Mavs Call Deng; His Pecking-Order Position

The Mavs were happy to see Luol Deng leave Chicago for Cleveland, flirted with a Cavs trade at the deadline, and then found themselves happy that he didn't move from there ... because it meant they could make him a free agent target today. They've done just that. Where is he on a Dallas pecking order that includes Ariza, Parsons and Pierce?

NBA sources told me back in February that the Mavs went right to the deadline in talking to the Cavs about Luol Deng. The concept - far-fetched as it might've been - included a great deal of Dallas admiration for Deng and a great deal of Dallas self-confidence in a 2014 re-signing.

But when that deal didn't work, all Dallas cared about what that Cleveland didn't deal him to another spot where he might grow more comfortable with the idea of staying. There was no ensuing deal. And at 11:01 or so last night, Deng got the flirtation call.

Now, Trevor Ariza and Chandler Parsons, among others, got the same call from the Mavs. It's a feeler to all of them, as they know full well that LeBron and Melo are above them on every team's wishlist.

But once those two are off the table, how persuasive can the Mavs be when it comes to the Cavs?

Deng, I think, will not re-up with the Cavs this summer -- even though he would be eligible for a five-year deal (worth as much as $110 mil if Cleveland opts to go that direction).

Meanwhile, Deng could only get a four-year deal (worth up to $86 mil total) if he bolts from Cleveland (for Dallas or anywhere else).

Of course, Dallas doesn't want to spend anything near that -- not for Deng, Ariza, Chandler or any second-tier guy.

Back at the deadline, a source told me, "Dallas would love Deng but the price hasn't been right.''

There remains plenty to love. Deng is 6-9, a two-time All-Star with a worker-bee reputation and 19 points and seven rebounds per game to offer. At 28, he's not an "heir'' to Dirk. But at the right dollar figure -- half the money left over following a Dirk signing, say -- he's a key piece in Dallas being way better than a 49-win team.

I can be argue that it's time to overpay for a true All-Star. Or even a second-tier guy. (Not Pierce, though, who was a Mavs target a year ago but needs to move into a supplemental-salary mode.) I can also argue that Calderon's departure means the Mavs need a wing who is a shooter, and Ariza therefore belongs above Deng on the totem pole.

But know this: Get beyond LeBron, Melo, Ariza, Deng and Parsons and the small-forward pickings get slim. Dallas loved Deng then because it knew that at the deadline. Dallas knows it now.

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