Mavs Donuts: The NBA's $92-Million Cap - And Dallas' Available 'Banging-Away' Tools

Some NBA teams get to play on. Others - most, really - like the Mavs get to start playing with their money and their assets. We've got a new estimated $92-mil cap ... and new news regarding Dirk ... so let's play.

DONUT 1: Ousted
if you are a team out of the NBA Playoffs, as is now the case for the Dallas Mavericks, you are free to busy yourself examining ways to get better, to last longer, to find a way to join the class of teams including the OKC club that just beat you and the Warriors, Spurs and Cavs clubs that seem capable of beating most anybody.
                
Well ... now you know you have $2 million more worth of tools in your toolbox than you had before. Mike Fisher and David Lord team to stick their paws inside that toolbox ...
DONUT 2: The $92-Mil Cap
The NBA recently issued a revised estimated cap projection to teams of $92 million for next season. This is only a guess, but it is an educated one. The actual number will not be decided until July 6 after several days of calculations and negotiations between the league and the union. 
                            


This news has been somewhat expected. It means every team will likely have $2 million more in cap room than previously expected. ... and it means that almost immediately, the Mavs can turn their attention to how to spend it.


DONUT 3: Naming Names?
No, not yet. We mean, not ones that can be verified by inside Mavs HQ.
Give us time here. Oh, eventually this conversation from Mark Cuban's office will surely start with Kevin Durant, the very same "big-fish'' superstar who just demonstrated his excellence in the OKC-Dallas first-round blowout. (Get all the details on that series, painful as they are, here in DB.com Mavs Archives.)
And then there are stories to write about Dallas' already-revealed thoughts on pursuing Dwight Howard (and how the Mavs almost certainly won't offer him the max because ... they would be hard-pressed to do so and still build a team around him.)
And we will dig through everyone from Harrison Barnes (there is a way!) and Hassan Whiteside (is he a Right-Kind-Of-Guy guy?) to Dwight Howard (is he a loon and will he take less than the max?) to Al Horford (a great idea) to Mike Conley (is there really someone loopy enough to not see his vast superiority to Deron and most others?) and all the "medium fish'' ... with the hope that Dallas doesn't have to settle there, as is usually the case.
DONUT 4: Changing Philosophies?
No, not yet.
We've been harshly critical of Cuban's reading of that 2011 CBA and how it's driven the Mavs to steer away from using the NBA Draft as a way to grab assets (opting instead to use the Draft as a way to clear out money for the free agent who never quite gets here). 
There is a place for us (Fish and D-Lord) and you to continue to debate to what degree this Cuban-run organization -- and yes, you should know that the deeply-caring, deeply-involved Cuban is the de facto GM and the driving force in this decisions, as is his right -- and we'll engage in those debates as we move through the summer.
We can note that there has been a shift of sorts in the last 10 months, with Dallas using all six tools in the box to acquire talent. To wit:
a) The NBA Draft? That's how they got Justin Anderson.
b) Medium-Fish Free Agency? Deron Williams was a "get.'' (Maybe Wes Matthews is "medium,'' too. Or maybe he's bigger.)
c) The Scrap Heap? Salah Mejri qualifies.
f) Big-Fish Free Agency? YES! DeAndre Jordan agreed to a deal!
Oops. But ... he really did agree to a deal. So Dallas really did use Big-Fish Free Agency properly ... until the Fish took himself off the hook in an unprecedented way. (But, what the heck, #NoHardFeelings if Chandler and DeAndre are huggin' buddies again, right? Right, Mavs fans?)
                              
Should Dallas de-emphasize the Big-Fish chase to instead "build through the draft''? Doing both seems wiser.
Oh, and "Blow It Up'' isn't wise at all. That's simply not how the NBA works.
Tanking? We're not big fans. Maybe it can work. But again, all of this is for another day.
DONUT 5: OK, Back to The Cap
What will be the impact of the $92-mil cap? We say ...

a) It will intend to inflate ALL new salaries that aren't otherwise limited. So no team with cap room really gets ahead of others with this increase. (So we note above that Dallas has "more tools'' -- but here add that it's not more tools than anyone else.)
b) Max salary contracts this summer will be a bit bigger (2.22 percent) as a result.
c) The MLE and BAE and minimum salary limits will remain the same.
d) It will bump the tax line higher, which will help teams dealing with that issue. With a $92-mil cap, the tax line lands at around $111.4 mil. (Cleveland had the highest team salary this season, at about $107 mil. Every little bit helps them.)


DONUT 6: The Mavs Assumptions
Using the $92 mil figureour analysis of the Mavs' resulting cap room comes with some assumptions, as follows:

a) Deron Williams declines his option.
b) Chandler Parsons declines his option.
c) Dirk Nowitzki exercises his option for another year. (Oops. Dirk changed his mind here. Read on. ...)
d) Parsons' Early Bird rights are held onto.
e) Dwight Powell's Early Bird rights are held onto.
f) No other free agent holds are held onto.
g) The Mavs waive JaVale McGee 


DONUT 7: The Mavs Roster
Those moves would cause the returning roster to look like this, as we work under the belief the Mavs will want to and will be able to keep Parsons and Powell utilizing their cap holds:

Center - Mejri, (Powell)
Power Forward - Dirk, Jeremy Evans
Small Forward - (Parsons), Anderson
Shooting Guard - Matthews
Point Guard - J.J. Barea, Devin Harris
DONUT 8: Missing Two Starters?
Yes, indeed. This list omits Zaza and Deron, both of whom are free. We believe Dallas would like them both back, under the right financial circumstances. We explain Zaza's complicated budding free agency here and with Williams, we wonder if his $5-mil salary in Dallas for this one year is simply a springboard to a bigger deal. Deron is opting out, and if you are surprised by that, or even surprised by his possible departure, you are being naive. Read here.)
                        
The locker room is a better place with Zaza. The on-court product is a decent thing with Deron. Is there a starting center who will be available in free agency who is superior to Zaza and will make just $5 mil? We doubt it. Is there a starting point guard who will be available in free agency who is superior to Deron and will make just $5 mil? We doubt it.
There are better players. But they won't cost $5 million.
DONUT 9: Thanks To Our Sponsors!
Dear Readers, we can't accomplish what we have at DB.com in our 17 years without the supportive help of sponsors and friends like Bill and Woody at LS Wealth Strategies (the very best in the business), PM Standley Motorcars (with an amazing 70 years in the DFW automotive business) and our hangout at The Maverick Bar (the best Texas burgers in town!)
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DONUT 10: Background Notes
For more background into where we are going here, background we've assembled with the help of people inside Mavs HQ, check out these links and details:
*You will note the cap-room number we've been working with (once assumed moves are made): $31,230,551. Know that while you could spend all that on one player, it wouldn't leave you much to buy anybody else to fill out the roster. And now know that assuming a Dirk opt-out, that number jumps to $40 mil or so.
*Getting that cap-room number exactly right at this time cannot be done, because it depends on whether they are going to get rid of McGee or not, which is a difference of about $1M one way or another. (We'd advise you to temper your enthusiasm about coach Rick Carlisle's positive words regarding McGee.) And it also depends on how many players they split the money on (they get back the cap hold for an empty roster space, when they split it on each added player above 1).

With McGee released, we can put the number at $39,379,264 for two players, or $39,922,735 for three players. So we'll  call it "almost $40 mil to split on two to three players" because of the uncertainty over what they do with McGee and how many ways they split it.
                    
*What about the Dirk opt-out? It counts as a piece of surprise news, and there are a handful of things we believe we've learned about it:
a) He's not doing it with some sole intention of giving Dallas yet another cap-saving low wage.
b) The Mavs will, in the end, give him what he wants.
c) What Dirk wants is YEARS (with an "S'') and a more competitive roster (a fascinating juggling act if his new deal takes up more money -- leaving less for others).
d) He's not leaving. But saying this opt-out is designed to create a "chain reaction'' sounds just threatening enough to spur those around him into action.
DONUT 11: In The Toolbox
So here are your roster-adding and roster-building assets available for this summer:
a) Spendable cap room (with Dirk opt-out) = about $40 mil.
b) The Room MLE - $2,898,000. 
c) Your second-round pick at No. 46. (Critics who say Dallas should "take this more seriously'' can be right ... as long as they understand what a crapshoot this is.)
d) Veteran Minimums. (Dallas actually has a very good track record here.)
e) Trades. (Dallas has a good track record here, too, in terms of getting enough value to aid the franchise in qualifying for the playoffs in 15 of the last 16 seasons. Not good enough, maybe, but nothing to take for granted, either.)
DONUT 12: The Final Word
There are huge cap and roster questions to be examined, and for Premium Mavs readers, we've already begun tackling some of them on DB.com Boards. (Like, juggling Dirk's future dollars. ... big numbers over multiple years. For example, the Mavs could write up a three-year deal, spread his pay over that term, and then he only plays two years but Mavs "generously" pay him all three That's legal, CBA-wise, and a workaround. But it also offers only limited cap benefit, and it also has the downside of kinda "forcing" him to retire after two years, if he wants to get that third year pay to make up for the underpayment in Years 1 and 2 (because, if he continues to play in Year 3, he is working for free). 

But ... what if he gets to Year 3 and wants to keep playing?
Anyway, you have to read here in DB.com Premium Mavs Boards to get the goods there ... and you have to hope Carlisle is right below ...

“It’s an opportunity every year. It’s an exciting time. It’s disappointing when you miss. But as much as I preach to our team about the importance of persistence, I think as a team in free agency, we’ve got to remain persistent. We’ve got too good a situation here. We got a great city, great ownership, a great locker room, a fair media. ...

                          

“I always view Dallas as a place where players would want to be. We acquired David Lee two months ago. When you acquire a player like that you want him to have a great experience. And he did. We wouldn’t have got to the playoffs without David Lee. And the word spreads. Veterans know other veterans. Word gets out that Dallas is a high-level organization. We take great pride in that. We’re going to be persistent and keep banging away.”

And now you have a working knowledge of the $92-mil worth of tools the Mavs will be "banging away'' with.


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