The Dallas Mavericks and Boston Celtics can be expected to talk before the Thursday trade deadline about a deal that would send center Andrew Bogut to Boston in exchange for one of the Celtics’ cache of Round 1 picks, an NBA source tells us — but only dependent on what bigger move Boston can make.
From a Boston perspective, that is tantalizing because it suggests GM Danny Ainge is angling toward a blockbuster of the sort his Celtics missed out on when DeMarcus Cousins was dealt to New Orleans from Sacramento. (Inexplicably, while at the same time the Kings were telling the Mavs, and presumably others, that they had no intention of trading Boogie. See that scoop here.)
We’re not privy to what Boston ultimately wants here in the form of a “bigger move.’’ (We'll let others speculate about Jimmy Butler, Blake Griffin and the like.) But we know the fit for Dallas: Bogut and his expiring contract for center Tyler Zeller and whichever of Boston’s No. 1 picks can be had.
Zeller is playing on the first season of a two-year deal that pays him $16 million — but Dallas’ “fit’’ here isn’t about the quality of the player (he’s a third-stringer with the Celtics) or about having to pay that bloated deal. All that matters to the Mavs about Zeller’s contract is that a) It represents a trade match with Bogut’s one-year, $11-mil contract and b) the 2017-18 year on his deal is non-guaranteed, so he can be waived after the season with no future cost, effectively making him an expiring contract player.
Such a swap would have no detrimental impact on either team in relation to general tax or cap issues. That’s especially important to Dallas as it looks to the summer. Mavs owner Mark Cuban told ESPN’s Marc Stein that Dallas is “willing to take on contracts in advance of Thursday's trade deadline if draft compensation is attached.’’ This is undoubtedly so … and needs to be managed very precisely by Dallas in regard to any ballast it takes on.
According to our David Lord’s calculations, the Mavs can carve exactly $29,271,386 to spend this summer on a free agent. The NBA's latest projection for the summer salary cap is $103 million. For a team to be able to get one of the top free agents, they will need cap room exceeding or in the vicinity of max salary limits. In light of the fact that Dallas will want to target younger players, the relevant max limits this summer for the Mavs will be $25.75 million (0-6 years of experience) or $30.9 million (7-9 million).
But wait: With $94 million of commitments on the Mavs books, where does the $29,271,386 come from in order to chase an Otto Porter, a Nerlens Noel or a Jrue Holliday?
*The Mavs will decline the team option on Dirk at $25M, with the desire to bring him back at a far lesser salary (such as the Room MLE) if he wishes to keep playing
*Both Bogut and Deron Williams will either have been traded, or will be free agents that the Mavs will hold Bird rights on, but able to renounce those rights if they need the room. (So we have no cap expense for any of the 3 above).
*Devin Harris can be waived to add about $2.1M in cap room, but we don't see them doing so if he hasn't been traded
*Mejri, Finney-Smith, and Brussino can all be waived at no cost, and together add about $1.5M in cap room, but we expect them to retain all 3
*We plug in the Mavs drafting at No. 4, let’s say, and without added first-round picks
And with those reasonable assumptions and expectations, Dallas has $29,271,386 of room. (Read more about these details, and preferred summer targets for the Mavs, here.)
For the Mavs to use their own lotto pick on one acquisition, to have another No. 1 (from Boston or whomever) for another draftee (this summer or whenever), and to have $29 million to chase a get-able free agent? Those are realistic goals. But when Cuban says he’s “willing to take on contracts’’ in order to get that second No. 1, he needs to avoid taking on a contract that clogs that path to $29,271,386.
Boston missing out on a “bigger move’’ might be needed here. That can lead to accelerated talks with the Mavs, who can attempt to send Bogut to the Celtics for a prized first-rounder and an expendable Zeller.
That’s the “if.’’ And that’s the “fit.’’