There is no advantage to the Dallas Mavericks being open and revealing about their specific plans regarding a pursuit of Clippers center DeAndre Jordan. Nor is there any advantage to DallasBasketball.com blowing this (or any other angle) out of proportion. We harbor the belief that the reader understands our "One-Percent Chance Rule'' -- that NBA bylaws purposely make it attractive for free agents to remain with their present employers -- and we do our best to explain that rather than to click-whore with "headline porn'' exclamations of what "will happen.''
The process of getting to July 1 is ongoing ... and the Mavs themselves do not, cannot, know what exactly "will happen.''
So there is no pretense here. We'll do our best, on Jordan, on LaMarcus Aldridge, on all of the dozens of different scenarios, to do what we've done for 16 years now at DB.com: Separate truth from rumor and wheat from chaff while also letting you know when a concept is one we're cooking up, or the Mavs themselves are contemplating, or both.
Part of the Jordan pipedream entails paying him a max salary, in some form. To define a max deal, in round numbers it would start at $19 mil, and with max allowable raises, and max number of years from the Mavs (or any team except the Clippers) it would total $81.13 mil over four years. The Clippers could offer slightly higher annual raises and as many as five years.
This is a special player, not without flaws, but special nevertheless, at 26 already one of the better centers in the league and on a clear path to appear "underpaid'' (if he signs a long-term deal) as player payrolls will be going through the roof in future years. Free-throwing aside, this is a difference-making force. The Clippers center was good for 11.5 points per game while grabbing 15.7 rebounds, blocking 2.3 shots, and shooting 71 percent from the field. LA coach Doc Rivers talked of him as a Defensive Player of the Year finalist. He's an elite rim protector and he's an 82-game ironman who is presently the holder of the longest streak in the NBA. A look at what each year’s salary for Jordan, starting at the max, would look like compared to the projected max in each future year.
A $20.7-mil or $21.6-mil salary for one of the top centers in the league is almost certain to be a huge bargain by the time we get there. ... but it can be argued that LaMarcus Aldridge (or any other free agent who flirts with Dallas this summer) might be "more worth it.''
The Warriors' Game 5 win in the NBA Finals was highlighted by both Golden State and Cleveland playing "SmallBall.'' Twitter was flooded with "it's-the-death-of-the-center!'' claims.
Actually, a reverse truth was revealed: While there is an attraction to employing an army of interchangeable parts (as the Warriors do), the use of SmallBall doesn't de-emphasize the traditional center's importance ... it EMPHASIZES it. It means having one sets your team apart.
Jordan is that caliber of traditional center.
And by the way, this Lance-for-Barnes trade in which the Clippers also dump center Spencer Hawes? That move of the center doesn't make LA "want Jordan more.'' They already want him as much as they can want him -- max "want.''
How to prioritize? How many July 1 midnight doorsteps can the Mavs sit on? We'd suggest the winner here (if there is one) isn't the player who Dallas wants most; it's the player who most wants Dallas.
Jordan is a candidate to be on that list. By the way, until the Mavs know more about the other moving parts, they cannot have all of their Jordan (or Aldridge, or whomever) answers. Monta's option decision on June 24 plays a role. (And the Mavs playing nice to get him about $10.32 million to start on a new deal elsewhere does, too.) Other teams' desire to acquire Rondo plays a role. This trickles all the way down to whether to keep Aminu and how to utilize Felton. The Mavs don't have those sort of definitive answers yet because without knowing more about the Jordan-level decisions, they cannot make many Felton-level decisions.
We recently asked Mavs management for a hint at their Jordan-vs.-Aldridge thoughts. We truly believe they are still working through all that, so we'll squat on this idea: The determination of that isn't all about who Dallas wants; ultimately, it'll also be about who wants Dallas.
Between now and July 1, when teams can begin to negotiate, we are likely to hear that the Clippers can offer “way more money” to Jordan. However, those comparisons will be based to some degree on apples-to-oranges, comparing both the contractual figures, rather than the amount Jordan would get to keep after federal and state income taxes, and a five-year deal from LA, versus four from Dallas.
We've explained this before. We think it's an important part of the pitch. Let’s take a another look at that tax issue.
Income tax savings, by playing for a team in a state like Texas with no state income tax, is something that has long been media-discussed regarding free agency and player choices, but then seemingly ignored at decision-making time. But, ignored or not, taxes are part of the financial equation. Businesses have historically moved to places with tax advantages, athletes are getting smarter about these things (and many of these guys are savvy businessmen), and we have been getting hints that some recent deals have been impacted by the tax issue, perhaps. (Dwight Howard and Josh Hamilton come to mind.)
So how this might come into play remains to be seen.
In any event, there is unquestionably a significant difference in income tax in California versus that in Texas. Putting an exact pencil to it is a task better suited for a CPA who is actually calculating the bottom line on a player’s tax return, of course, but we know the general rules, and we have a great guideline for this specific comparison. (And we can rest assured that an agent, or an NBA team, will know the comparative numbers to the penny as well.)
There are multiple issues at play. A pro player is not only subject to the taxes in his home team state, but he also has to pay taxes to cities and states where he plays an away game. Those out-of-state games are not “tax-free” in relation to California tax, but the athlete simply gets a credit against what he would otherwise have to pay California for those earnings, which means he still ends up paying the California tax rate even if he’s playing a game in Texas, for example. Further muddying the calculations are deductions on federal taxes for paying more in state tax, issues of personal deductions and lower brackets on some of the income, and on and on we go.
But in general, the star California athlete will generally end up paying that state millionaire tax rate of 13.3 percent on the bulk of his entire NBA paycheck, with some of that amount paid to other places and the rest to California. By contrast, the Texas athlete (with no state income tax) will pay tax on out-of-state games only, and only at that state’s rate.
So is there a way to cut to the bottom line on the difference for an athlete on taxes between California and Texas? Fortunately, yes.
If we plug that into the comparison between the Clippers and Mavericks, and then look at a max deal of from one to four years with max raises, here’s what we get:
Again, teams don't seem to win this tax-advantage arguments very often but the Mavs, in talking to Jordan (and the rest of this free-agency class) need to make him understand that the result of the math is easy to see. While on paper Jordan would have a bigger contract playing for the Clippers, his after-income-tax paycheck would end up bigger if he was with Dallas. Period.
Another by-the-way: We'll be hangin' out tonight at The Maverick Bar, 1616 Hebron, watching the NBA Finals on the 200-inch screen, eating a Texas-flavored and sampling one (or two) of our 80 available beers. Join us!
Let's return to this concept of "It's not who Dallas wants most; it's the player who most wants Dallas.''
Clips coach Doc Rivers has actually found it necessary to go on-record to calm concerns after reports that Jordan and Chris Paul are not friendly. That's an unusual move, maybe one of those "protest-too-much'' statements. But it should be understood that smart Mavs fans wish to examine all the connections and all the "back channels'' ... So LaMarcus Aldridge really does have property in DFW and really did just finish building a sweet backyard swimming pool here for his mom. And yeah, we think that was him at an IHOP in Southlake the other day. (Of course, that was definitely him in the airport in Boston the other day, too.) And Southlake resident Jermaine O'Neal really is maintaining a contact with the Mavs. And . there is a reason to hope that restricted free agent Jimmy Butler dislikes Chicago teammate Derrick Rose ...
Our look at "The Prime Real Estate of LaMarcus Aldridge'' is helpful here.
The evidence of Jordan's willingness to at least listen here continues to stack up. "I'm very close with DeAndre,'' Mavs "chief recruiter'' Chandler Parsons recently told 103.3 ESPN Radio. "Obviously he's a free agent and we share the same agent. ...'' Jordan is a Texas native with family here (same with LaMarcus Aldridge and yes, we recognize that San Antonio is in this same chase and in this same state.)
Would Jordan come "home'' because he loves so much about Texas, including his Cowboys? It never quite put LeBron-to-Dallas over the top. But Jordan loves Dez Bryant and Michael Irvin; Irvin's already on record as working to recruit DeAndre. And yes, Mark Cuban, it would be wise to add the insanely passionate duo of Irvin and Bryant to your DeAndre Recruitment Team.
We'll say this, with no equivocation: Jordan (and Aldridge) are open to leaving the Clippers and Blazers, respectively. That doesn't get one (or both!) of them to Dallas. But it puts Dallas in the running (as it was for Deron and Dwight and LeBron before the Mavs became bridesmaids) and most franchises cannot say that.
If Jordan simply wants a five-year (fully-guaranteed) deal, period? He's a Clipper. If Aldridge wants the same, he's a Blazer. But if those concepts were already locked in, we wouldn't be bothering with this exercise.
Here is the short-hand look at one possibility ... that, mathematically-speaking, can actually land you BOTH Jordan and Aldridge:
Starting with a split-the-cap concept, the route to the biggest contract possible would be a one-year deal this summer (with a player option for a second year), followed by the same contract structure in the summer of 2016, and then a deal in the summer of 2017 using Early Bird rights. It would look something like this:
On one level, this would be a huge win-win for both the Mavs and the player(s). It would solve the shortage in cap room for the Mavs in being able to get both Jordan and Aldridge, as both players would fit in the $30-mil-ish of available cap room. And it also rewards the player with a huge upside, exceeding the $80 mil offer needed by 20-25 percent!
We've used LaMarcus here and we've used DeAndre here, demonstrating just one way to get them around $100 mil over four years ... but NOT by signing a four-year deal. There are lots of negatives to this idea, including the risk being taken by the player(s) to decline five years guaranteed. But it does constitute a "yes'' answer when you ask your "can they?'' question regarding chasing both stars ... and more realistically, it shows another way for a player to get rich with the Mavs if he's willing to listen to some creative financing.
Two key points:
*Yes, we just told you Dallas can conjure ways to pursue BOTH Jordan AND Aldridge. Premium readers can learn more about that, right down to the penny, here.
*No, we aren't predicting that. Did you skip DONUT 1's acknowledgment that this is a "One-Percent Chance Rule'' application? OK, if that goes for one guy, it darn sure goes for two.
This portion of the Jordan/Aldridge stuff represents not a prediction, but rather an examination.
What if Jordan says "yes'' to Dallas? What happens next?
You quit worrying quite so much about the aforementioned "little pieces'' and you go big: If Dallas gets Jordan, Dallas has no use for the valued Tyson Chandler. How would a sign-and-trade work? Would the Clippers want TY? Would Chandler wish to reunite with Chris Paul? Again, there are two levels of exploration to be done here: One is exploring the "how-to,'' the other exploring the "want-to.'' We're on it here in Premium.
But that will be the answer, and the Clips know it. If the Clips lose Jordan straight-up, their available cap room to replace him amounts to about $5.6 million. Therefore, if you are going to lose him, you are motivated to cooperate with a sign-and-trade. Does this sound familiar to you as a Mavs fan? It should. Because it's essentially the same formula that Dallas must deal with in scrapping its original plan to use the Bird Rights of Rondo, Monta and Tyson to bring them all back while splitting up $42 million. To find a straight-up replacement for Rondo? Dallas will be left, like LA with Jordan, with chump change.
So sign-and-trades are in play. ... and so is Dallas continuing to "play nice'' with Rondo despite the soap-operatic villain's odd exit from the Mavs. ... just as we noted above that they must do with Monta.
And then, if you are lucky enough to have pulled off the rarity -- luring a max free agent away from his employer (you know, it's not just the Mavs who annually fail at this ... so does virtually every other franchise) -- you frantically start the reload.
And you take a stab at informing one guy (Aldridge) that you've just agreed on another guy (Jordan) wanting to come here ... and (one more time) you propose a financially-feasible, CBA-legal way to lure both LaMarcus Aldridge AND DeAndre Jordan? Pipedreamy as it is, yes, there is a way, as we examine exclusively for Premium Mavs Fans here.
Short of that? Monta's decision doesn't mean you can't move him. Rondo is a sign-and-trade piece. If you dump Felton, you are making room for whatever move to make to get better, whether that's retaining Aminu or any of three dozen other concepts. A team that's just added a centerpiece like Jordan or Aldridge suddenly becomes more attractive to vets who might be willing to play cheap.
Does it all seem "too much'' in terms of multiple moves? Think back; every summer plays out this way, certainly post-2011 CBA, and pretty much before that, too. Does it all seem ridiculously pipe-dreamy, when we bring up luring Jordan here, or luring Aldridge here, or bothering to do the research to prove that Dallas could in theory pursue both?
@cole_mentzel You have a better chance of winning the lottery.— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) June 12, 2015
Our buddy Tim is close to right about the odds. But the Mavs fan's question isn't "Will they?'' It's "Can they?'' The point here is to hopefully get better, with a stronger foundation for the present and future, shortly after July 1, than you were even during last year's 50-win playoff campaign. That's the goal -- and in the specific case of DeAndre, these are the 10 angles the Mavs will explore as they sort through those Summer Shopping plans. Yes, even at it applies to just acquiring one max star like Jordan, it is indeed a "lottery ticket.''
But it's a "lottery ticket'' that costs nothing to purchase. It's a free spin of the wheel. And the only thing more foolish than to think the Jordans and the Aldridges "would never'' come to Dallas is to fail to hold that lottery ticket in case they might.