We label this as ‘educated speculation’ because to this moment, we have no on-the-record evidence that the Mavs are shopping for a Marion dump, angling for a Mayo-Monta sign-and-trade, and celebrating how those two moves can lead to Dwight. But what is detailed inside is what we know the Mavs can do. And we dare say, what they should do.
Monta Ellis opted out of the final year of his contract and is a free agent. In doing so, he’s forfeited a guaranteed $11 million – a gamble on himself. He's not agreed to a new deal yet.
OJ Mayo is working on a four-year agreement with -- you guessed it -- Milwaukee. We said early Wednesday that the same formula in play when Dallas was examining a Mayo-for-Bledsoe sign-and-trade could be re-applied to another deal.
Our friend and colleague Marc Stein reports that Dallas is not focusing on a Mayo sign-and-trade. We counter by pointing out the indications we're given that there is no option going unexplored. (And that the only reason for Dallas not to examine this path is because they are close to walking down a better one.)
Mayo-for-Monta can be done. It's illogical to suggest something so obvious to us isn't being discussed, at least in-house, by them. Monta can be part of the bait that lures Dwight -- and vice-versa. That makes it a viable idea for the Mavs and a viable story for us.
The moving parts, in brief:
*STEP 1: The Dallas Mavericks salary-dump the 9.32M contract of Shawn Marion. (We think Marion-to-the-Lakers is quite sensible in another form, but for our purposes here, we'll note the groundwork has already been put down with Cleveland. Minus the cap hold of $490,180, that creates $8.8M worth of added cap room.
*STEP 2: That $8.8M brings the total cap room to $26.6M and allows the carving out of the needed $2.7M off the cap so Dallas can outright-sign Dwight Howard with a first-year maxed-out salary of $20.5M. No more tricks involved (outside of him actually choosing the Mavs, of course.
*STEP 3: That leaves $6.1M ... and that's the money available to give in a first-year salary to the departing Mayo.
*STEP 4: The $6.1M outgoing is allowed to bring a sign-and-tradee being paid 150% of that number, or $9.2M. So the $9.2M is the first-year salary Dallas pays the incoming Ellis.
And you've re-made your club into a three-star "SuperTeam'' of sorts starring Dwight, Dirk and Monta ... with plenty of planned cap room left for next summer to pursue the standouts in the LeBron-led class.
Ellis, 27, is an explosive scoring point guard who averaged 19 points, four rebounds, and six assists last season with Milwaukee. He’s hardly a “pure point guard.'' But Ellis is bigger than he looks at 6-3, and for his reputation as a non-passer and a poor defender, he did rank 11th in the league in scoring and fourth in steals.
This player not the perfect answer, if we are examining him just as a player "in a vacuum.'' But last summer, he was the guy targeted by Orlando when they were trying to appease Dwight and keep him. Monta and Dwight are friends; maybe that's motivation enough. (Maybe the fact that Mark Cuban and agent Dan Fegan are friends has always been enough, too.)
And this formula isn't the perfect formula. Some could argue that this is a chapter in the "Shiny Object Project'' that worked for the Nets last summer with Deron Williams and signee Joe Johnson. Oh, and what if the Bucks have already agreed to pay Mayo way more than $6M a year? Oh, and what if Monta wants far more than the number that fits? Or, what if the Bucks simply pass on Dallas' overtures of cooperation and opt to sign Mayo outright?
But our "educated speculation'' says this is a way to give Dwight the teammate he wants (to help convince him to come to Dallas) and to give Monta the teammate he wants (to convince him to take the dollars that fit).
There are hundreds of solutions still on the table. The best of them have Dwight as the hub of the wheel. This formula -- exactly the sort of thing we expect Dallas to be exploring -- might just be the best of them.