1: THE PIECES AND THE PITFALLS
The Mavs now have agreed to a deal with Dalembert, and their cap seems to be spent from their commitments. But is there a snag that could cause them to lose Bernard James, that needs to be avoided? Perhaps. We outline a possible pitfall, and look at solutions.
2: FITTING NICELY
When the Mavs reached agreement with Dalembert, all the pieces seemed to fit nicely. There was room for his $7.5M (reported) as well as $25M to Ellis (reported), all of which can be carved from cap space in a process that would look like this.
Current cap room ...10,667,004 (exact)
Sign Dalembert ...at 7.5M, his salary begins at 3,667,482
Leftover cap room after Dalembert is signed = 7,489,703
Waive both BJames and Akognon ...gains 597,384 in cap room = 8,087087 cap room
Sign Ellis starting at 8,087,087 w max raises= 25,353,018
The rest of the expected deals (Wright, Ellington, Harris, Larkin, Ledo) can all be easily added with various exceptions, after those deals are done.
3: THE PROBLEM
However there's a problem in that plan. When B James is waived, there will be only one center left on the team, Dalembert. The roster would look like this:
C - Dalembert
PF - Nowitzki, Wright
SF - Marion, Carter, Crowder
SG - Ellis, Ellington, Harris, Ledo
PG - Calderon, Mekel, Larkin
Presumably the Mavs would then plan to turn around and re-sign James as their backup center once he clears waivers, but there is a risk that another team might claim him, since he's quite affordable at the minimum salary. He’s an asset with some upside, and the Mavs certainly need centers. What if they lose him?
Is it possible for the Mavs to sidestep that risk? Perhaps. But it won't be easy.
The purpose in waiving B James would be to gain cap room, and if they don't do so, then they will have to find a bit more cap room somewhere else. Without that waiver, if they plan to pay Ellis $25M and Dalembert $7.5M, they'll need $186,000 more in cap room.
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5: SOLUTIONS: IMPOSSIBILITIES, POSSIBILITIES, AND A LONGSHOT
If the Mavs have to get another $186,000 in room, their options will be very limited. Some things are impossible to even consider. Existing contracts can't be altered. The cap hold for Wright's Early Bird rights can't be lessened. Cap charges for empty roster slots on the 12-man cap list can't be lessened. And the cost of the contract to keep James can't be lessened.
So what choices does that leave? There are only three: find some extra cap room from Ellis, Dalembert, or Larkin. Oh, and there's one other longshot that's barely worth mentioning, plus one final avenue that might trump everything.
6: THE BEST POSSIBILITY – ELLIS
If the Mavs decide they don't want to risk B James, the biggest contract available to carve a small slice from would be that of Ellis. He was originally promised at least $25M (reportedly). If that number is gospel, keeping BJames and paying Dalembert $7.5M would lower Ellis’ possible first year salary to $7,788,482 instead of $7,974,482, allowing a total over 3 years of $24,416,891 (instead of $25M).
Would that be close enough?
7: A SENSIBLE POSSIBILITY - DALEMBERT
Assuming that Dalembert hasn't signed a deal yet, maybe a better solution would be to look there for the answer. The Mavs could offer him $3,481,482 (instead of $3,667,482), and over two years his contract could be $7,119,630 (instead of $7.5M).
But his contract (as rumored) also offers a practical solution. It is said that the second year of the deal is only partially guaranteed. Perhaps the Mavs could propose to swap a slightly reduced salary in year year for a slightly increased guarantee in year two.
8: A MIXED POSSIBILITY – ELLIS AND DALEMBERT
With the two veterans coming in and joining the Mavs by splitting the remaining cap room, perhaps the proper approach would be to get a bit from one and a bit from the other.
9: A REMOTE POSSIBILITY – LARKIN
The final possibility to gain cap room would be from the rookie deal for Larkin, who is unsigned but has a cap charge of $1,280,800. How much room can be gained from Larkin? In theory, enough.
First-rounders like Larkin are paid according to a salary scale, and the cap hit before a contract is signed is the exact scale amount. But once the contract is signed, the cap hit changes to the contract amount, and that amount is allowed to be anywhere between 80% to 120% of that scale amount.
The Mavs could, at least in theory, offer a deal starting from as low as $1,024,640 (80% of the cap charge, and $256,160 less of a cap hit than he has right now), to as high as $1,536,960. To gain the entire $186,000 needed, the Mavs would have to sign Larkin to a deal starting at $1,094,800, which is within the specified range.
Unfortunately for the Mavs' needs, the normal contract given in these situations is almost always 120%. So from a practical standpoint, the Mavs wouldn't just be asking their rookie to give up $186,000 from what he's expecting for his 1st season, but instead about $442,000. And over the course of the rest of his rookie contract, there would be no way to make up the difference; in fact, because his starting salary was lessened, his subsequent salary years over the 4-year deal would also be reduced.
10: THE IMPRACTICAL LONGSHOT
Any other solutions are even more drastic, as they would require the Mavs to work a salary-reducing trade. Would the Mavs trade away a different player, in order to hold onto James? That’s a long shot, and impractical as well since it requires the involvement of another team.
11: THE TRUMP CARD
There's one final possibility that could trump everything, and make the entire issue moot. It could be possible that the Mavs really don't care very much if they risk James on waivers. In such a case, they can casually pay the bigger amounts to Dalembert and Ellis, run James through waivers, and see what happens.
12: THE PRACTICAL BOTTOM LINE
The solution that will allow the Mavs to keep B James without risk, if the Mavs want one, probably lies in a combination of paying somewhat less to Ellis, whose contract is biggest and where a sliver would be missed the least, combined with moving a bit of salary for Dalembert from year one to a bigger guarantee next year. If both veterans want to improve their chances of winning in Dallas, and if B James is seen as a helpful answer to that end, their opportunity to begin to help the Dallas Mavericks may already be here.
Does any of that add up to Mark Cuban's belief, as expressed last night exclusively to DB.com, that he's really happy with how things played out'' regarding the post-Dwight moves? Fish calls Cuban's position "stubborn optimism,'' and only time will tell about that.
But it all starts with the assemblage of a roster that fits in the cap. And those dominoes are about to fall in what is hopefully a positive direction.