Mavs + Famous, Jenkins: Roster Reasoning
The Dallas Mavericks' numbers for J.J. Barea's contract have now emerged, and it's constructed in an unexpected way. And combined with other developments, Mavs cap numbers are shifting, bit by bit. What does it mean?
Regarding the Barea deal, contracts are negotiated with two numbers in mind. One is a cap room number, and that revolves around things like max salary limits, minimum salary limits, cap exceptions, and cap room. A team has to fit the salary onto its cap in a CBA-legal way. But after that, the team and player negotiate a contract total to the player (usually all guaranteed), agree on that, and then decide how to best fit it into the team's current cap. So in the vast majority of deals, when you hear the total the player is getting, and the number of years, you can "reverse-engineer'' the initial salary in the deal using the max year-to-year raises that the player could have gotten.
For example, consider Deron Williams. He got an $11-mil deal from the Mavs over two years. The max raise he could have gotten from Year 1 to Year 2 was 4.5 percent. Plug that into the calculator, and you can calculate that the lowest salary he could have gotten in Year 1 - and therefore the easiest for the Mavs to fit onto their cap - was $5,378,974.
Sure enough, when the actual salary numbers emerged, his first-year salary was $5,378,974.
In about 99 percent of NBA deals, it works exactly that way when it's not a number tied to an exception (like an MLE) or a restriction (like minimum or maximum). But not with Barea's deal. Instead, the Mavs and Barea essentially did it the reverse way. They took the four-year, $16-mil total and constructed it so that it declines in size from year to year, by the max raise amount. So here are the comparative figures, in a "normal" $16-mil deal, and then in Barea's.
Side-by-side, we can see that the main impact is that the Mavs shifted over $0.5M in cap room from this summer to the summer of 2018.
Reports have also emerged (via Shams Charania) that the Mavs have agreed with John Jenkins and Jarrid Famous on three-year minimum deals.
First, to the scouting reports on Jenkins and Famous, from our Matt Galatzan:
Jenkins (6-4, 215) was drafted 23rd by the Atlanta Hawks in 2012 and is primarily known as a spot-up shooter. After a rough 2013-2014 campaign, Jenkins, 24, bounced back last season, shooting 49.5 percent from the field and 40.4 percent from three. Though he averaged only 5.6 points in 12.4 minutes per game, Jenkins hit shots when called upon. In fact, the Vanderbilt alum averaged 18.6 points and 5.3 per 40 minutes last season but also spent time in the D-League.
As seen below, Jenkins has the ability to fill it up when he gets hot.
Jarrid Famous (6-11, 240) is a bit more of an unknown commodity at the NBA level, but due to him spending the vast majority of his career in the D-League after going undrafted out of South Florida, the Texas Legends know him well. Famous is primarily known as a rebounding big man with a serviceable offensive game. Last season in stints with the Legends and Iowa Energy, the 27-year-old Famous averaged 16 points and 14.9 boards per game.
On the surface, these might be considered "camp bodies,'' and certainly guys who might end up in Frisco. Indeed, sources tell DB.com that the Mavs organization spent Monday weighing Famous' situation: They want to keep him tied to the Legends (who hold his D-League rights for two more seasons), thus preventing him from going overseas for more money than the D-League usually pays. So reports were coming out of this being a "done deal'' (in fact, as of 3 a.m. neither of these is "done-done,'' though we're sure Shams is on this) when some in the Mavs organization knew nothing about such developments ... largely because, in the case of Famous, this was in many ways a D-League development.
But when we look to the finances, and we'll use Jenkins' contract here -- eye-popping to some because it's a three-year deal -- we see another level to the story.
Most minimum deals are for one or two years, because including that third year makes a difference. The reason is that minimum-salary deals are usually made using the "minimum salary" exception to the cap limits. And such deals can be for two years at the most. So by signing Jenkins to three years, the Mavs will have to use some of their cap room to do so, which will subtract $456,255 from their available space.
So at the moment (after factoring in Barea's salary structure and all the deals that have been reported), the Mavs' current cap room has been reduced almost exactly $1 million to $3,149,174.
That $3,149,174 is now the limit they can offer in a free-agent contract. And they still have a separate salary slot available, using their room mid-level, of $2.814 mil.
From that, what can we learn? For starters, it indicates they don't see any free-agent player that they want at the $4-mil level. They're instead working in the $3.15M-or-less pool. However, they are not as cap-limited in the trade market. For example, after adding Jenkins and Famous, they could still manufacture an outgoing sign-and-trade or two (utilizing Greg Smith and/or Bernard James) that they could combine with Felton to bring back one or more players making salary of about $14.63 mil or less.
It should be noted that we are only talking about cap limits. The matching salary used in such deals by the Mavs would be expiring filler, so this only makes sense if the trade partner is wanting to get rid of one or more players that the Mavs are willing to take.
But the point is, the Mavs do have some flexibility for the right opportunity. And even after using ALL their cap room, which would eliminate those sign-and-trade options, they could still trade Felton in a one-for-one deal that brings back a player making $6 mil or less.
As for that remaining cap room, perhaps it will go unused, or perhaps it will be used to facilitate a sign-and-trade. But given the fact that they have the similarly-sized room mid-level still available, there might be another way they might use the cap room at this time.
Consider those commitments to Jenkins and Famous. As previously noted, the only way for the Mavs to sign players this summer to a minimum-salary deal for more than two years, where they would have longer to work with them and Bird rights at the end, has been to sign them using cap space rather than a minimum-salary exception. And by signing players needing development to deals with very limited guarantees (as they are planning to do with both Jenkins and Famous), the Mavs are not on the hook from year to year if the players don't develop.
So if they want, the Mavs could still use their remaining cap room for additional contracts of a similar nature. At this point, they do have a window to add as many as three to five more players in the same manner, if they and the players so desire, and let the extra players battle it out in camp to stick with the team.
Of course, that idea goes out the window if they have a veteran that they want to bring onboard as a backup center, and who can be signed to a bargain deal for three years rather than two. In such a case, using the room mid-level (limited to two years at the most) wouldn't work, so they would need to use the cap room instead. And being able to add that 3rd year, with full Bird rights at the end, would offer a big plus for the Mavs on such a deal.
So where are we? After we get past the cap numbers, the Mavs still have (at least) one obvious slot still to be filled. Look at this tentative depth chart. (Keep in mind that we're filling slots here; Devin, for example, is most likely the No. 2 point guard.)
UPDATE: Oops. Wait. Scratch RJ. He's Cleveland-bound (as Cuban describes here.)
It seems unlikely - and even ludicrous - to think that the Mavs might go into the season without a backup center to Pachulia, other than the still-raw Famous. They typically prefer to have and use a pair of centers. In addition, Zaza has injury issues at times, so he certainly will have somewhat limited minutes, and Dirk plays much better with a center alongside. In addition, the backups at the 4 are not center types, either. (Go to our search box here to learn the latest on Dallas and Dalembert, McGee, Sanders, Seraphin and more. ... (Oh, and know this Premium nugget: A source tells DB.com that there is nothing cooking trade-talk-wise between Dallas and the Nuggets tandem of Faried and Hickson.)
That hole on the roster is huge.
Who? How? When? For now, at least we see the strategy here, the shuffling of money that can make "camp bodies'' more than "camp bodies'' and the appearance of no room actually end up roomy enough.
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