Ripples dance across the trade water’s surface, from those fed by the mere logic of an expiring contract and an uncertain future (Jose Calderon, Al Jefferson, Brandon Jennings) to larger waves pushed by player suspensions and rumored discontent (Dwight Howard, Josh Smith, Demarcus Cousins) to the needs of a franchise to kneel before the whim of the new collective bargaining agreement (Rudy Gay).
When perusing some of the names that are rumored to be available, to varying degrees, from the perspective of the Dallas Mavericks we’ve come up with a few thoughts, in no particular order. We’ll explore these names even as we accept the slim to very slim possibilities of any joining the Mavs this season.
The “Bank of Cuban” may be open, but the tellers remain as strict on the criteria to be met to open the vault’s door as they have been since the new CBA was ratified and Tyson Chandler was allowed to walk.
With the growing frustration being reported from Dwight Howard in Los Angeles, we’ll also notice a common theme … a theme that shows that Howard may be holding at least one franchise hostage, after so thoroughly doing so to Orlando a year ago.
In that vein, we’ll start with the money guys … those that are likely available primarily due the size of their contract.
DANNY GRANGER - $14 million owed in 2013-14, then unrestricted free agent
Reasons for Indiana to Consider Moving Him: With the emergence of Paul George, a 22-year-old still on his rookie-scale contract through next season and a talent showing he may be ready to supplant Granger as the team’s starting small forward; Granger suddenly appears to be superfluous on the small-market Indiana Pacers’ payroll.
With Granger on the books, the Pacers could get around $10 under the cap next season (assuming a generous cap of $61 million), but that doesn’t include re-signing David West and would require them to relinquish their rights to Tyler Hansbrough, Jeff Pendergraph, and Ben Hansbrough.
Remove Granger from next year’s books for minimal salary beyond this season, and the Pacers could be looking at $24 million in cap space, enough room to sign West and add significant assets.
Considering the duplication of talent between Granger and George, and the cost of each, logic would seem to imply that Granger would be made available.
Reasons for Indiana to Wait: The Pacers are not over the luxury tax line and Granger’s value may be at an all-time low, having not played this season due to issues with his left knee, there is logic that would state the Pacers need not be in a rush to deal him. They could allow him to return to the court, raise his value, and even wait until this summer for the right deal to come along.
Why the Mavs Should Be Interested: Granger may have proven that he does not belong in a class with true NBA first options; he is still a very talented player. There should be concern over the fact that his field-goal percentage has slipped in each of the past four seasons, leading to a career-low of 41.6 percent last year. However, he has shown the ability to create shots, get to the free-throw line (his career average of 4.8 free throws per game would rank first on this year’s Mavs), and is a capable wing defender (not to Marion’s level, but not a liability either).
Why the Mavs Won’t Be Interested: The Mavs have had their eye on a superstar from the moment they let Tyson Chandler walk. Assuming Dallas moves into the offseason with the current roster commitments, the Mavs would likely be just short of being able to offer Dwight Howard a max contract (which should start just north of $20 million per season) … and that’s including renouncing the rights to, or making no attempt to re-sign: Chris Kaman, OJ Mayo (who will almost certainly turn down his player option for $4.2 million), Elton Brand, Darren Collison, Dahntay Jones, Roddy Beaubois, Brandan Wright, and Dominique Jones.
Even if you remove Shawn Marion and Vince Carter from the books, replacing them with Granger, just over $2 million in 2013-14 salary is added … meaning, no Dwight.
Perhaps these reasons for not acquiring Granger change once the big free agent names come off the board next summer.
Side note: as farfetched as the dream of Dwight may be, with the discord spilling from Los Angeles, it would seem like an unwise time to not at least keep that door open until this summer, especially in light of what has already been sacrificed for just such a move.
RUDY GAY - $17.89 million owed in 2013-14, player option for $19.3 million in 2014-15
Reasons for Memphis to Consider Moving Him: Salary. Truly, that’s all this ultimately comes down to. Rudy Gay is getting paid far more than his on-court contributions warrant. He remains a special player capable of putting up impressive numbers, especially were he to find himself on a weaker roster forced to feature him more … but you want more for the $17.89 million he’ll make next season and the $19.3 million the following year (a salary that would have ranked as the seventh highest this season).
Rudy Gay is good … he’s not top ten good. He’s not “build your roster around him” good.
With the new penalties soon to come into play with heavier consequence, contracts like Gay’s are a poison few teams can afford to swallow and survive.
Reasons for Memphis to Wait: With the trade of Marreese Speights, Wayne Ellington and Josh Selby to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Grizzlies moved under the luxury tax line for this season. This should grant them the freedom to give their current core one more playoff run before making significant decisions pertaining to their core.
The trade with Cleveland doesn’t necessarily remove Gay from the likelihood of being traded, but it would seem to allow Memphis to ignore any offers that boil down to little more than salary dumps until this summer.
Why the Mavs Should Be Interested: Given his contract, there is no reason the Mavs should be interested. You cannot take the stance the Mavs have taken in regards to intelligent spending under the new CBA and then bring in a player this overpaid. And in fact, Fish is reporting that Dallas isn't making inquiries into Gay.
Gay is a very good player, simply not to the point of almost $18 to $20 million per season.
Why the Mavs Won’t Be Interested: For the same reason Memphis may be willing to part with Gay: money.
This salary would cripple the Mavs chances to improve elsewhere immediately, this summer and the following summer.
THE “ISSUE” GUYS:
JOSH SMITH – Unrestricted Free Agent this summer.
Reasons for Atlanta to Consider Moving Him: Josh Smith was suspended from the Hawks Jan. 16th game due to “conduct detrimental to the team.” Soon thereafter, reports state that his agent met with Danny Ferry, the Hawks GM, where some “frustrations” from Smith’s side were shared, though no trade request was issued.
Smith will become an unrestricted free agent after this season. If signs begin to point to the likelihood that he will not return, or the Hawks find any reservations about rising to match offers that may approach or reach the max; it makes sense for Atlanta to get something for him while they can.
If the dream is of bringing in Howard and Chris Paul, one of Al Horford or Smith would have to go to make room without reliance on a sign-and-trade.
Reasons for Atlanta to Wait: Smith’s friendship with Dwight Howard has been well represented since the inevitability of Howard’s free agency has been discussed. Both players are 27, their birthdays only three days apart, placing them at almost identical spots in the expected arc of their careers.
Without major moves, Atlanta will enter free agency with enough space to offer Dwight a max-level deal with enough money left over to bring Smith back.
A core of Dwight Howard, Josh Smith, and Al Horford could look pretty attractive.
Why the Mavs Could Be Interested: Through a certain prism, Josh Smith can be viewed as the 27-year-old version of Shawn Marion. He’s a capable defender at both forward positions with the ability to help on centers or shooting guards in certain matchups. He’s a physical freak that can destroy the opposition in the open court.
For the sake of comparison, here are Smith’s current career stats next to Marion’s though the age of 27 per 36 minutes.
Smith: 16.0 points, 46.3 FG%, 28.1 3PT%, 8.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 2.3 blocks, 1.3 steals, 2.7 turnovers
Marion: 17.8 points, 47.3 FG%, 34.6 3PT%, 9.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.2 blocks, 1.8 steals, 1.6 turnovers
Obviously, there are differences: Marion was a much better 3-point shooter, grabbed slightly more rebounds and turned the ball over less.
Smith gets almost double the number of blocks and is a slightly better creator for teammates … the turnovers could be excused as a byproduct of not having Steve Nash to run the offense and being required to handle the ball more, though this could also explain the increased assists.
Why the Mavs May Not Be Interested: Smith has a reputation for letting his mind wander in games, being great at times, seeming to coast at others. He isn’t the endless flow of electricity and may not possess some of the natural instincts or basketball intelligence of Marion.
Despite not showing a great deal of consistent efficiency, Smith doesn’t hesitate to launch shots from behind the arc, despite his low 3-point percentage he still hovers around two attempts per game over the last three seasons.
If the demand is going to be max-money, there is reason to feel Smith wouldn’t be worth it. Like Marion, he seems primed to be the second best player on a top-level team, or perhaps the best all-around player, but not the primary offensive option.
On top of all of this, there is again the fact that maintaining room for a max offer to Dwight could become quite troublesome if Smith were on board, especially if he were unwilling to take less to make room for his friend.
For example, even if the Mavs were to have dealt Marion and Vince Carter for no salary beyond this season, renounced rights to every player possible (including Mayo and Collison), leaving a roster of only Dirk Nowitzki, Jared Cunningham, Jae Crowder, Bernard James, and assuming a generous cap of $61 million: that leaves about $31 million to sign/re-sign both Dwight and Josh Smith … with Howard’s max deal starting just over $20 million.
Considering that Smith is making $13.2 million this season, it’s hard to see him accepting less moving forward.
Throw on top of this that Smith seems more naturally inclined to be a power forward.
DEMARCUS COUSINS: $4.9 million owed in 2013-14, then restricted free agent
Reasons for Sacramento to Consider Moving Him: Arguments with opposing team’s commentators. Arguments with coaches. Multiple suspensions. And, inconsistent effort on the court.
And that’s just talking about this season.
By all reports, the immaturity of DeMarcus Cousins has demanded a great deal of patience from Kings management, and the straining of that patience would be the sole motivation for making available a 22-year-old center with superstar talent still on his rookie-scale contract through next season.
Reasons for Sacramento to Wait: As stated above, this is still a 22-year-old center with the talent to be a superstar on a relatively cheap contract. It’s not easy to give up on such a player, especially when you may be left to watch a decade of dominance for another franchise if you prematurely succumb to current frustrations.
The Kings are also dealing with a change of ownership process that likely puts all of their dealings on hold, especially as Mayor Kevin Johnson continues to fight to keep the team in Sacramento … leaving future ownership in some level of doubt.
How can decisions be made regarding key assets with so much uncertainty over ownership … when the new owners and management teams aren’t even in place?
Until this process plays out, the Kings are likely in a state of stasis.
Why the Mavs Are Interested: Again, this is a 22-year-old center with immense talent still on his rookie-scale contract. This is a very affordable player with the talent to be one of the top couple of players in the entire NBA who is still years from reaching his prime.
We can say definitively that Dallas is interested, though the last time DB.com checked in with Mavs management on the subject, there was no news of talks of substance between the two clubs.
One hindrance to a deal could be the contracts the Kings would demand any team targeting Cousins take on. Yet, he’s making under $5 million next year and even if he proves worthy of the max, that should be just north of $14 million for the 2014-15 season.
This means the Mavs could take on a bad contract, such as Marcus Thornton (owed $8.05 million in 2013-14, $8.575 million in 2014-15), and still show significant savings, paying both Cousins and Thornton, next season and a comparable amount for the 2014-15 campaign over a max-level deal in the area of what Dwight Howard will command.
After those two seasons, the Thornton deal would come off the books, thus making the need to take on another “bad” contract should not harm the Mavs desire to acquire Cousins.
Our history of understanding what this organization says in public and tells us more privately is that this is the sort of deal that the re-opening of the "Bank of Cuban'' is intended for.
Why the Mavs May Not Be Interested: The same maturity issues that will possibly lead Sacramento to make him available could give Dallas room to pause. However, given the cost-to-talent ratio in play with Cousins, this is a risk the Mavs would happily take.
MARCIN GORTAT: $7.7 million owed in 2013-14, then unrestricted free agent
Reasons for Phoenix to Consider Moving Him: Even before Jermaine O’Neal reportedly got into a heated argument with Lance Blanks, the Suns GM, Phoenix was a franchise in disarray.
With the worst record in the Western Conference (at the time of this writing), this does not appear to be a team on the verge of relevance. Marcin Gortat becomes an unrestricted free agent after next season, making his place in the long-term plans of the franchise rather uncertain.
This could lead the Suns to try to gain assets now rather than eventually watching Gortat leave for nothing.
Reasons for Phoenix to Wait: Even with Gortat on the payroll, Phoenix will have ample cap space to add players after this season. And, there’s no reason to rush into a deal with Gortat when he is signed through next season. The Suns have every reason to be patient here and only move the player should an ideal offer come along. There is a deadline, but it is currently more than a year away.
Why the Mavs Could Be Interested: Dallas has clearly had interest in Gortat in the past, we need look no further than their offer sheet before the 2009-10 season that Orlando ultimately matched.
Since joining the Suns and getting the opportunity for consistent minutes, Gortat has averaged 13.6 points, 9.5 rebounds, 55.1 field-goal percentage, and 1.5 blocks … proving that he is a very viable starting center in the NBA.
His contract is still very reasonable, considering his level of contribution at both ends of the floor, and he is under control for another season. The Mavs, of course, courted him when he was a free agent and thought they had him until then-employer Orlando matched and kept.
Why the Mavs May Not Be Interested: Again, it’s as simple as Dwight Howard. If Dallas brings in Gortat, who also happens to play the same position as Dwight, it only adds a hurdle on the way to making room to sign Howard outright.
But ... one could argue it would also provide them with an asset the Lakers would be interested in should they continue their downward spiral and decide dealing Dwight now is their best option, or as a centerpiece to a sign-and-trade this summer.
THE SOON-TO-BE FREE AGENTS:
JOSE CALDERON AND AL JEFFERSON: Unrestricted free agents this summer
Reasons for Their Teams to Consider Moving Them: It’s as simple as the fact that both Toronto and Utah have other options at the same positions as Jose Calderon (Kyle Lowry) and Al Jefferson (Paul Millsap and Derrick Favors) and must face the possibility that they will lose the players for nothing in return once they hit free agency this summer.
Reasons for Their Teams to Wait: In the case of Utah, they are looking like a team with a legitimate chance to make the playoffs. Following the injury to Mo Williams, Utah endured a small swoon, but have now gone 7-2 in their last nine games and have held onto the seventh seed in the West (at the time of this writing).
The odds are that Utah will not get a player of Jefferson’s value back in a trade. If they want to chase playoff dreams now, it makes sense to hold on to a guy that leads the team in both scoring and rebounding.
In the case of Toronto, playoffs are out of the picture. The only logical reason to wait, assuming they’ve settled on Lowry as the point guard beyond this season, is in the hope that someone will take on a bad contract, such as Andrea Bargnani, along with Calderon, or if they are uncertain in their choice between Calderon and Lowry.
Why the Mavs Could Be Interested: Calderon fits a huge need. Based on the implications from Rick Carlisle’s rotations, and Darren Collison’s fluctuation therein, the team is searching for answers at the point guard position.
Even with Collison playing much better as of late, Carlisle has still turned to Mike James or Roddy Beaubois in the clutch, and the position remains an area of real need.
Calderon will never be mistaken for a strong defender, but he is a great passer and a very capable shooter. His fit on the Mavs offense would seem to be close to ideal. At 31 years old, he should also remain a viable starter through the duration of Dirk’s career.
Jefferson is one of the best post-up players in the NBA, and has been a consistently strong rebounder.
Why the Mavs May Not Be Interested: Unless the Mavs are able to shed unwanted future salary, the prudent path would seem to be to simply wait until this summer to pursue either of these players as free agents when they would cost Dallas no assets to acquire.
Also, in the case of both players, their lack of defensive prowess would have to be a concern. Is Calderon’s offense enough to overshadow his defensive deficiencies? Going back to the 2007-08 season, Calderon has posted a positive adjusted plus/minus (plus/minus that tries to take into account the players other players on the court) only once (2010-11).
If you aren’t pleased with what you are seeing from Kaman, you may already have a strong premonition for how you would feel about Jefferson in a Mavs uniform after some time. Jefferson is a far superior rebounder to Kaman, but could be considered worse on the defensive end. Jefferson has slower feet and is listed as two inches shorter than Kaman.
This isn’t a comment on Jefferson the player, only his less-than-ideal fit beside Dirk.
Notable on these two players: Dallas has at various times engaged in serious talks about aquiring each of them.
THE “JUST GIVE HIM TO US” GUY:
ERIC BLEDSOE: $2.6 million owed in 2013-14, then restricted free agent
Reasons for the Clippers to Consider Moving Him: Chris Paul is a free agent after this season and will obviously demand a max extension. If LA plans on making that commitment, as we all assume they will, they will likely begin to press up against or surpass the luxury tax line once they’ve filled their roster.
This could make the indulgence of holding on to a backup point guard undesirous when needs at other positions may become greater.
Reasons for the Clippers to Wait: The Clippers are a legitimate contender. They have no guarantee that Chris Paul will re-sign this summer. Both of these facts would logically state Los Angeles has every reason to hold on to Bledsoe, especially when every trade they could make now should still be available this summer.
Why hurt your championship chances or give away your strongest insurance policy should Paul leave?
Why the Mavs Would be Interested: Again, point guard is a major need for this Mavs roster. Bledsoe is a very cheap, very gifted option … he’s also only 23 years old and has a PER of 19.2 this season.
In games he’s played at least 25 minutes this season, Bledsoe is averaging: 14.5 points, 4.2 assists, 2.3 steals, 1.2 blocks, 46.5 field-goal percentage, 1.3 turnovers.
There’s every reason to be interested in Bledsoe.
Why the Mavs May Not Be Interested: Could Bledsoe be a product of the system he is in? Do you flinch at his high turnover rate, the fact that he hasn’t been relied upon to lead a team for extended periods, or the fact that he’s listed at only 6-1?
THE “SURE, WHY NOT” OR “MAYBE NOT” GUYS:
BRANDON JENNINGS AND TYREKE EVANS: Restricted free agents this summer
Reasons for Their Teams to Consider Moving Them: It once again comes down to money. Will either team pony up the dough to match what are sure to be fairly lucrative offers this offseason?
Particularly in the case of Evans, is the player a part of the team’s long-term plans?
Reasons for Their Teams to Wait: As we noted when discussing Cousins, the issues with Sacramento’s ownership likely leaves any movement on Evans stuck on pause.
Milwaukee is still in the playoff hunt in the Eastern Conference. The fit of Monta Ellis and Jennings remains in question, but why not wait and see if they can make a playoff push?
Why the Mavs Should be Interested: Dallas has shown no hesitancy to take on uber-talented but reportedly “troubled” players. Tyreke Evans fits this description to a T.
He’s a 23-year-old former fourth overall pick who has struggled to find his place in the NBA, but the talent is clearly there. Should his skills be refined, he could quickly become a top 10-to-20 player in the league.
Another advantage to consider with both, even if they don’t prove to be fits in Dallas, could they have value as tradable assets this summer (as a sign-and-trade)?
Why the Mavs May Not be Interested: It may not be a stretch to say Brandon Jennings has the real potential to be Darren Collison. You can point to the fact that Jennings averages 17.1 points per game for his career, but you’d also need to note the career field-goal percentage of 39.5.
Jennings is also an undersized guard listed at 6-1 (Collison is listed at 6-0). As explosive as he is, there’s been little to show that Jennings is ready to lead a team. Is he worth the size of the monetary gamble a team will likely have to make to either match the league’s offers (if you own his rights) or to outbid Milwaukee?
If considering a trade now, do you see Evans as a point guard? OJ Mayo is already on the roster and has performed well at shooting guard. Evans has rebounded to some degree this season, but has done so almost exclusively at shooting guard. Does he fit with Dallas?
These questions will be answered even more definitively in the coming days.
And from inside Mavs HQ as the Feb. 21 deadline approaches, DB.com is on it.