This summer the Mavs - like many other teams - have been swimming in spending room under the salary cap. There weren't any actual elite All-Star targets to chase, with LeBron and Durant out of their reach, so they aimed a tad lower and offered max money to Conley and Whiteside, both very good players on the next tier down, with Batum the alternative.
Many players, not elite but the best available, got massive contracts as teams aggressively offered money to try to make an impact. Dallas sat out ...
So the Mavs are still sitting with a boatload of money to spend. And they have glaring holes to fill at starting C, SF, and PG, with a need for a sixth-man type as well. Amid anger from the fan base and justifiable questions about the Mavs' judgment (including this worthy pondering of whether Parsons joining Conley to exit Dallas' grips means they've "Misunderstood The Max?'') ... What next?
In addition to Fish and Skin's nice work here on the idea of The Bloat-Relief Trade ...
Here's one idea that makes sense to us. Why not take advantage of the opportunity and put Dirk on the minimum-maximum plan we previously proposed, where he gets paid "two-years worth" in one year, followed by next-to-nothing the next? For purposes of expanding cap room THIS summer, we proposed this as The MIN/MAX plan previously.
But with the need not being there for as much cap room, with the best players gone, why not do it the other way around? Go ahead and use a bit of cap room on Dirk this summer, and ultimately pay him "two years" worth of salary this season (to be followed by the following season at the minimum), for the purpose of never having a summer cap cost for him again?
In order to make it work, the Mavs would preserve Dirk's Bird rights by keeping them using a cap hold of $12,500,000, This will allow them, later, to sign him to any-sized contract up to his max of around $31M, while limiting the cap impact of that opportunity while they sign other players.
That would leave about $48M to spend on players at the next tier down. Not max-level spending on somewhat lesser players, but contracts in the $12-16M per year range, perhaps. They could pay 3 players $14-15M each and pay a 4th a bit less, or 4 players about $12M each. Get a starting C, SF, PG, and perhaps a 6th man as well. And pay Dirk.
And there's still talent out there, on that next tier down.
Now these guys may not be the young-and-promising that everyone lusts for and have been paying staggering amounts for, but there are players that can play well, and that will sign with someone for this type of money.
For example, what sort of money will C Pau Gasol get, or 6th man Dwyane Wade? Those guys have been somewhat looked past, in the chase for the kids, but eventually they will sign and someone may get very good value for their money. Or maybe there are some young players on the next tier down, a bit more risky than the Whitesides, but who have been overlooked and would come quite a bit cheaper. (Sidenote: I'm aware of Fish's report that Dallas has NO connection to Wade. And I believe Fish, when he wrote this a couple of days ago and re-reported it today. I use Wade's name here as an example only.)
Three or four players. C, SF, PG, 6th man. Good values, whose price tags are a bit less.
And then, when those deals are done and the cap room is spent, use the Bird rights and pay Dirk "The Biggest Salary in Dallas Mavericks' History!"
They should be able to pay maybe a $28M paycheck this year, to bring the total player payroll to a couple million under the tax line and leave some flexibility for later in the year, if needed. And next year, the Mavs wouldn't keep a cap hold on Dirk's Bird rights, and therefore would have no cap hit on him while they sign other players during the summer, allowing them more spending room in 2017 free agency. At the end of that 2017 summer, Dirk would get a deal for the minimum (which currently is scheduled to be around $1.6M), and over the two seasons Dirk will have been paid about $30M, or about $15M per season, like the others. (That's TWICE as much as he was previously planning on making per season in his Twilight Dirk years.)
In addition, if the Mavs get several good players on reasonable contracts, even if a bit older or riskier, they become assets if the Mavs ever decide to change course. The contracts should be for two years with a TEAM option (or non-guaranteed) for year 3, to be sure and have Bird rights at the end, and also have extra flexibility. Or, perhaps, three years with a TEAM option (or non-guaranteed) for year 4. Give a little to sign these guys, and get a little too.
All of this leaves open the door in case Dirk wants to play yet another year, year 3. If that were to happen in this scenario, he will have Bird rights, but coming off a minimum salary it would only cost a cap hold for the minimum salary of about $1M to use those rights, yet the ability to again pay Dirk up to a max salary using them.
And Nowitzki -- via this MIN/MAX Mirror, a "Plan D'' for "Dirk'' -- is getting rewarded for loyalty and greatness, as he should be.