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How the Mavericks will manipulate the salary cap to re-sign Dirk Nowitzki

Dallas will pay Dirk Nowitzki a well-earned $20 million next season, but they'll need to sneak under the salary cap to do it.

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

It's July 5, still days before summer league, and the Dallas Mavericks have nearly finalized their roster. It's a rare spot for the team to be in. DeAndre Jordan's famous indecision didn't happen until July 8, which left the team scrambling, and I have memories of interviewing Mark Cuban at Las Vegas Summer League in 2014 while the Chandler Parsons offer sheet was pending

This morning, the Mavericks announced that they had re-signed Dirk Nowitzki. The Dallas legend will rejoin the team on a two-year, $40 million deal worth $20 million per season. With Nowitzki back on board like we all expected after sneaking Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut away from the Warriors, the Mavericks now have 13 players under contract. Although a couple minimum salary signings are sure to come, we can calculate what the Mavericks cap will look like.

This is what the Mavericks' payroll will look like at the end of the summer, plus another $2 million or so when Dallas adds players at the minimum or using another exception. They aren't in danger of going over the luxury tax line, with nearly $7 million in cushion. However, there are some cap gymnastics that must take place to get here in the first place -- namely, with Dirk Nowitzki.

Let's shed some salary from that list before we add it back on. First comes Seth Curry, whose two-year, $6 million deal comes at the room mid-level exception. As an exception, Curry can be added above the salary cap. The Mavericks will wait until every other move has been completed before officially submitted his paperwork.

Then there's JaVale McGee, whose money is not guaranteed until July 11. Dallas can waive him at no financial penalty, which ironically enough is guaranteed to happen. (That's why you don't see him above.)

Dallas will also need to renounce any of their free agents, Nowitzki excluded.

There's nothing the Mavericks can do about the dead money, which comes from Dallas stretch-waiving players who had guaranteed contracts. But the one trick up their sleeves is Dirk Nowitzki and his cap hold, at $12.5 million. If Dallas can sneak below the NBA's salary cap without renouncing his hold, then they retain his Bird rights and can sign him to as much money as they want. (Dirk graciously is only asking for $20 million, not the full $31 million maximum contract for players of his age.)

As you can see, there's about a $800,000 difference between the Mavericks' cap and the salary cap. This is why I originally assumed Nowitzki might re-sign for $10-12 million, thinking it was Dallas' agreed upon plan. Instead, he's rightfully going to make his money, and it's up to the Mavericks to figure out how to sneak under the cap.

1. Waive Jeremy Evans

This is the easiest way, as originally suggested by Mike Fisher of If you send Evans on waivers, I'd damn near promise that someone will snatch him off them. He's an athletic forward with some promise making just $1.3 million (the league minimum for a player of his experience). That's hardly a price to pay at all to give him a look and see if there's anything he can provide your team.

If someone picks him up off waivers, they'll assume his contract and the Mavericks will slip underneath the cap.

2. Convince someone to take less

Two seasons ago, everyone called Parsons' three-year, $46 million deal with the Mavericks a max deal. In reality, it was slightly less. If Dallas can convince Harrison Barnes to take a similar pay cut -- we're talking no more than $2 million over the course of the contract -- then perhaps they can slip under by doing that.

Dwight Powell and Deron Williams also are signing deals with the Mavericks through cap space. That said, I'm not convinced this plan will work. I don't really know how fluid negotiations like this are, and whether even suggesting it after agreeing to a larger figure would be offend a recently signed player.

3. Trade Devin Harris

Harris will make $8.6 million over the next two seasons, and I'd imagine the Mavericks could find a willing trade partner. With that said, I'm not sure they want to unless they have another rotation guard lined up. As far as I can tell, there's no way to bring back Raymond Felton at the money he would command, so we can rule that idea out.

4. Some other way

I am not a cap expert. I think I have a good understanding of it, and it still took me several trips to to complete this article. The actual Collective Bargaining Agreement is a massive document with hundreds of footnotes, exceptions and loopholes that an actual salary cap expert employed by the Mavericks could use.

If the Mavericks do waive Evans, you'll understand that they couldn't find any other viable options. The delay in doing so -- and they have until July 7, when the moratorium is lifted -- is probably a delay while they figure out if they do have any other options. Whatever the case is, there's no doubt that Dallas will be able to sign all the players which they've agreed to sign.

Thanks to Basketball Insiders and Sportrac for salary cap figures.