The future looks bright for the Dallas Mavericks. They have the Slovenian Sensation Luka Dončić who is swishing and dishing all over the NBA despite being a 19 year old rookie. They have also traded for Kristaps Porzingis, the 7’3″ 23 year old do-it-all NBA All-Star and Tim Hardaway Jr, a 26 year old super athletic shooter and scorer. Over the past few years the Mavericks have been able to find and develop quality young role players and defenders in Dorian Finney-Smith and Maxi Kleber. On top of it all, the Mavericks will have a good chunk of free cap space this summer to try to add to the stable of talent.
Despite the positives there is still a lot of uncertainty of how much cap space the Mavericks have and which restricted free agents they will be able to keep. When it comes to the NBA Salary cap there are a lot of rules and exceptions that can be taken advantage of by the Dallas Mavericks front office to try to build an NBA Championship contender.
Looking past the remainder of this 2018-2019 season, these are the Mavericks future contract obligations.
Player Option, Team Option, Qualifying Offer, Non-Guaranteed.
|Tim Hardaway Jr.||26||$20.0 M||$19.0 M|
|Guaranteed Total:||$45.9 M||$1.7 M|
|Inclusive Total:||$68.8 M||$35.7 M||$19.0 M||$13.3 M|
Next year’s projected salary cap for the NBA is $109 M. The most free cap space that the Mavericks could possibly have would be $63.1 M. This is not a very practical number because it would assume Dwight Powell opts out of his player option, the Mavs waive all rights to restricted free agents (including Porzingis), and terminate all non-guaranteed contracts. It is hard to say exactly what will happen with Dwight Powell’s $10 M player option but it seems certain that the Mavericks will want to maintain their free agency right over Kristaps Porzingis, Dorian-Finney Smith, and Maxi Kleber.
To get a more realistic idea of what kind of free cap space the Mavericks will have to work with you have to take into account Cap Holds.
A Cap Hold is the amount that a player counts against the teams salary cap until they either sign a new contract (with the Mavs or any other team) or the Mavericks waive their rights to the player. Here are the Mavericks upcoming Cap Holds:
|Kristaps Porzingis||24||Restricted Bird||$17.1 M|
|Dirk Nowitzki||41||Bird||$9.5 M|
|Jose Barea||35||Bird||$7.1 M|
|Dorian Finney-Smith||26||Restricted Bird||$1.9 M|
|Maxi Kleber||27||Restricted Early Bird||$1.8 M|
|Trey Burke||26||Early Bird||$1.6 M|
|Devin Harris||36||Non-Bird||$1.6 M|
|Salah Mejri||33||Non-Bird||$1.6 M|
One thing to keep in mind, and something that will be referenced throughout this article is Bird Rights. This is a provision that allows a team to to go above the salary cap to retain their own players in free agency. This means that the Mavericks could first sign other free agents using our open cap space, then sign a player with Bird Rights to go above and beyond the salary cap.
In order to have open cap space to work with the Mavericks are going to have to waive the Bird Rights on several players. The ones who make the most sense immediately would be JJ Barea and Dirk Nowitzki. The future of both of these players seems fairly uncertain with Dirk’s potential retirement and Barea’s achilles injury. Plus these are Mavs lifers, I don’t think the Mavs front office are worried about these guys being signed by other teams. By waiving their Bird Rights the Mavs free up $16.6M of open cap space and they could always re-sign them later at a cheaper price. Then, if needed, the Mavericks could easily waive Bird Rights to Try Burke, Devin Harris, and Salah Mejri to get another $3.8M of cap space.
The Bird Rights that we want to maintain are those of Kristaps Porzingis, Maxi Kleber, and Dorian Finney-Smith. All three of these players have cap holds that are well below what they will earn in free agency. By maintaining their Bird Rights and waiting until the end of free agency to sign them will allow the Mavericks to preserve open cap space and then go above the cap to retain them. These are the Cap Holds that will effect the amount of open cap space that the Mavericks will have to work with to bid on some top level talent to pair with Luka Dončić.
What to do with the Restricted Free Agents?
A restricted free agent (RFA) can sign an offer sheet with any team, but the player’s original team can retain him by matching the terms of that offer. The original team is said to have the “right of first refusal.”
In order for the Mavericks to make a player a restricted free agent they must extend a qualifying offer to him by June 29, 2019. This would essentially be a one-year contract offer that is a place holder while restricted free agency plays out. The player is then able to sign an offer sheet from any team in the NBA, which the Mavs could then match if they so choose.
Now that Porzingis is a member of the Dallas Mavericks they will be able to offer him the 5yr/$158M super-max deal rather than the 4 yr/$117M that any other team can offer. As a restricted free agent the Mavs could either just match any teams offer to Porzingis or just choose to offer him the 5 year super-max themselves.
Since Porzingis missed at least 42 games this season his qualifying offer for 2019 free agency has dropped from $7.5M to $4.5M. This amount does not really matter much unless Porzingis actually signs his qualifying offer and decides to play on a one year deal for $4.5 million. It seems absolutely crazy to pass up on over $22 million in 2019 and risk 4 additional years at max money if the Mavericks were to go ahead and offer him a max deal, which it sounds like they will do. Given his injury history I do not think his brothers, also his managers, would advise leaving that amount of money on the table. Call me an optimist but I feel like it is inevitable that Porzingis signs a super max this summer with the Dallas Mavericks. Marc Cuban has made it known during the introductory press conference and in the media afterwards that he plans to do everything he can to keep Porzingis indefinitely.
A more important figure is Porzingis’ $17.1 million cap hold. This is the amount that KP will count against the Mavericks cap until he signs. His cap hold is over $10 million less than his first year cap hit if he signs a max deal. Although they could agree to terms early in free agency, it makes sense to wait to sign the deal so the Mavs can be more flexible with open free agency dollars and go above the cap to sign Porzingis if needed.
If you want to get a look inside Kristaps Porzingis’ rehab check out the three part youtube series Porzingis Comeback – Episode 1. Behind the scenes footage of Porzingis meeting with doctors and physical therapist of all kinds as he prepares for surgery and begins his recovery. It is impressive to see KP’s work ethic and dedication to his craft, just another reason why I want this Unicorn in the Mavericks stables for years to come.
|Per 36 Min||36||47%||35%||67%||6.7||1.1||1.4||0.7||1.4||11.3|
Age 25, Dorian Finney-Smith (A.k.a Doe-Doe) was an undrafted free agent out of Florida who signed a 3 year deal with the Mavericks in 2016.
Age 27, Maxi Kleber was an undrafted free agent out of Würzburg, Germany who signed a 2 year deal with the Mavericks in 2017.
|Per 36 Min||36||45%||34%||78%||7.5||1.4||1||2.3||1.2||11.8|
Neither of these guys numbers over the past two years are going to wow you but they have proven to be quality role role players in this league. Both are excellent defenders, continue to improve their long range shooting, and are coming into their prime. Hopefully the muted statistical impact will distract NBA General Managers who are not watching closely enough. Too bad it only takes one big offer sheet from a team that values their game to jack the price up to a point where the Mavericks would have to consider other options. For this reason it is nearly impossible to know what a potential contract could be for either of these guys.
The Mavs have full bird right on Dorian Finney-Smith, meaning they can sign him to any extent above and beyond the cap. The Mavs only have early bird rights on Maxi Kleber and can only go above the cap to sign him if he signs for no more than 175% of his previous salary. Since I think it is safe to say that Maxi will get an offer of more than $3.2 million, he will most likely not be eligible to be signed by going over the cap.
This means in terms of timing, if the Mavericks want to keep both guys (which I do) it would make more sense to take care of Maxi Kleber first and wait on Dorian Finney-Smith to use above the cap dollars. This would allow us to maximize the available cap space while retaining our restricted free agents.
It also makes the size of Maxi Kleber’s potential offer sheet from another team more important to the Mavericks than that of Doe-Doe’s, again because that would be using cap space rather than above the cap dollars. 3 years ago the Mavericks signed Dwight Powell to a 4yr/$37M contract. If we could lock Maxi down for anything close to this I would jump all over it. Maxi can be a great versatile role player for the Mavericks, but only at the right price.
To estimate the amount of cap space the Mavericks will have to work with this summer we will assume just the Cap Holds of Porzingis, Finney-Smith, and Kleber. We will also include the $10M Player Option for Dwight Powell because whether or not he gets a better offer and leaves will most likely linger long into free agency and he will be on our books for that amount until he signs, in Dallas or elsewhere. With all of this considered, the Mavericks will have $32M in open cap space.
For top level talent, it will most likely take a max contract to secure their services. The size of a max contract depends on the number of years of service in the NBA, signing a guy to a max deal with more than 10 years in service pays more than $10M/year more than signing someone with 6 or less years of service.
|Year||≤6 Years||7-9 Years||10+ Years|
Most of the big names are in the 7-9 year range including Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, Nikola Vucevic, DeMarcus Cousins, Jimmy Butler. Kevin Durant is a player with more than 10 years in service who would require $38M to sign. In order the Mavs to get that kind of cap space they would have to get out from under the $10M Player Option for Dwight Powell or do some sort of sign and trade using their Exceptions.
|Trade Exception (Wesley Matthews)||$1.2 M||1/31/2020|
|Trade Exception (Harrison Barnes)||$21.3 M||2/7/2020|
|Disabled Player Exception (J.J. Barea)||$1.9 M||3/11/2019|
If a team trades away a player with a higher salary than the player they acquire in return, they receive a Trade Exception for the difference. The Mavs were granted two separate trade exceptions this year for a total amount of $22.5M. This means over the next year the Mavericks can make trades to take on that amount in trades over and above what they send away, allowing them to go over the cap. Note this exception is for single player trades only, though additional cash and draft picks can be part of the trade.
They also have the Disabled Player Exception for JJ Barea which allows a team that is over the cap to acquire a replacement for a disabled player who will be out for either the remainder of that season.
Note that while teams can often use one exception to sign multiple players, they cannot use a combination of exceptions to sign a single player.
The Dallas Mavericks have a lot of moving parts this summer in free agency but if all goes well they have an opportunity to build the most talented team the Dallas Mavericks have ever had. There are many elite free agent options and the Mavs have the attractive young talent, cap space, and exceptions to attract that talent to Dallas. Owner Marc Cuban and General Manager Donnie Nelson will have to make decisions that will effect the franchise for many years to come. I just hope they make the right ones.
Additional info on potential 2019 free-agents: