I hear you, MavsFan. Your sports heart is battered, let down from the Dallas Mavericks championship glory of 2011 that now seems more than two short summers ago. Left at the altar by Deron Williams last summer and without a playoff berth for the first time since before your sixth-grader was born, and with nothing but a stupid pile of dry powder to console you, you are right to be skeptical.
Now, with offseason rumors already swirling, you are afraid to believe again. So let's agree to this: When Fish or David Lord or the staff of DallasBasketball.com develops a nugget, makes a revelation or breaks a story about the possibilities ... Let's all understand together that the "idea'' isn't a "promise.'' That "trade talks'' aren't "trades.'' That -- in the case of "The DUST Chip'' or the Marion trade idea or countless other stories we've done -- that the ability and will of the Mavs to take action doesn't automatically lead to championships, let alone action.
In short: Must Fish really run a "This Is Not A Guarantee'' disclaimer with every insightful plan outlined here?
Part of the reason the Mavs accomplished 12XPlayoffs is because they aimed big. Thought big. Balled big. Right, Dirk?
With that big-thinking in mind, lets apply some rationality to the Mavs' situation this summer.
Ushered in with the loss of Tyson Chandler, the primacy of financial flexibility will, one way or another, end this summer. Either the Mavericks will realize the goal of landing a superstar (or two), or they will go about the business of building and secure talent to deals longer than one year. Either way, the experiment likely ends, in either glorious validation or thoughts of what could have been.
Plan ‘A,' of course is to lure either Chris Paul or Dwight Howard to Dallas. (The top Mavs revelation of the weekend, in my estimation, hasn't been fully recognized: Fish is telling us the Mavs have already tabbed CP3 as more attractive than Dwight Howard. News!) However, logic suggests this will be a difficult proposition, to say the least. Both Paul and Howard are already on teams in a destination market on rosters that are more asset-rich than the Mavericks' and financially incentivized to remain with their current clubs.
This is the same calculus that Deron Williams solved last summer and ultimately led him to staying with the Nets. It's a simple statement of inequality: Dirk + Dwight or Paul or Deron + rest of Mavs' roster < opportunites with current team -- all things considered.
Given that the facts on the ground for Paul or Dwight are largely the same this summer as they were for Deron last offseason, we should not expect a different outcome this time around.
The dollars, for the record:
*Paul's four-year deal outside of the Clippers will be worth $79,714,196; his five-year deal in LA would be $107,343,500.
*Dwight's four-year deal outside of the Lakers will be worth $87.6 mil; his five-year deal in LA would be $118 mil.
Also for the record, Dallas' commitments going forward:
|Mavs Player||Do-Nothing Obligations|
|No. 1 pick||$1,655,300|
|5 cap holds||@ $490,180 each|
You see the total. It adds up to $42,110,521 -- down from $46 million with the news that Mayo is opting out of his $4.2 million -- and with a cap guesstimate of $58-60 mil, yes that leaves in the range of $18 million.
However, in a very important way, the facts on the ground aren't the same as they were a year ago. Indeed, Williams was the only big name Dallas had a shot at last summer. This time around, however, Chris Paul and Dwight Howard are both available and their dual availability creates a very different possibility.
If Dallas could find a way to acquire both, it changes the calculus for each individual player. No longer is it Dirk + Dwight OR Paul + rest of roster, it's Dirk AND Dwight AND Paul.
Why does that matter if Dallas only has room to sign one of them? Sounds double-pipe-dreamy, right?
Here's the difference: DallasBasketball.com has revealed that the Mavs believe they can -- mathematically -- acquire both. In this exclusive and extraordinary piece by David Lord, he explains the nuts, bolts, dollars and cents of how Dallas can theoretically do it.
Just one piece of D-Lord's amazing story:
*The higher the cap, the more possibilities there are for the Mavs, but there are get-‘em-both solutions that don't derive from a massive cap increase.
However, if we want to hope for a cap increase big enough for the Mavs to simply clear out their roster and then sign Howard and Paul to max deals, the minimum cap number it would take for that would be $67,097,168 (Dirk - 22,721,381; D12 - 20,513,178; CP3 – 18,960,809; 10 cap holds for empty roster slots - 4,901,800). But we think a cap of $67,097,168 or more is very unlikely.
*Is it even possible for the Mavs to "clean out" the entire roster of salary commitments, as needed?
We don't see a problem. Every player under contract is on an expiring deal at the end of 2013-14, and all are either proven veterans with an all-star resume' (Marion and Carter) or kids on cheap contracts with a reasonable amount of potential (Cunningham, Crowder, B James). A deal offering talent, with no talent required in return, should be easy to find in a summer where there will be lots of teams with cap room and not enough talent to go around.
*What can the Mavs do if the cap is less than $67,097,168 and both want to come to Dallas?
In that case, the Mavs have two options: (1) split whatever cap room is available between Howard and Paul, or (2) work with one or more of the LA teams to do an acquisition by sign-and-trade, sending talent back rather than doing a simple signing.
The story goes on to explain -- in magnificent detail -- how Dallas would go about this pursuit, using varying roadmaps. An outright signing joined by a sign-and-trade. Dwight taking a starting salary of $20,282,940 (a smidge under his max due $20,513,178.) The order the dominoes must fall in order to make this all happen.
As Fish says: "We're not baking the "Paul-And-Dwight-To-Dallas' Celebratory Cake. We're just showing Mavs fans the recipes.''
Remember, Howard and Paul had planned to team up in Dallas last summer, when they both would have been free agents. However, Howard's strange final chapter with Orlando blew up any chance of a union in Big D. Then, both Howard and Paul landed in LA in situations that seemed great from the outside: Paul, as the captain of an up-and-coming Clippers squad and Howard as the final piece on the talent-laden Lakers squad.
However, things did not end well for either player this season, as both got tossed in the elimination games of ignominious first-round exits, far underperforming expectations.
Why would Paul consider leaving? For one, winning. Paul is a supreme competitor and, it is hoped, might bolt from the Clippers if he believed brighter prospects lay elsewhere. He now heads a talented, but flawed Clippers squad and their weaknesses were exposed this spring. They aren't very good on defense, and despite their athletic edge in the front court, it remains an area of weakness. Maybe there are chemistry issues. Further, Paul will likely not tolerate the subpar coaching of Vinny Del Negro much longer.
Now coaches are easily replaceable in the NBA so perhaps Del Negro's impact is easily mitigated, but few can boast a coach as good as Rick Carlisle.
Oh, and then there is the fact that the Clippers aren't going to change owners. This point is made powerfully in this story on "The Cuban Umbrella.''
However, if the Mavericks can effectively pitch to Paul that the potential for winning is better in Dallas, which would require the ability to simultaneously acquire Howard, then they have a shot with Paul.
This is my thinking. Nothing official on this from Mavs HQ (yet). But I think it to be logical thinking, too.
Howard's reasons for leaving are likely very different. For one, Howard's psyche seems more complex than Paul's. Still competitive, Howard seems highly concerned about having fun, being liked, and feeling valued by an organization.
To me, Howard seems the more likely to leave his current situation after his season-long "nightmare" (his word) with the Lakers. From feuding with Kobe to bristling at D'Antoni's coaching to hearing hoots from fans, Dwight's season in LA was not what he had hoped. Meanwhile, Kobe is not going anywhere and neither, it seems, is D'Antoni.
From his days in Orlando, we know that Dwight needs to feel the love on an organizational level as well, and he wants to have some input on organizational decisions. (We also know him to be an admirer of the way Cuban let Dirk and Kidd have voices in Dallas.)
If the Mavericks can pitch Dwight on being a player-friendly, perhaps even ego-stroking, team where he can have fun but still be respected as "the man,'' they could create a key edge over the Lakers.
For what it's worth, by the way, there is a deep history of Dallas pursuing each of these guys, as long-time DB.com readers know by recalling this sort of Paul story and this. this sort of Dwight story.
To both players, the Mavericks would have to pitch the idea that their market potential would not be lessened in Dallas after leaving Los Angeles. And if anyone knows the value of a good pitch, it's billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban -- who I assume will lead the Mavs posse that sets up housekeeping on Paul's doorstep at midnight July 1.
Now, even following this logic, it's still a massive long shot, a pipe-dream within a pipe-dream. In some forms of what D-Lord outlines -- I'm telling you, Mavs fans, this is MUST-READ -- Dallas would need to shed salary without taking salary back. The timing of certain moves would have to be unusually perfect. And ultimately, cooperation from the unlikeliest sources would be needed.
Meanwhile, DB.com is already telling you about moves being made in advance of all this. Check out our exclusive on Dallas' plans not to QO Darren Collison. And while you're at it, take the knowledge you now have to know more about why O.J.'s opt-out is actually a good thing.
Some of those are relatively minor steps and obstacles. Some stand in the way of a thinking man believing it's even worth dreaming about.
Dallas' biggest blockade will be financial as both Howard and Paul would have to turn down compelling fifth-year financial incentives to remain in Los Angeles. History says this almost never happens in team sports.
So why don't we start at the top of the pipedream and work our way down?
What if Dallas can leverage the ability to acquire both Howard and Paul, while pitching to each player that their different and specific needs can be met by joining forces in Dallas ... all designed to help Dirk someday toast us once more?
How slight, how worth examining, is the difference between "impossible'' and "virtually impossible''?
We have no shortage of "Permutations and Combinations.'' Some of the best of DallasBasketball.com is a tradition of revealing and examining those, all along providing all of us, on DB.com Boards and here, to include our own contributions.
Me? I say to have a realistic shot at either Dwight Howard or Chris Paul, Dallas needs to have a shot at both.
But that's just one Thinking Man's opinion.