Mavs Donuts: Dirk Nowitzki + The 'Hierarchy' Of Salary-Pecking-Order Utopia

Mavs Donuts: Dirk Nowitzki + The 'Hierarchy' Of Salary-Pecking-Order Utopia

DONUT 1: The Financial Totem Pole

Nobody likes to talk about it much, especially inside a Mavs organization that has long prided itself on a "Culture Matters'' foundation. But it's a fact of NBA life, and never more than now, with a $94-mil cap and superstars making $30 mil a year year and journeymen making $16 mil:

Money matters. And it matters to the guys in each locker stall that their money fits uniformly, if possible, into a totem pole of talent, responsibility, status, whatever.

The other day, I was talking to NFL agent Leigh Steinberg, and he told me the early-1990's story of overseeing the Thurman Thomas contract negotiations with the Buffalo Bills. "Thurman wanted to know what Emmitt Smith was making,'' Leigh told me, "and Thurman wanted a dollar more than that.

"And then I don't doubt that after somebody made a dollar more than Thurman or Barry Sanders, Emmitt and all the other great ones all wanted a dollar more than them.''

So nobody likes to talk about much ... but sometimes, a hint of the behind-the-scenes truth seeps out. That happened this weekend, when Dirk Nowitzki was giving a Euro interview and said:

"If I cared about having a hierarchy in terms of salary pecking order, I wouldn't have left so much money on the table in the past few years. Last year, our highest-paid players were Wesley Matthews and Chandler Parsons, but our best players were Deron Williams and me.”


Even bending for a bit being lost in translation (for instance, I think Dirk might've been talking about Mavs down the stretch and in the clutch, and I am sure he doesn't mean for that to sound like a rip job of Wes and Parsons), that is a statement packed with import. Let it sink in for a bit ...

DONUT 2: Big Round Numbers

The agents like big numbers. The players like lots of commas and zeros. Dirk Nowitzki's new contract as of Monday morning is termed "done deal'' at "two years and $40 million.'' That's big and round and it nuance (and there is "nuance'' will come later.)

By the way: I take full responsibility for the "Rest-of-Room'' angle on Monday evening that moved to Marc Stein's exclusive report on "two years and $40 million'' on Tuesday morning. Things morphed quickly, from the discussion featuring his cap hold as the basis, how it requires other parts to move, and now how the second year might not be at all what some think it to be. It's my job to get every detail as nailed-down as possible, and my failure when when miss a nail ... or even if a nail is a moving target. It's my job to hammer it, first and best, and I did not do that fully on this story.

The "moving nail'' is the case here. There's a reason David Lord's Mavs Premium Cap Chart included, as of Monday lunchtime, a handful of those "?''s. To wit:

DONUT 3: Mavs Cap Chart

Now brace yourself. For as I write this, the Mavs Cap Chart includes every single tidbit and every single calculation we know of. And ... it WILL change. (And then some smart guy will wonder, "So, Fish, it changed from your report, eh?'' We discuss all of that as we speak in Mavs Premium Boards here. And if it does, I will accept the criticism again because when we do our job as ideally as we can, it's about "every nail.''


UPDATE at midday: Bingo. Evans is now a trade-dump to Indy (first noted by The Vertical.) So put a checkmark next to Evans' name instead of a question mark ...

As the Mavs near the end of free agency, here's a snapshot of how their cap and roster is shaping up.



. Player Cap cost Notes
. Dead money (Ndour) $437,318  
. Dead money (Mekel) $315,759  
1 Harrison Barnes $22,116,750? maybe whittled a bit, see below
2 Wes Matthews $17,145,838 .
3 Dirk Nowitzki $12500000 cap hold - will get 20Mish
4 Andrew Bogut $11,027,027 assumes incentives lost
5 Deron Williams $10,000,000? maybe whittled a bit, see below
6 Dwight Powell $8,314,607 calculated, assumes max raises
7 Devin Harris $4,227,996 .
8 J J Barea $4,096,950 .
9 Seth Curry $2,898,000 room MLE
10 Justin Anderson $1,514,160 .
11 Jeremy Evans $1,227,286? (maybe not included see below)
12 Salah Mejri $874,636 .
13 (empty)/Hammons $543,471 .
14 ? $0 minimum salary
15 ? $0 minimum salary
. TOTAL $96,497,529 .
. cap $94,143,000 .
. cap room $0 .
. TAX line $113,287,000 .
. APRON-HARD CAP $117,287,000 .




C Bogut Mejri Hammons
PF Dirk Powell Evans
SF Barnes Anderson  
SG Matthews Harris  
PG Williams Barea Curry


AND OUR SHOPPING LIST ... (Remaining to spend: minimum salary (on two players, assuming Hammons makes the team)

Backup (3rd string) forward, minimum salary available

Backup (3rd string) wing, minimum salary available


Besides the question marks (we're investigating those and we reported on Monday night that the Mavs themselves were working on how to shave Javale McGee plus $750,000 in the likely form of Jeremy Evans for what we now realize was a way to accommodate Nowitzki's cap-hold/$20-mil salary) and besides any debates we want to have about the "shopping list'' and such, you know what jumps out?


Yup. That's what jumps out. The cleanly-organized hierarchy in financial totem-pole terms.

Dirk says he doesn't "care about hierarchy'' and relative to other players, that may be true. But there is no denying he "wants a little bit for himself'' (financially) because he's said so. And furthermore, Dirk lived through a couple of years of Mavs locker room in which Monta Ellis, Rajon Rondo and Chandler Parsons created, I believe, a Bermuda Triangle of Salary. Why was Monta making half what he deserved? When was Rondo going to get his? Is Parsons a max guy at $16 mil and should he be one at $22 mil?

How are we gonna bitch, mope or emoji our way through this?

And all the while, Dirk is wondering (in's choice of words but HIS choice of sentiment): "Where is the Shared Sacrifice''?

To that quote again:

"If I cared about having a hierarchy in terms of salary pecking order, I wouldn't have left so much money on the table in the past few years. ...''

Those are the words of a man who DOES care. He doesn't care enough to demand a $30-mil salary (which, once the cap-hold issue was locked in, Dallas could've given him), so he settles in at $20 mil. High on the totem pole ... without looking hoggy.

DONUT 6: "Utopia''

In this same interview, Nowitzki said, "Salaries are, of course, all Utopian. The TV revenue have increased enormously, but I see it this way: Salaries are a bit much, considering we are people who throw a ball into a basket. But the players deserve their piece of the pie.''


So he gets it. "Utopia.'' But what if Utopia also comes with the exact this Dirk puts voice to (while at the same time trying to hide that it's worth putting his voice to): A Salary Pecking-Order Hierarchy?

DONUT 7: Top of the Hierachy

Look at the chart. The Harrison Barnes max starts him at $22,116,750. That's "the cost of doing business,'' and further -- even if you don't love him -- note Dirk's own words again, projecting Barnes to "hopefully be our go-to guy.'' That's enough to have Barnes up top along with Dirk's $20 mil.

DONUT 8: The Ironman Level

Wes Matthews is at the next level down, making $17,145,838. Is that too much? Dirk hints that Wes must do more. Time will tell whether history considers him "overpaid'' but his importance in the "Culture Matters'' push from Dirk and owner Mark Cuban (who are very much on the same page here) might earn him this dough.

DONUT 9: The $10-Mil Range

In this market, a real live NBA player who fits the culture and makes $10 mil is a bargain. This is especially so when he is either a) on a one-year deal thus giving Dallas Plan Powder cap space next summer or b) a young piece who can be a future guy. Bogut and Deron are the former; Powell is the latter.

DONUT 10: The $4-Million Men

Barea and Devin. While keeping in mind the "question marks'' in the chart (one way to whittle space for Dirk involves this level of guy), these guys at $4 mil fit perfectly where they belong on the totem pole. Let's crowd Seth Curry at $2.9 mil into this gang, too.

DONUT 11: The Dollar Store

The cheap guys. Get 'em at the Dollar Store -- and that's not to say they aren't quality for the money ... but on this roster, there will end up being six such guys, let by Justin Anderson ... but most of them have accomplished little, are in their early 20's, and are a part of the exact sort of "Youth Movement'' that Mavs critics have been crying for. (Toss a trio of Vegas names on this pile: Gibson, Finney-Smith and Collinsworth and whomever else ... and a noon-time UPDATE: Free Roddy B?!

And suddenly, the Mavs, just maybe, have "blown it up'' AND "kept Dirk here and happy'' AND "remained competitive'' (because you think Rick Carlisle would settle for less?) AND are churning up a "youth movement.'' And by gosh and by Dirk, they are doing it via a financial hierarchy, a totem pole, that Nowitzki only pretends isn't important.


Let me be clear: What I believe matters to Dirk regarding the "hierarchy'' isn't just about him "getting his.'' It's about what happens to chemistry in a locker room when people start obsessing about other people's money. If the pecking order is right, the obsessing will be even more obviously wrong ... and hopefully less likely to mushroom into a problem.

DONUT 12: The Final Word 

"I've always said that I want to finish my career in Dallas . I have now played 18 seasons and it would be great if I could make 20 full seasons. ... We will definitely find a way ... I will definitely finish my career in Dallas.'' -- Dirk Nowitzki.



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