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NBA Trade Deadline 2018: someone please rescue Nerlens Noel from the Dallas Mavericks

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The trade deadline is February 8. Here are a few players to keep your eye on between now and then.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks enter trade deadline season in a potentially profitable, if unexciting, position. Without any realistic shot at the playoffs, Dallas is in the position of investor: a buyer of long-term assets and a seller of short-term value, willing to pay money now for future value.

Where the Mavs stand on the salary cap

The Mavericks are 29th in payroll, with just under $86 million of salary under contract this year and only $60 million for 2018-19. With the salary cap at $99 million, that gives Dallas significant room to take on salary in any given deal, especially if the contract is an expiring one from a team looking to save money.

As an investor, Dallas should take on the role of buyer for undervalued assets and seller of cap space (and pure money). With an owner like Mark Cuban, willing to spend money to win, taking on salary in order to gain value should be a no-brainer if the opportunity presents itself.

Untouchable assets

As far as the Mavericks’ assets are concerned, only Harrison Barnes, Dennis Smith Jr., and Dirk Nowitzki are untouchable.

Top tradeable players

  • Nerlens Noel should be available imminently, unless the front office knows something the rest of the world doesn’t.
  • Wesley Matthews is an interesting player with a potentially expiring contract (player option for 2018-19) who could truly help a contender as a solid, experienced wing.
  • Seth Curry might be an interesting asset if his health has any positive news.
  • Salah Mejri could give 10-15 solid center minutes to a team like Cleveland.

The rest of the Mavericks squad is likely available at the right price, but will probably be uninteresting to suitors.

Some possible trades to look for

Here are a couple of interesting players the team could take on, if the right incentives are attached:

  • Tyson Chandler ($13 million this season, $13.6 million next) is an old friend of Dallas, and it remains to be seen what he provides for Phoenix. If the Suns are looking to save money and, with Eric Bledsoe gone and Greg Monroe in the rotation, no longer require Chandler’s presence in the locker room, something could be gained for taking on his salary.
  • Nikola Mirotic ($12.5 million this season, team option for the same next season) is an interesting name for the Mavericks to consider. The Bulls are rumored to want to move him, and his salary fits in under the cap for Dallas, but thanks to his Bird rights situation, he can veto trades unless his team option for next year is picked up by the Bulls. But a shooter with some playmaking flashes could be worth Dallas asking Chicago to pick up the option so the Mavericks take Mirotic off their hands.

Other players like Nikola Vucevic and Wilson Chandler have another year on their deals and fit into the Mavericks’ cap space as well. You never know what may come up around the deadline, especially in an NBA environment full of luxury tax teams and timelines meant to avoid the Warriors and wait out LeBron James.

In a perfect world...

The only hole Dallas should be worried about filling is that $13 million of cap space and a ledger that doesn’t have enough extra first-round draft picks. If the Mavericks were to make any trade in the realm of possibility, I would take moving Noel or Mejri for a combination of salary and a first-round pick of some kind. Cleveland won’t be trading the Brooklyn pick (I certainly wouldn’t if I were them), but retaining that pick means they can trade their own. Even a small chance of LeBron leaving and the Cavaliers falling to the bottom of the East could make it worth it for Dallas to offer any semblance of salary relief and useful help they could give Cleveland. If that’s not meant to be, the next best thing would be a “second draft” option like Alex Len, similar to the gamble they took on Noel last year.