The Mavs are trying to find trade partners who’ll take center Bernard James and point guard Gal Mekel, reports Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports. Both are on fully guaranteed contracts. Dallas wants to carry fewer than 15 players on opening night, Spears adds, and finding another team to take on Mekel, James or both without sending guaranteed salary in return would allow the Mavs to open space on their regular season roster without having to waive guaranteed salaries. Of course, the Mavs can’t trade James until December 15th, since he signed a new contract this summer.
There’s another hurdle to trading James, since he can’t be traded without his consent. Any player who’s traded after re-signing with his team for just one year, as James did this summer, loses his Bird rights. The Mavs could remind James and agent Happy Walters that if they waive him and he clears waivers, his Bird rights would also disappear that way, though that would force Dallas to eat his guaranteed minimum salary for this season. Dallas prioritized re-signing the 29-year-old former 33rd overall pick this summer as GM Donnie Nelson pointed to his shot-blocking as a reason why, but fellow Mavs centers Tyson Chandler, Brandan Wright and Greg Smith all have guaranteed contracts, too.
Mekel’s minimum salaries are guaranteed for this season as well as 2015/16. The 26-year-old didn’t see much playing time as a rookie last year, averaging 9.4 minutes per game over just 31 appearances, and he wouldn’t appear to be in line for significantly more burn this season on a Mavs roster that has no shortage of point guards.
The notion that Dallas is looking to preserve open roster spots for the regular season is an ominous sign for Ivan Johnson and Eric Griffin, who have small partial guarantees with the club, and Charlie Villanueva, who’s impressed while on a non-guaranteed deal this month. Coach Rick Carlisle has suggested that owner Mark Cuban wouldn’t hesitate to waive a guaranteed contract to keep Villanueva if the veteran power forward continues his strong play, but it appears Cuban has other plans. Dallas can keep as few as 13 players on the roster during the regular season. The last time the team opened without the maximum 15 guys was in 2011/12, as I examined last month.