DONUT 1: It's rare. The Mavs are a recent champion with big money burning a hole in their pocket, and they didn’t have to tank a season and trade the farm to get it.
We’ve shown you how Creative Opportunism works when the team is over the cap and reliant on trades. Now the same attitude and approach is about to bring the Mavericks a chance at a big free-agency haul.
DONUT 2: Other observers around the league are starting to pick up on this. Tracy McGrady recently made some comments that will reinforce many Mavs fans’ visions of grandeur.
T-Mac doesn’t think that the Nets are the spot for Dwight Howard but instead picks your Mavs as the best destination for the future free agent center.
McGrady takes include: “D-Will is from Dallas” …(and) you’ve got Dirk Nowitzki there. They’re going to have (cap space) there. That looks sweet. Dirk. D-Will. And then you get Dwight Howard. That’s it, right there.”
The “it” that T-Mac, trying on his Amateur GM cap, refers to is the ideal fit that would bring Howard his first championship, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
DONUT 3: Another keen observer, Woj at Yahoo, chimes in to say that in the upcoming offseason, “The Mavericks will have space for one star, but after possible contract buyouts and an amnesty waiver, it would still take a team to accept the final two years left on Marion’s contract to get the Mavericks near $30 million in room next summer to sign Deron Williams and Dwight Howard.”
The reason that roughly $30 million is the magic number is because that’s nearing the value of two maximum-level player salaries.
Right now, the Mavs are close to that number.
DONUT 4: Using DB.com resident capologist David Lord's numbers (which you can take to the bank, pun intended), the Mavericks have about $43.6 million committed to next season, with a salary cap figure of about $61.4 million.
Assuming they decline the options on Odom, Williams and Wright, that means the Mavs need to shed about $12 million off next season’s commitments to get near that magic $30 million in cap space.
Likely, that means getting rid of Marion and Haywood, who are both owed about $8.4 million next season.
DONUT 5: They can amnesty one, but they’ll need to trade the other. However, Wojnarowski writes, “That would be really hard because they don’t have a first-round pick [to send with Marion] until 2014,' one league executive said.”
DONUT 6: Wojnarowski is a smart and respected basketball writer. But his plan -- and its difficulties -- is only one possible course of events that would lead to Dwight Howard and Deron Williams, the clear prizes of this summer’s free agents, signing in Dallas.
Furthermore, it’s not even the best plan.
DONUT 7: Here’s what we know:
*Mark Cuban hated being relegated to minor player status in the free-agency bonanza of two summers ago. He played nice and didn't even get an appointment with LeBron. With the moves made this past offseason, he has positioned his team to be dealt into free agency next summer.
*The Mavericks are fortunate enough to have been granted permission to work a trade for Dwight Howard THIS season along with the Lakers and Nets. That’s a distinct advantage that is far underreported.
*The biggest threat to Howard not making his way to Dallas, aside from his own free will, is him being traded midseason to another team.
DONUT 8: So how to make this pleasant fantasy of a Mavericks team that includes Dirk, Dwight Howard and Deron Williams happen?
DONUT 9: There’s are few possible paths, but here is what I believe to be the optimal one: Simply trade for one "D'' this season, using the right "kitchen sink'' pieces, and then sign the other "D'' in the offseason.
Specifically, trade for Dwight, and use he and Dirk as bait to land Deron.
I say "simply,'' and that's probably the wrong framing. But to frame this as "undoable'' or "crazy'' is even more wrong.
Howard is far more likely to be traded this season as Orlando correctly fears losing him for nothing. The Nets likely wouldn’t trade Deron, believing they can convince him to resign him in the offseason, and they recently gave up a fair portion of their future to acquire him.
Furthermore, no team will trade for Howard without assurances that he will re-sign or a supreme confidence that they can convince him to do so. Like 'Melo last season, Howard has a degree of control here and has already tipped his hat as to which teams he prefers.
I’d argue that the Mavericks represent the best destination of the three for Howard. (I’m biased, of course).
Should Howard opt for the Lakers (via trade), he would likely be playing alongside the last two to three years of Kobe’s already-declining prime. After that, he would be in situation much like the one he is now, as the lone superstar trying to lift a team to a title, only this time with massive shoes to fill (Shaq, Kareem, Wilt) and twice the pressure.
Also, it has been floated recently in NBA circles that Howard is no longer enamored with the idea of following in Shaq’s career footsteps. So the Lakers could be at a disadvantage here.
If Howard opts for the Nets (via trade or free agency), he would be doing so to play with Deron and usher the Nets into the Brooklyn-era with two stars at their disposal. However, why would Williams and Howard opt for that plan when they could come to Dallas and play with Nowitzki instead? Why create a duo when a trio is available? That’s a suboptimal outcome for two stars chasing their first ring.
DONUT 10: That leaves the Mavericks, and brings us to the meat of my plan.
As briefly sketched in my Pitfalls Donuts, currently, the Mavericks have only Haywood, Marion, Dirk, Dojo and Roddy under guaranteed contracts for the 2012-2013 season, totaling only $43.6 million after contract buyouts. As mentioned, they will need about $30 million in cap space to sign two Dwight/Deron-level players. Unfortunately, the Mavs won’t have the room to sign both Williams AND Howard outright with the contracts of Marion and Haywood on the roster, which cost about $8.4 million, each, next year.
They still have an unused amnesty clause, and will probably invoke it on one of those players. Woj believes the Mavs will end up needing to trade whomever they don’t amnesty in the summer with a sweetener (like picks and cash) in a salary dump move similar to the Rudy and Brewer to Denver deal. That certainly will work, but it shouldn’t be looked at as Plan A.
Instead, the Mavs should trade for Howard this year. If they will need to get rid of Marion/Haywood to sign him anyway, and the biggest risk the Mavericks face is Howard being traded to another team, why not kill two birds with one stone and acquire Howard now?
Though the Mavericks likely have relatively less attractive assets than the Lakers and Nets, hope remains.
If the Lakers hold to their refusal to include both Gasol and Bynum and Orlando isn’t enamored with the idea of taking back a damaged Lopez, the Mavericks "Kitchen Sink'' offer suddenly becomes the best on the table. Such an offer would certainly include at least Haywood and/or Marion as well as combination of Roddy, DoJo, Odom or others plus picks and cash for Howard. It’s believed that the Magic will try to include Hedo and his massive contract, which could be a sticking point, as the $11.4 million due him next season could destroy the cap flexibility the Mavs have finally achieved. However, it may be worth it to bite the Turkoglu bullet, since a superstar in hand is worth two in the bush.
Also, Orlando apparently prefers to get back proven veterans in any deal for Howard, which only plays further into the Mavs hands. However, with the losses of Chandler, Butler and JJB, the Mavericks may need to include a third team to get the deal done, as the Mavericks don’t quite have the top-level assets necessary to justify Orlando sending away Howard.
The Rockets seem like an partnership candidate here, as they were recently “set back years” by the NBA denying the Paul-to-Lakers deal. They were hoping to acquire Gasol and were willing to send out Martin to do it, but perhaps they would accept his former teammate, Odom, to give them a powerful front line of Odom/Scola/Hill. This works as a basic starting point, however, Odom cannot be traded until Feb 11th with another player. He can be traded anywhere but back to the Lakers now.
With Howard on board, the Mavs would be contenders this year with a presence in the middle to propel a playoff run. Then in the offseason, they politely thank Marion for his services, and use the amnesty clause on his contract, thus clearing the room necessary for Deron to return to his home city.
DONUT 11: Dirk, Dwight, and Deron. Such a team would rightfully be looked at as the “Team to Beat” in the NBA. Unlike Miami’s Big Three, Dallas’ Triple D’s wouldn’t get in each other’s way and cannibalize each other’s production.
Dallas’ Big Three could make beautiful music together. We’ve seen what an athletic, defensive center does next to Dirk. Howard’s interior game would compliment Dirk’s fade-away jumpers as Dirk would likely never face another double team again. Feeding the ball to the best frontcourt in the game would be one of the most electric point guards in the league. If any opponent loads up against the front line, Williams would make them pay with his speed and shooting from the outside. (For his career, he shoots 46.2 percent from the field.)
Then, sign two defensive-minded wings to man the SG and SF positions, and the Mavericks suddenly match up very well with the other Super Teams of league. Oh, and if Jasons Kidd and Terry opt to re-sign (for far less money), the veteran leadership that led the Mavericks to their first title would still be in place to maintain the culture.
DONUT 12: Howard and Williams recently had dinner together. Would you bet the subject of playing in Dallas came up? Dwight's made his list and Dallas is on it. Deron's now talking about the advantage of a non-income-tax state like Texas. And Tracy McGrady can see it.
“Dwight’s going to find a sweeter spot for him next year with him being a free agent, with D-Will being a free agent, and Dallas already having an established star there,'' McGrady said. "Yup, Dallas. You heard it from me first.”
Not quite Tracy. We talked about it here on DB.com after hearing it about it from NBA decision-makers. But we like your Amateur GM'ing. And for weeks we've liked the idea so much that these Donuts are just the beginning ... coming up in the next few days, DB.com's David Lord unleashes the definitive breakdown of the hows and whys and dollars and sense of "3D in Big D'' in the way that DB.com is famous for.
Stay tuned ...