DALLAS — The times are changing in Dallas. For the first time since 2001, Dirk Nowitzki will not represent the Mavericks as an NBA All-Star. And for the first time since 2000, the Mavericks are playing out the string of a lottery-bound, dud of a season.
The last time the Mavericks failed to qualify for the NBA playoffs, the Y2K bug was still fresh in everyone’s mind. It was April 2000, and Glen Rice was just two months away from helping Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant win their first NBA Finals.
After defeating the Sacramento Kings 123-100
Wednesday night, the Mavericks are 23-29 and trail the Houston Rockets by 4 1/2 games for the eighth and final playoff seed in the Western Conference.
Traditionally, the Mavericks have been buyers at deadline time, but this year, even after owner Mark Cuban recently declared that the Mavericks were “open for business,” the team would be wise to sell, sell, sell.
And it should start with trading both Vince Carter and Shawn Marion for expiring contracts and draft picks.
Carter and Marion are both over the hill, but either could help a contending team. Carter has proven that he’s a capable bench scorer, and he still has springs in his legs, even at 36 years old. He scored 26 points and passed Larry Bird on the all-time scoring list, finishing the night with 21,796 career points for 29th on the list.
Marion, on the other hand, has lost a lot of his athleticism, but is still a capable perimeter defender and can still finish around the basket.
The concern for these Mavericks is that the team has embraced rebuilding, but hasn’t gone all the way.
Rebuilding teams don’t pay Marion and Carter a combined $12 million in 2013-14, and that’s an under-discussed story as it relates to the Mavericks attempt to be a major player in free agency this July.
As it currently stands, the Mavericks have about $37 million committed to just five players next year—Marion, Carter, Dirk Nowitzki, Jared Cunningham and Jae Crowder. O.J. Mayo has outplayed his $4.2 million option for next season and is expected exercise his right to terminate his deal.
The Mavs will also have to make decisions on Rodrigue Beaubois and Darren Collison. Each will be eligible for qualifying offers and restricted free agency. Cuban will have to decide whether he’d like to retain them and how much he thinks they are worth.
But for the sake of argument, let’s say Mayo opts out and bolts Dallas. Let’s also say that the Mavs choose to let both Beaubois and Collison walk. With Carter and Marion and their combined $12 million on the books, the team will have, at most, about $18 million in cap space.
That assumes a $60 million salary cap and includes cap holds and the mid first round pick the Mavs will likely end up with in this June’s draft.
The $18 million seems like a lot, but it’s actually not enough to pay Dwight Howard’s first year max salary ($20.22 million). Similarly, the Mavs wouldn’t be able to afford a max salary for Chris Paul ($18.65 million), and would barely be able to squeeze Andrew Bynum in at his max number ($17.29 million).
Obviously, any of the aforementioned three could sign for less if they were interested in making a move to Dallas, but that $18 million sure goes quickly, eh?
In fact, all $18 million would likely get the Mavs is an opportunity to overpay an unrestricted free agent like Josh Smith or restricted free agents like Brandon Jennings or Jeff Teague.