Mavs Double-Pipedream: The Fake Of 'Plan A' And The 'Hows' Of Signing Conley And Whiteside

In our weeks of talks with Mavs officials about Conley and Whiteside, no one EVER used the phrase 'Plan A.' It's all much more complex than that ... though the numbers on how to do the seemingly improbable Mavs Double-Pipedream are actually not complex at all.


Our report on the Mavs and Mike Conley was its own entity.

Our report on the Mavs and Hassan Whiteside was its own entity, too.

But then along came the Dirk Nowitzki "Shared Sacrifice'' opt decision, and then came our "suggested scoop" that Dallas doesn't wish to max-out Chandler Parsons ... and suddenly, on Wednesday night, those four stories came together as one.

No, they didn't come together as one "Plan A,'' though we know that's how some media outlets are now referring to the idea of Dallas pursuing both Conley and Whiteside. They came together as one Double Pipedream but a pipedream with a stunning number of moving parts and an unorthodox sort of pecking order.


For instance: This year there is no "Mavs pursue of LeBron,'' or anything of that sort. We've reported on the courtesy call planned for Kevin Durant, and isn't that "Plan A,'' kinda, inasmuch as it comes first?

But wait: Isn't the "recruiting'' or Dirk the "Plan A'' of all plans?

Oh, no ... how does anything happen without "chief recruiter'' Chandler Parsons? Did that "plan'' have a letter?

The Conley/Whiteside Double Pipedream was NEVER "Plan A'' -- maybe even was never even dreamed about in quite this way-- until Dirk turned up the heat and until Parsons turned down the $16-mil opt-in. Those two decisions (neither of them in the hands of Mavs management) pushed Dallas in a direction where it didn't have to be Conley/Parsons as was the original thought, or Whiteside/Parsons, as was the secondary thought (both along with the retention of Dirk, of course).

Those two storylines complicated matters. But the good news: As pipedream'y as The Mavs Double-Pipedream is ... the finances of such a twin pursuit, as David Lord and I point out below, are NOT complicated. 

What does it all mean? Let's take a closer look.


To have a full understanding of what's going on, we need to spend a few minutes examining the Mavs' salary cap for the summer.

When they begin free agency, for practical purposes they are likely to have financial commitments of one sort or another to the following players: Wes Matthews, J J Barea, Devin Harris, Justin Anderson, Jeremy Evans, Javale McGee, Salah Mejri, Dwight Powell (qualifying offer), and Peteri Koponen (rights retention). If the salary cap lands at $94 mil as currently projected, and using the assumption that the Mavs don't pay the cost of cap holds on any of their free agents, they would have about $60.6 mil left in cap room to spend on four players.

[Note that there might be ways to massage that number a bit higher, and teams sometimes do take such steps at the last minute. In this situation, the Mavs could waive McGee from his minimum salary deal and save about $900,000, or agree not to sign Koponen for a year and save about $300,000), or make various other moves to trade or waive others and reduce their commitments. But barring a trade of Matthews, Barea, or Harris, with much less (or no) salary coming back in return, there's not enough difference gained in any of those possibilities to really change the big picture, so we'll work with $60.6 mil.] readers were first to know Dallas most highly-desired outside free agents will be Conley and Whiteside, along with retaining Dirk Nowitzki ... and let's mention Chandler Parsons, too. If there were some way to sign all four, they will have in place (respectively) a starting center, a starting point guard, and two starting forwards, setting the foundation in place for the future alongside shooting guard Matthews.

But unfortunately, in trying to get those four players to fit into four salary slots on the Mavs, using that $60.6 mil, it just won't fit. The money isn't there to guarantee all of those players whatever they might want.  Here are the financial realities the Mavs face:                               

Obviously, anybody thinking the Mavs are going to make four big fish happy is thinking way beyond his means here. The chart makes it easy to see the math.

Playing with the possibilities is also easy. And it's quickly apparent there's no clear way to somehow juggle the mix and make the numbers work for all four. 


* Attract Whiteside and Conley using max offers, give Parsons the rest, and ask Dirk to sign for the minimum (as we've outlined before, using our crafty MIN/MAX contract proposal)? Then there's only about $11.5M left for Parsons. Not good, unless they can bump up the cap room appreciably by offloading the contract of Barea and/or Harris. (And remember, CP already turned down $16 mil. Why is he suddenly reversing field for half his max?)

* Ask Whiteside, Conley, and Parsons to take $20 mil each, and have Dirk get a minimum? That sure seems like a way to lose the attention of Conley and Whiteside, at least, as "shared sacrifice" is hardly a way to entice a new player with lots of choices to pick you over everyone else. (Conley can make five years and $150-mil-plus in Memphis but four years and $110-mil-plus here. It'd be silly to think he'd "sacrifice'' even more than that. Meanwhile, Whiteside is eligible for four years in Miami and four years elsewhere, with the Heat able to give him a total of about $98 mil and other bidders a total of $94 mil. No need for him to "sacrifice'' even more to leave a Miami team that loves him.) Not happening.

* There's another ideal, perhaps, which would be to sell all four players on some sort of "one-for-all, all-for-one" framework in which there is an equal four-way split of the money. In theory, this is the "fairest'' solution, with each key player getting the same as the others, $15 mil or so. But as a practical matter? Dirk wants others to share the load and owner Mark Cuban likes the idea of a sensible financial totem pole but "fair'' isn't always the way circumstances allow this to work. A virtual impossibility. 


So you're left with the Mavs real "plan,'' devised on the fly because storylines are flying: Not THREE but TWO of Whiteside, Conley, and Parsons to sign, with the leftovers split somehow between Dirk and a lesser-valued player for the unfilled slot (whether C, PG, or SF). 


The Mavs are also sending messages here - whether they intend to or not. 

To Whiteside and Conley (both of whom the Mavs obviously expect to get an audience with), it's a message that they are prized in Dallas, and perhaps it will have a positive impact when the courting begins. To Parsons, it's a message that he's not the center of the Mavs universe, and maybe he should also consider other options. But that message to Parsons carries lots of risk, because if the Mavs end up circling back to him, will he still be waiting? "One-in-the-hand,'' and all that? (Dallas did this last year with Tyson Chandler, remember, because DeAndre Jordan was "in the bush''? And of course, the Mavs landed neither.)

There is risk here. We annually label the pursuit of a big-fish free agent a "One-Percent Chance.'' Here, you've got TWO "One-Percent Chances,'' but it's still a "One-Percent Chance'' and even if you accomplish both of them, you are taking two steps forward (Conley and Whiteside) but one step back (losing Parsons). And if the one percent stands and you accomplish none of it? That is to say, Conley says "no,'' Whiteside says "no'' and Parsons, having been put on hold, says "no''? The thin ice with Dirk melts even a little bit more ...


None of this was a designated "Plan A.'' But it's what we and the Mavs can see now. And hey, maybe early transparency is the Mavs' best approach,  in their hopes for Conley and Whiteside, and also in regard to Parsons, and also in regard to Dirk being able to see the Double-Pipedream efforts being made to become a true contender ... fast.

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