DALLAS (105.3 THE FAN) – This is not a prediction that the Dallas Mavericks are going to achieve their “Double Pipe-Dream’’ by acquiring both of this summer’s top NBA free agents, Chris Paul and Dwight Howard.
This is, rather, a demystification regarding whether it is technically doable – even if, as suspected, the cap is lower than $58.7 million.
The idea that Paul and Dwight are communicating via text about teaming up is not surprising, but it is pleasing to fans of the Mavs (and a few other teams). Of course, it can’t just be their desire; it’s got to be legal and affordable.
And while it might be “virtually impossible’’ for Dallas to accomplish it, it’s not “impossible.’’
When it comes to the projected cap: we must note that we are only getting the league’s guess of $58.5 million. I figure it is probably fairly close, but the actual cap number won’t be determined until the revenues for the year are totaled and audited, and the league’s numbers can be a bit unreliable until finalized in July.
So, how do the pieces fit?
The Mavs currently have $37,215,449 guaranteed to five players (Nowitzki, Marion, Carter, Cunningham, Crowder). They also have potential cap commitments that could add over $60 million more to that total in July. Those extras include non-guaranteed deals with Akognon and James, a No. 13 draft pick, cap holds to retain the rights of free agents, and annual cap exceptions. But any or all of that extra can be removed at their discretion.
In free agency, the Mavs’ big goal will be to persuade Chris Paul and/or Dwight Howard to join them, and they will need to have cap room to sign such players. We assume for this part of the study they will need to be able to offer the max salary (about $18.7 million and $20.5 million respectively) for their services.
To simply sign Paul, the Mavs could do so by getting rid of the extras (and doing nothing more) with a cap of $59,315,139 or higher. For Howard, the cap would have to be $61,159,887.
So if the cap is only around $58.5 million, they would need more cap room if they obtained an agreement from one (or both).
The cap numbers for getting Paul: It should first be mentioned that if the Mavs are able to persuade Chris Paul to sign, the preferred method will probably be via sign-and-trade. If such a deal could be worked with the Clippers, in lieu of signing him outright, the cap wouldn’t matter.
For an outright signing, the easy cap number for the Mavs to sign Paul would be $59,315,139, which is only about 1.4% more than the NBA’s recent guess.
If the cap is lower than $59,315,139, they would need to trade Marion, Carter, or Cunningham in the process, presumably for a draft pick. (One alternative might be to send that player to the Clippers, rather than to a different team, in a sort of simplified sign-and-trade). If the cap is as high as $58,596,919, moving Cunningham would do the trick – a lower cap than that would require that Carter or Marion are dealt instead.
The cap numbers for getting Howard: Just like with Paul, if the Mavs are able to persuade Dwight Howard to sign, the preferred method may be via sign-and-trade. If such a deal could be worked with the Lakers, in lieu of signing him outright, the cap wouldn’t matter.
With Howard the magic cap number would be $61,159,887 to sign him outright, without doing anything other than get rid of all their extra cap charges. But given the NBA’s $58.5 million cap guess, a cap that high is quite unlikely.
Assuming a cap around $58.5 million, the Mavs would most likely clear the room by moving Carter, either to another team for a pick or to the Lakers in a simplified sign-and-trade. That one move would allow Howard to be signed with a cap of $58,470,067 or higher. The higher the cap, then it’s possible the Mavs might be able to keep other extra assets while giving up Carter.
The cap numbers required for adding both: A cap of $58,703,344 would allow the Mavs an avenue for the longshot of adding both Howard and Paul by signing one and signing-and-trading for the other (sign Howard and sign-and-trade for Paul). In the process, the Mavs would also have to trade Carter and Cunningham to someone else for a pick, presumably not a problem task.
But a cap of $58.5 million would be significant in regards to getting both, as any cap lower than $58,703,344 would eliminate every possible way to get both, other than one: sign-and-trade for both.
But again, “virtually impossible” isn’t the same as “impossible.” Two months ago, Mavs owner Mark Cuban told me that acquiring two superstars would be “so tough … an incredible longshot.”
But they still gotta make their pitch. And Mavs fans can be equipped with some of the cap-related basics:
1) If both Paul and Dwight get moved via sign-and-trade, Dallas could add both on max deals and the cap won’t matter.
2) If the cap is 58.7 million or more, Dallas can sign one to a max deal and trade for the other on a max deal.
3) If the cap is lower than 58.7 million? Dallas can sign-and-trade for both … or they can shave about $100,000 off the max starting salary, and sign one and sign-and-trade for the other.
So … there are legal, mathematical and cap-friendly ways to do the virtually impossible. We’re not convinced “texting” alters the odds much. And here’s the point we want to push: Ultimately, this comes down not to Dallas’ math tricks but to the Mavs’ recruiting abilities — and specifically, maybe, Dallas’ abilities to make Paul and Howard see the value of signing with the Mavs for less than the max.
Because, the pitch should illustrate (as I just did): The math isn’t the point. The dollars aren’t even the point. Winning should be the point.
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