We think it's a stretch to suggest that the Dallas Mavericks have, in their signing of Gal Mekel, solved much of anything. This has nothing to do with Dwight Howard machinations, nothing to do with Rajon Rondo (or any of the other half-dozen point guards on Dallas' wish list, including Tyreke, Monta, Calderon and more), nothing to do with a promise of the Mavs suddenly having taken a leap from 41-41.
But Israeli point guard Gal Mekel -- who struggled in his time at Wichita State -- was coveted by a handful of teams in recent weeks as he comes to the NBA from having played and starred in Israel, where he won two of the last four MVP trophies. And every Mavs pickup needn't be a blockbuster ... meanwhile some Mavs pickups really do need to be affordable.
Mekel (as first reported by Marc Stein) will join Omri Casspi as the NBA's two Israeli players; he'll join rookie first-rounder Shake Larkin as the only point guards locked in on the Dallas roster.
A Milwaukee-based video visit with Mekel:
Mekel is 6-4, 200, and at 25 was coveted by Milwaukee, Toronto, Indiana and others.
Now, here's the cap-related portion that intrigues us:
As a minimum salary, it takes the same cap space as an empty roster slot, so it doesn't eat into cap room for a max deal for Dwight Howard.
It's beneficial to a team to get a player they want with more years at the minimum. But few NBA minimum-salary deals are for longer than two seasons. That's because the league's "minimum salary exception" (which allows players to be signed at the minimum salary even if a team has surpassed the salary cap) is limited to a two-year deal or less. In order to offer a three- or four-year deal at the minimum, a team must use a different exception, or some free cap space, for the signing.
This is the type of aggressive asset-building move we've been hoping for from the Mavs. If Mekel can play at an NBA level (and the full guarantee would indicate that the Mavs think he can), he will be a bargain for several years as he develops further, and of value to the Mavs or in a trade.
Last summer the Mavs used cap space for a similar bargain-structured deal with second-round pick Jae Crowder. Crowder was given $600,491 for the first season, about $125,000 more than the minimum, and then the minimum's in year two, but it was followed by a team option for a third year at the minimum. Not only does that third season allow the team to reap more benefit from his growth as a player, but it ensures that when he becomes a free agent at its end, they will have full Bird rights. And coming off a minimum salary in that final season, his cap hold that summer (if the team needed cap room) would be less than $1M.
While the Mavs have reached agreement, Mekel can't be signed until July 10 at the earliest.
At that time, to offer him the three-year minimum they would have to designate him being signed by either the MLE or BAE, or use cap space by renouncing player holds and exceptions to clear cap room. (The Mavs team salary for cap purposes when the moratorium ends will be $101,467,644.)
Their best course would be to wait to ink the contract even later, allowing them to first get all their roster-building choices made and then select the way to put those additions onto their roster that might preserve the most assets.
There are trickle-down issues here (Dallas probably swaps away the rights to Nick Calethes now) but the biggest one is Dallas using the rules to its advantage ... while believing Gal Mekel can contribute on an NBA level.