Via ESPN's Marc Stein, news broke that the Detroit Pistons are willing to trade pick No. 12 in the upcoming NBA Draft in exchange for a "win-now veteran.'' This naturally sends MFFLs into a research frenzy, and sends DBcom in the same direction.
David Lord and I examine, featuring a trio of obstacles.
OBSTACLE 1: HOW MUCH JUNK?
The main reason we see for the Mavs to move Wes is to get off of his salary by 2018, to free up enough cap room to keep Seth Curry. If they wanted to do that in a trade with Detroit to land pick No. 12 as a reward, what would that look like?
We can assume it would be a draft-day trade as the Mavs would want to use pick No. 12. Because the Pistons are over the cap, they would have to send back "matching" salary but could use the 150-percent-with-limitations rule, which means the least they could send would be $12,145,838 in 2016-17 salary, and such players would have to have one or more years left on their contract. And to satisfy the Mavs' purpose of freeing up room for Curry in 2018, it would need to be ONLY one more year on such contracts.
To do that, the options are very limited. The Pistons roster is mostly filled with contracts that extend beyond the summer of 2018, plus a few that expire in a few weeks.
As of this moment, they have two players on small rookie deals in which the 2018-19 year option has yet to be extended (Johnson and Ellenson), two more with minimum salaries that have little to no guarantee (Hilliard and Gbinjie), and one more with a player option (Baynes) for $6.5 mil, who can only be traded if and when he exercises that option. It would take all five to match Wes's salary, so financially the most Mavs-friendly offer possible that Detroit could make for Wes would be a package of:
*Baynes ($6.5 mil), Johnson ($3 mil), Ellenson ($1.7 mil), Hilliard ($0.9 mil), and Gbinjie ($0.7 mil), plus pick No. 12.
Of course, based on minutes and production, all of these players are the dregs from the bottom of the Pistons' pecking order, so to us, the only real value to the Mavs would be in getting pick No. 12 and erasing most of what is owed to Matthews, all in one fell swoop.
If Baynes does not exercise his option by draft day, then the most cap-friendly alternative the Pistons could offer the Mavs would be to substitute Smith ($6 mil) into the above package and remove Baynes. Smith's contract lasts until the summer of 2019, so he wouldn't expire in time to benefit them with Curry, but the Mavs would still gain $12.7 mil in added cap room for the summer of 2018.
This constitutes a lot of moving parts, including players that we call "the dregs'' but players who certainly might be more highly-regarded by their present employer.
OBSTACLE 2: THE VALUE OF 12
We'll admit, in a simple world, with a franchise that is rebuilding, we'd like to collect lottery picks, somehow, some way. We'd like Dallas to own Nos. 9 and 12 because of the way those could be combined to move up in the June 22 NBA Draft, or because of the way this 33-win team can best get better: With first-round darts being thrown at affordable contracts ... this year, and next year again, if that's what it takes, to putting "The Treadmill of Mediocrity'' behind us.
But that's not necessarily the way the Mavs feel about pick No. 12. It is there view that there is absolutely a drop-off in talent at pick No. 11. Is that a reason to devalue pick No. 12? Such a concept is indeed part of the thinking of Dallas management, and in thinking pick No. 12 isn't in the realm of value as pick No. 9 ... well, the Mavs had better be right here.
OBSTACLE 3: THE VALUE OF WES
This looms as the biggest issue of all. Yes, bigger than trying to assemble a six-player/one-pick trade. Yes, bigger than management is making certain its hearing the scouting department right when it decides how valuable pick No. 12 might be:
The Dallas Mavericks do not believe they need to "get out of'' Wesley Matthews contract.
Dallas is not itching to dump Matthews. Dallas does not think Matthews is a financial albatross. Matthews is due $17.8 mil this year and $18.6 mil in 2018-19. And the Mavericks do not have a problem with this. Owner Mark Cuban has repeatedly noted to DallasBasketball.com that Matthews has great value as a team leader, and the club obviously views him as an asset on the floor as well.
So, repeat -- and this is a critical piece of information as it hints at either a cap-smart masterplan or, we fear, some "We'll-worry-about-it-later'' blinders being worn -- The Dallas Mavericks do not believe they need to "get out of'' Wesley Matthews contract.
But we circle back to the core reason why we continue to explore ways to move Matthews, to Detroit in a deal like this, or to Sacramento in deals like the ones we've detailed here: In terms of long-term cap management, the Mavs appear to be painting themselves into a corner with big money being given to Matthews and big money about to go to Nerlens Noel (details in our two-part series here) and maybe big money being due Curry next summer. Mathematically speaking, something's gotta give.
Maybe Noel will take far less than his starting max salary of $25.25 mil. That would be nice.
If not, if Noel's number is around $25 mil, our calculations leave just $4 mil for Curry next summer, and that won't get it done. But maybe Curry joins Noel in "shared sacrifice'' and both fit inside the 2018 cap's available $29 mil. That would be nice.
Or maybe Cuban and the Mavs have a different "give-away'' planned, like the dumping of Dwight Powell's contract, due to pay him $9 mil, $9 mil and $10 mil over the next three years. That would help allow Matthews, Noel and Curry all to remain in Dallas, and that would be nice.
But the Mavericks, as fond of Wesley Matthews as they are, making sure they are right about his value, right about what pick No. 12 is worth, and right about having done all their homework regarding a trade match with Detroit?
That would be the nicest of all.