Jason Kidd is heading to the Hall of Fame soon. We just don't know where he's going on the way there. While both the Mavs and Kidd have reportedly indicated a willingness for him to return as a backup next year, it's unclear whether Dallas will be willing to meet his salary demands. Chris Mannix of SI.com reported earlier this week that Kidd is seeking a deal worth about the mid-level exception amount of $5MM a year. The Mavs figure to have plenty of cap room, but any team would be wary of paying that amount to a player who'll turn 40 before next season ends.
Kidd's skills have been in decline for a while now, and the aspect of his game that appeared to take the most significant step back is his playmaking ability, as he dropped from 8.2 APG to a career-low 5.5 this year. The improved outside shot that allowed him to shoot over 40% from three-point range his first three seasons in Dallas has been absent the last two years, as he's shot just 34.5% on treys. He still rebounds at a high rate for a point guard, grabbing 5.2 per 36 minutes this season, but it hasn't kept him from putting up a career-low PER (13.1) for the second year in a row. Perhaps his saving grace has been the ability to force turnovers. He led all postseason performers with 40 steals last year, and through Saturday he was doing so again this year, with 12 steals in four games. Steals, however, don't necessarily mean you're a quality defender, and Mavs coach Rick Carlisle uses cross-matches or a zone to make sure Kidd doesn't have to defend quick point guards.
It's likely most teams will find Kidd's greatest value is his ability to mentor a younger point guard in a role similar to the one Derek Fisher is playing in Oklahoma City. That's clearly what the Mavs have in mind when they think about bringing him back in the hopes that Deron Williams signs to take over the starting role. Kidd has had a Hall of Fame career and owns an NBA championship ring from last season, so he knows what it takes to succeed in the NBA. Marcus Thompson II of the Bay Area News group said earlier this week the Warriors will explore signing Kidd, a Bay Area native, but that's probably contingent on the unlikely event that Deron Williams signs with Golden State, too. Tayshaun Prince called upon the Pistons to go after a veteran point guard to mentor Brandon Knight, so maybe Kidd heads to Detroit. The Cavs, with young Kyrie Irving in tow, could use some of their ample cap space to go after Kidd, since even at his advanced age, he probably represents an upgrade over current backup point guard Donald Sloan. Kidd could also wind up as Williams' backup in Brooklyn instead of Dallas, as Jeff Caplan of ESPNDallas.com suggests. Both point guards are clients of agent Jeff Schwartz.
Caplan's story also reports that Kidd would like to play two more seasons, which refutes the report earlier in the week from Mannix that Kidd will retire if he doesn't get that mid-level deal. Kidd doesn't think he'll be waiting too long, telling Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News, "I'll land somewhere early, I would think." If that's the case, it suggests Kidd won't wait for Deron Williams to decide where he's going. Judging by his comments this week, my guess is he and the Mavs have talked about a deal and are haggling over specifics. If that's the case, I think Kidd's path to Springfield will continue to detour through Dallas.