Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle made his media rounds this week (after the signing of his new four-year deal and after he did "The Rick Carlisle Show'' on ESPN Carlisle's next call was a 1-on-1 visit with our Mike Fisher. In that interview, he made clear that he's involved with the Triangle of Trust in organizational decision-making.
"Well, we’ve got the very best in Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson,'' Rick told Fish. "The best. As a coach, and having some involvement in the evaluations and decision-making, yeah, you’ve got to know the rules.''
It was during that same media tour, speaking on his radio show, that Rick mentioned Lamar Odom as a trade asset. He specifically cited the Jerry Stackhouse contract and the Erick Dampier contract -- ah, The DUST Chip , a DB.com classic and the clever and once-obscure tool used to acquire Tyson Chandler for nothing -- and compared Odom's availability to those, calling it "very desirable."
As we have mentioned regularly, Lamar Odom has a similarly-styled contract to those of Stackhouse and Dampier. Its final year of $8.2M can be shrunk to a payout and 2012-13 salary cap hit of only $2.4M with a waiver, instantly reducing his team's 2012-13 cap by $5.8M. We have long assumed that the Mavs acquired that contract for their own cap-reduction use, and will either waive him themselves, or find (bribe) another team to take him and do it (thereby reducing the Mavs cap hit for him next season to zero). And that could still be the outcome, with our thought being that the Mavs will trade him to a team with enough cap space to absorb his contract (Toronto or Sacramento) accompanied by cash for the $2.4M buyout and some extra cash or a pick.
But maybe not. Something more interesting may be in the works.
On first listen, we simply dismissed the idea as interview-speak or as the words of a coach who knows the Mavs are going to trade Odom but doesn't understand all the nuances of trading him in that fashion. If the Mavs keep him, or trade him with nothing coming back, it clears cap room for free agency - - but if they take back salary in the trade, they've INCREASED their salary obligations for next season and made it even harder to clear enough space for someone like Deron Williams. Carlisle acknowledged to Fish and elsewhere that the Mavs' biggest priority is to add a player who can potentially "make Dirk the Mavs' second-best player."
But on further reflection, and reading Rick's comments to DB.com, isn't it completely possible - and maybe even likely - that the ultra-intelligent Carlisle knows what's going on, understands the nuances, and has just pulled back the curtain a bit on the Mavs' internal discussions?
THE BACKGROUND - AND THE OBSTACLES
We've huddled with Jeff "Skin'' Wade and compared some notes. He'll discuss some findings on "Ben & Skin'' on 103.3 ESPN Radio. We'll discuss our finding here. And then we can keep the conversation brewing on DB.com Boards. Our top conclusions? While we feel like using Odom's contract in such a manner presents all sorts of challenges to the Mavs' free-agency plans, there could be something here.
And if so, we asked ourselves, what is it?
Finding the right trade won't be easy. There are multiple road blocks to something that works for both teams. Here's a list of some of the issues the Mavs would have to deal with in order to make such a deal happen:
1 Odom's waiver deadline of June 29. In order for a team to reduce Odom's cap hit next season from $8.2M to $2.4M, he must be waived on or before June 29, 2012. As a result, a trade in July, after the teams know what they might be able to do in free agency, is probably not going to work.
2 The Mavs' pursuit of a big fish to pair with Dirk. A deal that gets in the way of the quest for "a player better than Dirk" is counterproductive.
3 The Mavs' 2012 cap. Dallas began the off-season with "almost-enough" 2012 cap space for Deron Williams or other summer free agents. Any deal has to be analyzed for its impact there.
4 The potential of the Mavs' players on their existing roster. There's no point in using Odom's contract to add players that would force off the roster others who are of a similar value and potential.
5 The Mavs' alternatives in free agency. The money "spent" by adding players and their salaries rather than having the equivalent cap room - can it be used more efficiently in 2012 free agency?
6 The motivation level of the other team. For the other team, the Mavs will need a trade partner that has a strong motivation to reduce next year's player salary, and will be willing to 'pay' (in talent) to accomplish that.
7 The needs of the other team. What (other than a salary reduction) does the other team need or want? Can the Mavs put together a package that fits?
8 The player on a small-size deal won't make sense. Why would the other team dump cheaply paid players for a salary dump?
9 Mavs would strongly prefer a player on a one-year deal. Don't forget the "keep the powder dry" safety net the Mavs have created.
10 Mavs have to get a bump in talent commensurate to the bump in salary.
Finding a deal that gets past those obstacles would seem to be impossible, and again, at first thought we figured Carlisle's statement was just talk. But as we looked closer and batted concepts back and forth, in the way the Mavs themselves often do, we wandered into some intriguing ideas.
Could the Mavs be thinking in this same vein?
THE POSSIBILITIES - PARAMETERS AND ALSO-RAN IDEAS
With all the issues noted above, the uses for Odom's contract as a trade chip for Dallas, rather than a simple salary dump, would seem to be quite limited. And as we looked closely, that appears to be the case.
But the places where it might fit? They're very intriguing.
In working through the concepts, we concluded that the trade match that makes the most sense will be one where the other team is looking to get away from a very large contract - and it needs to be a player that the Mavs would covet at that price. That means that salary-match rules will make it a bigger deal than "Odom for Player X."
We picked three ideas that made the most sense, but a couple of the ones we discarded bear mentioning.
One of those would be the idea of a trade for a player that the Mavs DON'T want, but that would then be flipped to a third team for players the Mavs like. The most noteworthy candidate in this vein would probably be Amare Stoudemire, a player the Knicks would love to move.
Unfortunately his contract size, injury issues, and level of play (good but not great) would create even bigger challenges than this Odom trade already has - too big to get past, we think.
The second we discarded was the idea of using Odom in a swap for Dwight Howard. The basis is the idea that by packaging Haywood, Marion, and Odom as veteran talent in a trade for Howard and Turkoglu, the Magic would have the choice of either dumping Odom and removing Turkoglu from their clogged cap, or keeping him and getting an entire frontcourt. While Orlando has said they want veterans, the Mavs could also include younger talent like Wright, Azubuike, Beaubois, and Jones, along with the player they pick in this draft, to sweeten the package.
We discarded this one because in general we suspect the Magic would be able to get better offers for Howard, but if they want some cap relief as they move him, the Mavs could be at the table with this. Indeed, Mavs' dreaming about Dwight is likely never going away. (For background there, check out The 3D Blueprint.)
Now to our winners.
OUR THREE INTRIGUING IDEAS FOR AN ODOM TRADE
Skin and I came up with three trade targets that make the most sense to us in an Odom trade. The one we like the most from almost every angle, we'll list last.
1 Pau Gasol
It's been no secret that the Lakers have been looking for a taker for Pau Gasol, who is very talented but whose contract is more than they want under the new CBA. He is owed a bit more than $38 million over the next two seasons, with the 2012-13 salary at $19M.
Would the Mavs want him at that price? We think yes, but it's a lot of money to pay and we're not certain about the fit. Our vision is a Mavs three-man rotation at center-power forward of Dirk-Gasol-Haywood, with Gasol swinging between the two positions in the same way he has in LA.
Our idea is a trade of Odom and Marion for Gasol. Maybe the Mavs add another contract they want to move, like Carter.
Our feeling is the Lakers could keep Odom, and play him at PF to replace Gasol. The Mavs would move Marion's contract, and if they were able to land D-Will in the summer, they've already taken one of the steps to get that space.
In order to do this deal, the Mavs would have to get Odom to agree to shift his deadline date from June 29 to mid-July, since he can't be traded to LA until July 1 or later. But given his stated desire to be back in LA, this would give him an avenue to return and be paid $8.2M with Bird rights intact when his contract runs out. In changing the deadline to July, it would allow the Mavs to see if D-Will is coming before doing the deal and, if so, to make sure that they'd have room for Gasol's $19M under the new cap.
Gasol has two years left on his deal, so if D-Will signs it would close the door on 2013. But it would make Dallas more attractive for D-Will, we think, and Gasol's talent is intriguing, even at that price.
2 Josh Smith
Atlanta is paying Smith more than they may think he's worth, at $13.2M, and there have been regular rumbles that they are looking for a shakeup and a shift in identity.
A swap of Marion and Odom for Smith and Pachulia allows them to ramp their salary downward, and we think the Mavs might be willing to include Wright, Beaubois, Jones, Azubuike, and/or their pick this season as extra sweetener.
For the Mavs, Smith provides a younger version of Marion who also has a bit more ability to help carry some of the offense alongside Dirk.
3 Paul Pierce
A trade of Pierce for Marion and Odom (plus something from Wright, Beaubois, Jones, Azubuike, and/or their pick this season as extra sweetener), makes too much sense to ignore.
Boston is downsizing their salary and moving to the next generation. Garnett and Allen will be free agents and are probably as good as gone, and they're building around Rondo and Bradley. This trade gives them the ability to either cut Pierce's salary in half while replacing him with Marion, or to get two starters for the price of one as they move forward, as well as to pick up some of pieces that they can build with.
Even if the Celtics aren't quite ready to move on, might they be intrigued by swapping Pierce at almost $17M for Marion at about half, while picking up extras on the side?
And in Dallas, at less than $17M next season, Pierce's salary is certain to fit next to Dirk and D-Will under the cap.
For the Mavs, Paul Pierce still has the ability to score, defend, and would fill the hole vacated by Marion leaving. (Yeah, the ability score. Note that Dirk's desires are on the record. (And Premium readers can read Nowitzki's insights and view a Video Visit here. Dirk's noted Dallas' need for "guys who can create shots.'') Pierce has only one year left on his contract, and would make the Mavs more attractive to D-Will we think. If D-Will doesn't come, doesn't the upgrade from Marion to Pierce increase the Mavs potential significantly? We think so.
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