Ty Lawson would be a wonderful fit in Dallas and rumors pairing the two have buzzed about all month. If Lawson were a free agent this summer, bringing him to the Mavericks would be a simple proposition; that Lawson is signed through 2017 makes it all much more complicated.
Specifically, the rumors have most recently come from Basketball Insiders' Steve Kyler, while the contract Lawson signed in October 2012 pays him $25.6 million over the next two seasons. Lawson had a poor season in 2014-15 by his standards, including a DUI arrest, but still played 75 games averaging 15 points and 10 assists on 43 percent shooting.
Lawson scores in transition, loves the pick-and-roll and is one of the best passers in the NBA. He's a smart enough ball handler to thrive in the Mavericks' flow offense with Dirk Nowitzki, Chandler Parsons and whoever else you want to fill the roster with. Sadly, building an NBA team isn't a buffet line and the Mavericks' current options to bring him to Dallas are slim.
Are the Mavericks even interested in Lawson?
ESPN Dallas' Tim MacMahon reported Tuesday that the team might be concerned about his off the floor issues (the arrest) and that Lawson isn't high on their list.
There have been rumblings about Mavs trying to trade for Ty Lawson, but I'm told he's not frontburner target due to off-court issues.— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) May 26, 2015
Let's rephrase the question: should they be interested in Lawson? Absolutely. He's a fit and still young at 27. The team has brought in ne'er-do-wellers before -- DeShawn Stevenson comes to mind -- without major repercussions to the team's culture. If Mark Cuban's rule is one knucklehead per roster, Lawson could be that guy.
But hey, words on the internet definitely won't change Donnie Nelson's mind; I make no qualms about that. Keep that in mind as you read the rest of them.
Why a straight-up trade won't work
Lawson's value as a player is complicated by the current state of the NBA. Good players aren't easily obtained and Denver would be foolish to dump Lawson, a clear NBA starter, for nothing. Yet around the league, all you see in every city and on every team is an point guard the team is dedicated to leading the way.
In the Western Conference alone, Tony Parker, Mike Conley, Chris Paul, Damian Lillard, Russell Westbrook, Ricky Rubio, Stephen Curry, Eric Bledsoe, Darren Collison and Tyreke Evans. Can you see any of those situations changing this summer? The problem with Lawson is he's too good to come off the bench but not good enough to displace someone already established.
After sending a protected draft pick to Boston in the Rajon Rondo trade (a pick that will likely be dealt in 2016), the Mavericks are out of assets. When options are exercised and deadlines have passed, the Mavericks will likely be left with five players under contract before this summer's free agency period. Only one of those, Dwight Powell, exudes anything resembling a promising future.
Mutual interest is wonderful but Powell and a second round pick won't bring him to Dallas this summer.
Why a Monta Ellis sign-and-trade could work, maybe?
My initial impression that a sign-and-trade would be untenable, but I've reconsidered given Denver's cap situation. As long as Lawson is still on the books and with Kenneth Faried's extension kicking in, the Nuggets have about $3 million in cap space -- certainly not enough to sign Ellis outright if he opts out. (This is assuming Jameer Nelson opts into about $3 million.)
But the Nuggets would likely have to think very highly of Ellis to consent to such a deal and that's a rather significant assumption we're making with no real backing. You know how the Mavericks love signing players who played well against them in the past? Ellis, unfortunately, has the opposite problem in Denver, where they saw his attitude issues first hand in the overtime game where Raymond Felton shockingly hit a game-winning layup. (Oh hey Tim Connelly, I meant not shockingly, he does that all the time! Why yes, I do think Felton for Lawson straight up sounds like a fair deal.)
Given the Nuggets' lack of cap space, it does become more difficult for them to sign Ellis outright. (And again, does Ellis even raise an eyebrow in Denver?) But if he's out there in the open market, I wouldn't count out the Nuggets finding a way to dump a player to make room. They certainly have no obligation to sign-and-trade with Dallas.
Why a Monta Ellis trade could definitely work
Ellis picking up his $8.7 million player option would be probably the best thing to happen to Dallas this summer.
The absolute goal of an NBA team is to acquire talent at a cheaper price than it's worth. Every single successful team has players who are player better than their contracts indicate, whether it's a player still on his rookie deal performing like a near All-Star or a superstar being paid the max when in an open market he'd be making $10 million more.
At just under $9 million with the cap rising with just one year left, Ellis would be a steal. The Mavericks could keep him or they could package him to another team on a low risk, year-long trial. That team could be Denver, who could send back Ty Lawson. Or the Mavericks could just keep him at a bargain deal, keep a minutiae of continuity like they're always talking up and see how things go.
But even though Ellis' value has fallen during the final two months of the season, it's a stretch to assume he'll stick with his current deal. With the cap rising and his 30th birthday creeping up in October, Ellis should look for more money this summer unless the market for his services has completely collapsed.
Occam's razor says Ty Lawson won't be a Maverick. A lot of assumptions are made for us to reach a hypothetical deal right now, even if Denver is interested in Mr. Have It All, something we haven't established whatsoever.
But if the Mavericks can go get him, they should. They need help all over their roster and can't be picky where it comes from.