The Damp Bombshell

Earlier this week, Dallasbasketball.com's David Lord took a look at Erick Dampier's non-guaranteed contract for 2010 and realized that it was a huge asset for acquiring one of the players amongst the amazing free agent class of next year. I can't believe that the story hasn't received significant national attention as it has spectacular implications.

There are a lot of questions about this situation, so I'll provide you with two scenarios below to illustrate how it could work. But first to answer two questions I've seen:

  • Can't another team do this? No, no other team has a non-guaranteed contract remotely close to the size of Dampier's.
  • Couldn't the Mavs trade Dampier this year for something so another team could use this chip  next year? The Mavs could, but the one element of this that no one discusses is the absolutely massive impact this will have on the team's payroll. Teams willing to use this chip have to theoretically be willing to take on upwards of $30 million a year in extra payroll if you include the luxury tax. Very very few teams would be willing to swallow that much of a commitment for one player.

Let's use Dwyane Wade as an example as to how this could go:

  • The Knicks with a better roster than Miami and lots of cap space go to Wade and offer him the max they can.
  • Wade goes to Riley and says, "Look, I have a better chance of winning in New York. I'm not taking the extra year from you, I'm going to New York."
  • Riley, having already talked to Donnie Nelson, replies, "How about this: We'll sign you for more than you can make in New York AND you can go play in Dallas with Jason Kidd and their 50 win team."
  • Wade goes, "Shucks, I'm adding Cuban to my fave five right now!"
  • Riley goes to Cuban and says, "I want max cash and some draft picks, and you can have Wade."
  • Cuban looks at his payroll, slaps his forehead and swallows hard, and then sends Dampier and a second filler contract and the other stuff to Miami.

Some comments on this scenario:

  • New York is powerless here. They can't offer more money than Dallas, and their team simply isn't as good as the Mavericks.
  • Miami can nix this whole scenario, but why would they? They would be facing what Dallas did when Steve Nash left--nothing in return for losing a star player.

The results:

  • Wade joins Dallas.
  • Dallas' payroll goes into the stratosphere.
  • Dampier and a scrub joins Miami and both are cut.
  • Miami gets cash and draft picks and the same cap room they would have had if Wade left for nothing.
  • New York gets nothing.

Now, how realistic is this scenario? What exactly needs to happen for it to become a reality? Isn't this just a pipe dream? Answers after the jump.

What makes this a realistic scenario for the Mavs is the unique nature of two things: The Mavs can offer max money, and they can offer a roster that would contend for a title. However, there are nuances here that make things tricky. Let's look at them now.

For the Dampier chip to work, it must start with a player willing to take less money elsewhere to play for a contender (which is always a dicey proposition). That, to me, is the biggest drawback of this scenario. Of course, that's also what makes it good for Dallas, so there you go.

Here's what I mean, using Wade again:

  1. Let's assume Wade wants the $$$ first and foremost. His second criteria is playing for a contender. In the NBA, this is always a pretty safe assumption unless you're talking about 30+ guys at the end of their careers. Let's also make the assumption that Wade's agent knows about the Dampier contract S&T possibilities. Actually, don't assume this: They WILL know about it.
  2. New York or one of the other teams with massive cap room comes to Wade and offers him the max. Miami says, "We'll give you that PLUS the extra year, which is MORE money!" Wade doesn't want to play for a crap team like New York but he DOES want the $$$$. He also doesn't want to play for a crap team like Miami, but Miami is at least offering more $$$$. Hrm, his agent is thinking he can call in the Dampier chip. That gives Wade EVERYTHING he wants. Let's pause and be clear here: There is only ONE scenario that gives Wade everything he wants: Dallas.
  3. However, for the Dampier contract to work, Wade has to illustrate to Miami that he is clearly willing to leave Miami for New York's lower $$$ offer. Because if Miami thinks Wade is bluffing and really just wants the money then they'll just make the max offer in a "take it or leave it" fashion. The Dampier chip actually hurts their negotiating position at keeping Wade, because now they aren't the only team that can pay Wade max $$$. However, THEY are the ones in control of making that happen.
  4. And here's where the trouble lies: If Miami thinks that Wade is all about the Benjamins, then they hold all the cards. They do NOT have to play ball with Dallas if they think Wade won't leave to take less money. So the player must make it clear that he'd leave for less money.

The Mavs are in excellent position if the teams looking to re-sign their big name free agents in 2010 honestly feel that they are going to lose them to another team. Actually, in that scenario, the Mavs aren't just in an excellent position, they are in a better position than EVERY team with massive cap space. Excluding their existing teams, Dallas is the only club that can offer free agents max money and a contender as a destination.

In the future, a good way to examine how this plays out is to look at what the players are saying. If a player starts saying that he wants to play for a contender and that he is withholding his 2010 decision until he sees what his current team does in terms of building a contender, then you have a good indication that the Dampier chip can be put in play. 

Stay tuned.

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