Over the weekend, ESPN's Bill Simmons reiterated a point worth mentioning on his B.S. Report podcast: In order for the Dallas Mavericks to acquire both Dwight Howard and Deron Williams in free agency this summer, Shawn Marion and the $8.39MM due to him next season will have to be moved. With Jason Terry and Jason Kidd's combined $19.2MM salary coming off the books next season, and Lamar Odom and Vince Carter accounting for $11.3MM in non-guaranteed money, the team has done a wonderful job of staying competitive in the present while leaving open the possibility that two of the league's top players could come aboard in the near future.
Shawn Marion's $8.39MM, Brendan Haywood's guaranteed $8.34MM, and Dirk Nowitzki's $20.9MM are the only remaining contract figures on Dallas' cap that represent anything meaningful next season. When you consider Marion's value as a superb trade chip, along with the amnesty provision comfortably resting in its back pocket, Mark Cuban's team has the means to remain competitive this season and be a title favorite for the foreseeable future.
The plan of action would sequentially play out like this: First, the Mavericks would dangle Marion on the market as a still-valuable veteran who knows what it takes to win a championship. After dealing him for an expiring contract (it'd make no sense for them to take on anything else), the Mavericks will then amnesty Brendan Haywood once the season is over, wiping his contract from their books.
Of course, trading Marion—still one of the most capable perimeter defenders in the league—with no DeShawn Stevenson as a safety net could serve as a death blow for the team's chances of covering guys like Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, and LeBron/Wade should they be fortunate enough to make another trip to the Finals. His perimeter defense is integral to Dallas' title chances, and has been a key component in making the Mavericks one of the league's best defensive teams—despite Tyson Chandler's offseason departure—so far this season. In order to remain relevant in the now, Dallas would be wise to make a deal that not only brought back an expiring contract, but a player with the skill set to contribute immediately.
One possible trade partner would be Minnesota, a team that's been in the hunt for an experienced veteran for years. By offering Michael Beasley for Marion, things work out well for both sides. Dallas receives a talented offensive weapon who could still blossom if placed in the correct situation, especially on the defensive end when used in Rick Carlisle's zone based schemes (see, Brandan Wright). Beasley has fallen out of favor in Minnesota's rotation, starting just seven games in 22 appearances, and with his name in trade rumors these past few weeks it's clear David Khan would be more than happy to receive something as compensation before letting him walk out the door.
On the other end, Minnesota receives their veteran in the form of an uber-athletic and versatile Shawn Marion. Now putting up 12 PPG and 6.4 RPG in his 13th year as a pro, Marion's a player who could push the exciting Timberwolves into the playoffs as early as this season.
A deal like this could be the type of NBA rarity that benefits both teams. Now and in the future.