- Dirk Nowitzki ($22,721,381)
- Vince Carter ($3,180,000)
- Jared Cunningham ($1,208,400)
- Jae Crowder ($788,872)
Free Agents / Cap Holds
- Chris Kaman ($9,600,000)
- Anthony Morrow ($7,600,000)
- Darren Collison ($5,798,360)4
- Rodrigue Beaubois ($5,568,333)5
- Elton Brand ($3,990,950)
- No. 13 pick ($1,655,300)
- Mike James ($884,293)
- Brandan Wright ($884,293)
- (Petteri Koponen – $880,600)
- 1st Round (13th overall)
- 2nd Round (44th overall)
- Guaranteed Salary: $27,898,653
- Options: $13,517,696
- Non-Guaranteed Salary: $1,577,744
- Cap Holds: $36,862,129
- Total: $79,856,222
Of all the teams whose offseasons we've previewed so far, few, if any, have had their summer plans discussed and critiqued as often as the Mavericks. As soon as the team missed out on Deron Williams a year ago and settled for a handful of players on one-year contracts, the focus in Dallas shifted to what the Mavs would do this summer. It's now been two seasons since team management broke up the core of the 2011 championship roster, and as Dirk Nowitzki inches closer to the end of his playing career, patience appears to be wearing thin among local fans and media.
The thinking, back in 2011, was that the new Collective Bargaining Agreement would make it too costly to re-sign Tyson Chandler and J.J Barea and keep together a team that surprised many by beating the Heat in the 2011 Finals. Not only that, but taking payroll into tax territory would limit the team's ability to be flexible and make creative roster moves down the road. Owner Mark Cuban suggested that for the team to be a long-term contender, maintaining that flexibility was necessary. After the Mavs finished 10th in the West in 2012/13, fans are still waiting for Cuban to deliver on that promise of contention.
I don't disagree with Cuban's logic, and I think re-signing Chandler and Barea to the sort of deals they received from other teams would have been ill-advised. But there are other factors in the league's new CBA that have made it difficult for the Mavs to bring in elite outside talent. For one, rival suitors for free agents can no longer offer the same amount of years that the free agent's own team can. When Dallas pursued D-Will last summer, the Mavs only had the flexibility to offer him a four-year, $73.35MM contract, while the Nets could (and did) offer five years and $98.77MM. Maybe it was actually a poorly-timed filming of Shark Tank that convinced Williams to remain with the Nets, but I imagine that extra $25MM+ was a factor as well.
The Mavs have an attractive leadership group in place – Cuban running the franchise, Rick Carlisle coaching the team, and Nowitzki still thriving on the court – and Texas' lack of state taxes will always attract the interest of free agents. But the Mavs' pitches to Chris Paul and Dwight Howard this summer will have to be awfully convincing for one of them to ultimately end up in Dallas. After all, the Mavs' competition will be able to try to lure Paul and/or Howard by pointing to a talented young core (Rockets), possible cap space to sign both players (Hawks), or that extra year and extra money (Clippers for CP3, Lakers for D12).
The Mavericks' pursuit of elite free agents is further complicated by the fact that the club won't even have the cap room necessary to make one maximum offer without making another move or two. The most logical solution, which the team is reportedly pursuing, would be to package Shawn Marion with their lottery pick (No. 13) in a trade for multiple second-round picks. Unlike that first-rounder, second-round picks don't come with guaranteed cap holds, so the Mavs would be able to clear significant money off the cap in that sort of deal. Eliminating Marion and the cap hold for the lottery pick would give Dallas the flexibility to sign Paul or Howard to a maximum-salary contract and still have room for a couple more mid-tier free agents.
However, that plan relies heavily on either Paul or Howard coming to Dallas. Otherwise, the team will be giving up a veteran contributor (Marion) and a lottery pick for a chance to make a run at a group of second-tier free agents that will likely include Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Josh Smith, Brandon Jennings, and others. There are some good players in that group, and if Dallas could land one of them, add a point guard (Jarrett Jack or Jose Calderon would be nice fits), and fill out the rest of the roster with solid contributors, the offseason wouldn't be a disaster. But those additions almost certainly wouldn't be enough to restore the club to contender status, and anything short of that will likely be viewed as a disappointment by a fanbase with high expectations.
It's a tricky spot that Cuban and the Mavs find themselves in this summer, without any real leverage when it comes to landing top free agents. Unlike other clubs with cap space, the Mavs don't even have a wealth of trade assets — a future first-round pick is ticketed for the Thunder, and Jared Cunningham and Jae Crowder currently represent the team's only young prospects. Free agency is the team's best bet at landing a difference-maker, but to have a real shot at those elite players, Cuban will have to assume a role opposite the one he plays on the aforementioned Shark Tank, selling free agents on the Mavs with a convincing pitch of his own.
I don't expect Mavs management to settle for an offseason like 2012's, in which the team ended up with a handful of short-term solutions on one-year deals, so I'm looking forward to seeing Cuban and GM Donnie Nelson swing for the fences this summer. Given how creative they've been in the past, I'm cautiously optimistic they'll end up making the big splash fans have been waiting for, but there's certainly no clear-cut path to such a move.
- Another way for the Mavs to eliminate the cap hold for the No. 13 pick from their books is to draft an international player, with both sides agreeing that the player will spend another year overseas. Dario Saric might be open to such an arrangement, but there's no other obvious candidate unless the Mavs reach on a lesser prospect.
- Vince Carter would have some trade value, but the Mavs were reluctant to move him at the 2012 deadline, which makes me believe the team thinks he's too good a bargain to give up, at only about $3MM per year. I'd say he and Nowitzki are probably the only locks to be on the 2013/14 roster.
- At least one report has already indicated Mayo will decline this player option, making him a free agent. When that decision becomes official, his cap hold will be $4,824,000.
- Akognon's contract is currently fully non-guaranteed. It becomes fully guaranteed if he's not waived on or before December 1st.
- James' contract is currently fully non-guaranteed. It becomes fully guaranteed if he's not waived on or before July 15th.
- Because he met the starter criteria, Collison will now be eligible for a qualifying offer of $4,531,459 rather than $3,342,175.
- Beaubois will be eligible for a qualifying offer of $3,271,952.