I’ve been asked or told by many people recently about the reasoning behind letting go of a lot of key players from the Mavericks 2011 championship team. Popular NBA experts/analysts and even the players themselves can’t seem to grasp the idea behind it. So it’s time to break it down and hopefully we can all move on with a better understanding.
This Dallas Mavericks offseason can best be summed up in one word; Salvaged. It quickly went from high hopes, to bust, to decent. Or was it ever truly a “bust”? The truth is that the new CBA has presented some necessary changes in the ways teams operate their rosters and only a few teams are being proactive with their approach. Some teams choose to buy anybody and everybody in hopes of a quick fix and a quick title. The window of opportunity is very small with this approach. Because in a few years, these teams will suffer.
Here are some of the important penalties of being over the salary Cap:
- Teams risk not being able to perform sign and trades in order to dump salary.
- They can’t use their annual cap exceptions of $5 million to sign veteran players.
- The only way they can improve their roster is a regular dollar for dollar trade or signing guys at the minimum contract. And we’ve learned from experience in the past few years that players are looking for more years and more money. So the chances of landing key players at minimum deals are very low percentage.
- IMPORTANT. Owners of teams over the Cap pay the luxury tax to other teams that are under the salary cap. The amount of money to each team is pro rated based on how much under the cap the team is. (Yet another way for the Mavs to make money)
Example #1 (hypothetical): if the Knicks would’ve signed Jeremy Lin, they would’ve had to pay a Luxury tax of $43 million in year 3 of the contract. $43 million!! Kudos to the Knicks for recognizing this and skipping out on that contract. It’s the first good move they’ve made in a long time.
Example #2 (factual): In regards to paying the luxury tax for being over the cap, there’s also a “repeat offender” rate for teams that are over the cap consecutive seasons. The Brooklyn Nets, using the figures below, will be paying a luxury tax of $56 million in 2013-2014, $88 million in the 2014-2015 season, and $90 million+ in the 2015-2016 season. Keep in mind that the salary cap each NBA season is $58 million. It’s just laughable. Ready to laugh some more? The team that paid the highest luxury tax last year was the Los Angeles Lakers at a whopping $12 million. In my best typed Prokorov impression; “Moneez no probl’m for Prokorov. Me and Jay-Z sign good player and win Champ-ship”
The problem that the NBA runs into is that the players are either not informed, or choose to ignore the fact that they’re joining a team that will be inevitably cash strapped. Which brings up the question of if a player really cares about winning or only cares about the pay check? I think, unfortunately, that we’re learning that it’s the latter.
Back to the Mavs. In retrospect, after giving Mark Cuban a ton of criticism (myself included); I’ve come to realize that the business of the game is more important than ever. Especially over the next 2-3 years while the CBA is leveling out the playing field. Cuban is loading up the team with a genius mixture of short contracts and quality players. Kaman, Brand, Jones, and Darren Collison….. All one year deals. Actually, the only current player on the books in 2013 is our good buddy, Dirk Nowitzki. (FYI, any rookies that we may sign from here and now will be on the payroll as well.) Do you realize what this means? It means that the Mavericks are in the best spot financially to make a killing next summer as well as stay under the cap. I know, I know, we thought that about this year as well. But in all honesty, Donnie Nelson did make reference to the “Summer of 2013” in a few interviews over the last year and we chose to not believe it. But it was true.
But let me make something clear. This DOES NOT MEAN THAT THE MAVS BUILD A SUPER TEAM or some lame “Big 3” situation. The idea here, as with any Mark Cuban game plan, is to sustain. The Mavericks haven’t had a successful decade and a half due to poor management. Plus, we as Mavs fans have done a lot of complaining about how unfair these super teams are, and it’s the truth. These owners are stretching their dollars with little disregard for financial repercussions. Again, these teams have very small windows for success with their current rosters before the luxury tax and the salary cap penalties prove to be too costly.
So the question is; would you rather max out the salary and win a title then be irrelevant for 5-6 years, or would you rather build piece by piece and have a comprehensive plan that keeps you competitive every NBA season? The second option is what we have right now. And it’s the reason that we expect success every year and always feel that the Mavs have a shot.
From now on, if anyone that claims to be a NBA fan comes up to you and ridicules Mark Cuban and the Mavs for not signing Tyson Chandler, just make reference to the current state of the New York Knicks. By signing Tyson Chandler last year to the amount of money that they did, they are now forced to sign Raymond Felton at the point guard position. They handicapped themselves by not thinking proactively so they’ve missed out on quality point guard and seat filler in Jeremy Lin. The same would’ve happened to the Mavs. We would’ve been stuck with Tyson Chandler, Dirk Nowitzki and little money to do much else unless we spent money and put ourselves in trouble with Cap penalties. This also would’ve resulted in a high possibility of losing Dirk in the summer of 2014.
In all reality, learning on how to focus on the business aspect of sports is almost like busting the Santa Claus bubble. We want to believe that a fat man drops down our chimney and delivers awesome toys. We also want to believe that all players are loyal and will do whatever it takes to please the fans. But it’s just not true. Players are going to follow the money and if owners are irresponsible enough to pay players ridiculous amounts, then you can’t blame them. The CBA will ultimately help the league, that’s the idea. Players will have to settle for less money in the future due to owners being forced to follow the rules. This will create more parity for the league and less super teams. Sorry ESPN.
I’ve come to terms that there’s a method to this Mavs offseason madness and the genius of Mark Cuban is happening right before our eyes. The Dallas Mavericks are playing their hands just perfectly. Mavs are getting a running start to the new era of NBA basketball. Sit back and enjoy the show.