How The Mavs Lose the Big Free Agent and Win Free Agency

Half of the teams in the 2014 NBA Draft had eyes elsewhere as they made their selections. The Chicago Bulls traded their two picks for one pick to save cap space. To their credit, they also added a much needed piece in Doug McDermott to a team that desperately needs to add offense. Houston took a draft-and-stash guy in Clint Capela to keep extra cap space clear. The Knicks-Mavericks trade was Carmelo motivated in some way on both sides. Miami traded up for Shabazz Napier in part because LeBron likes him. 

The draft was just step one of these recruiting and cap motivated moves, yet all but two teams are making them in vain. Carmelo and LeBron can only play for one team a piece. 

So what to do if you don't get either of them? Let's call it Plan B.

However before Plan B, we first have to go back and examine the progression of Plan A.

People bashing the "hope plan" because the Mavs still have financial flexibility just don't understand the NBA in 2014. Were the Mavs supposed to have signed Vince Carter to a longer deal? I think when a guy's been hurt frequently during his career and he's going to be 37 when the deal ends, you did a good job. Dirk was signed for as long as he could have been. They timed Marion to end at the same time. That's not some pipe dream hope plan. That's really smart planning.

Then what? Is a team in a big market with great ownership, good players and an eye on a championship supposed to not take a swipe at the best players in the league? No. That'd be epically stupid. The key is to plan if you don't get them, but not trying to acquire them would be fireable offense.

So what's the plan when LeBron goes back to Miami and Carmelo goes to Chicago? Back to Plan B.

There are a lot of quality players who are being tossed around as guys who need to be moved for teams to create max cap space. Let's use Chicago as an example. They'll likely need to dump Mike Dunleavy and his $3 million dollar salary to create room for Carmelo. $3 million for a smart shooter who understands how to play and is good for 15-20 minutes a night? Sign me up!

What about bigger fish though? Oh sorry I forgot that term is despised in Dallas. Let's try "all-star caliber player." 

What if Golden State pulls a miracle and lands LeBron/Melo after completing the Kevin Love trade. In order to pull that off they need to dump Andre Iguadala. Forget signing free agent Luol Deng. I'll take Iguadala. That's probably your best case scenario. There are steps in-between too. If teams are going to salary dump good players, take the good players. Deandre Jordan is being floated out there if the Clippers make a run at LeBron. 

Plan B is simply this: use the cap space reserved for LeBron and Carmelo on multiple players that fit. The Mavs did this last year and made their team markedly better. The difference this year is that there are going to be bargains available as other teams scramble as opposed to signing "leftovers" like Samuel Dalembert. Granted, Monta Ellis fell into this category last year wound up being an incredible bargain, but he was a special case as he was considered damaged goods leaving Milwaukee.

The other thing to look for is restricted free agents. The Rockets likely have a handshake deal with Chandler Parsons that allows them to keep max cap space while he remains unsigned. When they chose not to pick up his option, he stays on their salary cap at the number that would have been so that the team retains his Bird Rights, allowing them to sign him going over the salary cap. Since Parsons was a former second round pick still on his rookie deal, that number is incredibly small. All Parsons has to do is not sign an offer sheet elsewhere, because that large number would replace his cap hold then until the Rockets make a decision on him. So how does that effect the Mavs?

If you're Dallas, wouldn't you offer Parsons a little more than he's probably worth and see if Parsons messes with the Rockets? His agent might push him to. Arn Tellum did this with Brook Lopez a few years ago as the Nets were trying to land Dwight as discussed in this podcast with ESPN's Brian Windhorst and Grantland's Zach Lowe. If Parsons accepts the Mavericks offer sheet, the Rockets then have to basically pick between losing Parsons or giving up their pursuit of Melo. If they give up on Parsons, the Mavs add a really good young player. If the Rockets give up their pursuit of Melo, that's one less team the Mavs have to compete with for him. Since the Mavs are highly unlikely to land Anthony, giving up their own pursuit of him isn't really giving up anything.

The point of all of this is the Mavericks have a ton of options. Clearly number one is to land Carmelo or LeBron, but if they don't, they could make some moves that make this off-season anything but a failure and they could do it by taking advantage of other teams who don't plan quite as well.