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Explaining the Mavericks' salary cap and all these partially guaranteed deals

Here's a look at some of Dallas' most recent moves.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas has been busy in the final phase of their offseason, culminating in a handful of contracts being given out to players you mostly have never heard of before it's tweeted out.

That's fine. That's how this part of free agency goes. It's a slow, crawling descent from the fireworks that take place earlier in the month, that, in Dallas' case, ended up being a bit more explosive than anticipated. But you move on and here they are. Let's explain exactly what they're doing with all their offseason moves from the past week or so.

What does the Mavs' cap situation look like right now?

Something like this.

updated again

The top 12 players are locks* headed into next season. Matthews' contract rose significantly and Barea, instead of a smaller exception, ended up getting $16 million over four years. We previously discussed that being somewhat ridiculous.

Barring a disaster once he gets to camp, Dalembert will make the team. It's also my understanding that the entirety of Jenkins' first year is guaranteed. That doesn't make him a lock, but it indicates (to me) that the Mavericks would prefer to keep him. While the Mavericks have cut fully guaranteed players at the minimum in the past, the situation tends to be one like Gal Mekel, who was signed the previous offseason before he was axed, not a same summer type deal.

*It's still possible Raymond Felton is moved, but that seems very unlikely to me. He's a great professional in the locker room and played some good minutes last season, so he's not a total waste of a roster spot. He'll likely be inactive most nights, but Deron Williams has had injury concerns that could push Felton into a contributing role. It's one thing to waive a well-respected veteran during free agency to acquire needed cap space; it's another to unceremoniously dump him a full month after free agency began only to hold onto a fringe prospect. And the fact that the Mavericks weren't able to trade him in the days after DeAndre Jordan's initial commitment indicates to me that they would have to give up an asset for someone to be willing to take him on, so that's likely off the table, too.

If the Mavericks are so enthralled with one or two of these end of the bench guys that they cannot stomach letting them go, then maybe there's a chance. But I doubt it.

Why are the Mavs giving these players guaranteed money?

The idea is this: Dallas culled their list, found the players they wanted most and, by offering them guaranteed money, something other teams weren't doing, were able to drastically increase their chances at those players.

We have a good case study of the Mavericks doing this with Eric Griffin, who also signed a three-year deal with $150,000 guaranteed. Dallas cut Griffin at the end of preseason and he has yet to play his first NBA game.

Should the Mavs be offering these players guaranteed money?

There's two ways of looking at it. Yes, while these are all fringe players, bringing in several of them increases the chances that Dallas can find a hidden gem. The guaranteed money counts against the cap throughout the season even after the players are cut, but it'll be gone by next offseason and because it's a small amount, it's unlikely to have any real effect on next season.

On the contrary, they shouldn't because the chances are none of these players make the roster, much less anything resembling an actual NBA player. While the Mavericks are unlikely to use that guaranteed money, tying it up for players who are essentially camp bodies is unnecessary. Cap space is still an asset, albeit not as powerful of one as the Mavericks originally thought, and throwing it away on players who are nearly meaningless is a poor use of resources.

I see both sides but tend to think it's a harmless, smart way to maximize your training camp talent with the hopes one of them is more than that. But trades materialize out of nowhere and missing out on a beneficial move because you have an extra million tied up to players you've already cut (counting Mekel) is the worst case scenario here.

What happens when those players are cut?

Here's the other key: the Texas Legends are given the rights to the final four players cut from the Mavericks' training camp. (Every single-team affiliate has this advantage.)

Jamil Wilson is the exception, but only because his rights are currently owned by the Bakersfield Jam, the Suns' D-League affiliate. If the Mavericks want to keep him, the Legends could trade for his D-League rights, something that has happened before from time to time.

A few, though not necessarily all, of these training camp guys the Mavericks are signing will end up in Frisco.

Let's say one of these players does work out, what then?

Then you've got a quality player signed at the veteran's minimum under team control for three seasons. That's a great deal for the team and the measly $450,000 or whatever else you threw at other camp bodies that didn't amount to anything looks like nothing in comparison.