' seconnd-rounder from Boston is one idea, especially if they opt for a rent-a-player.

Two takes to file away as either "fact'' or "chum,'' because teams we've spoken to have been given strong impressions here:

1) Mark Cuban doesn't want to sacrifice that Boston pick. The Mavs suddenly seem to be valuing the draft like they rarely have before.

2) The Mavs are not excited in general about the rent-a-player concept -- and not excited specifically about it as it relates to Philly's Evan Turner.
Knowing all that: We think the Mavs could simply engage in a talent-for-talent swap that helps both teams, and that gives a more lasting benefit. Many of the talented players being shopped have expiring contracts and offer no value other than a two-month contribution. But if they can swing a deal for a longer contract, they can benefit on an ongoing basis rather than just get a temporary patch for the playoffs.

Of course, the price will be a bit higher for that deal. They would have to give, in order to get.

One idea of that kind we like (note: this is our own tinkering, not something the Mavs are necessarily considering) would be a swap with the Cavs for Anderson Varejao, as a center to pair with Dalembert. ... and done in a manner that gives the Mavs a future cap benefit as well. Instead of going into the summer needing another center and having to use up $8-10 million of their summer cap room on that need, what if they already had Varejao? And what if instead of having $19-20 million left to spend on shoring up the center and wing positions, a deadline deal would get the center position done and leave $17-18 million to spend on a star wing with plenty left to spend elsewhere?

This is where the discussion of a player like Lance Stephenson comes in. We've had a pair of extensive conversations with someone close to Stephenson and the Pacers' belief is that they can convince him to re-up with Indy this summer ... even though they have just $8.3 million of room for him.
That's going to be a neat trick, and the Mavs will be vultures on that situation ... which is among the dominoes that can fall right in July especially if Dallas pushes a mid-February domino or two.

The Mavs are already working the phones. Calls are coming in as fast as they're going out, some on things we can't talk about (yet) and others on things we don't know (yet). There will be talk at the All-Star Game ... Maybe something will lead to a trade. Heading forward, we'll keep you abreast of the developments as they occur in's one-of-a-kind "Trade Rumor Traffic'' feature.

As always ... stay tuned, and thanks for being a Mavs Premium Insider!

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