Back in December, we proposed four trade scenarios for the Dallas Mavericks. Since then, some things have changed, while others have stayed the same. With only a few days left until the NBA Trade Deadline, let’s take another stab at this and try to foresee some potential opportunities that could come the Mavs way.
We’ll begin with trade partners we mentioned the first time around that we can still envision doing business with the Mavs before it’s all said and done.
Mavericks get Julius Randle, but have to take on extra baggage
Mavericks receive: Julius Randle, Luol Deng, second-round pick
Lakers receive: Dwight Powell, Nerlens Noel, Josh McRoberts
When rumors started surfacing earlier this season that the Lakers were looking to trade both Randle and Jordan Clarkson, my first thought was “Oh great! We’ll take them both and give you guys the cap space you need to go star hunting this summer.” Since then, two significant developments have changed my thinking on that potential trade:
1) The Lakers have reportedly received offers for Randle and Clarkson from teams that have included first-round picks. To me, that’s where the Mavericks hang up the phone. If the season ended today, Dallas would likely have the third pick in the draft. It’s simply too valuable to part with for players that aren't superstars.
2) The Lakers have reportedly shifted their focus away from free agency this summer, and more towards free agency in 2019, making them less desperate to unload a bunch of salary immediately.
Even considering those two factors, I still think Randle is expendable for the Lakers. He’s had a really good season for them so far, and I highly doubt L.A. plans on matching any high-dollar offers Randle receives this summer. However, if the Mavs aren’t willing to part with a first rounder to make the deal work, they’d need to do something else to sweeten the deal for the Lakers, and that would probably mean taking on Luol Deng’s albatross contract. Randle is a really good, young player with a lot of upside, and I’d really consider that deal if I were Donnie Nelson. By making this trade though, the Mavericks would basically be throwing away their cap flexibility for this summer.
Mavericks sense the Cavaliers’ desperation, make a move for the Brooklyn pick
Mavericks receive: Tristan Thompson, J.R. Smith, Nets’ 2018 first-round pick
Cavaliers receive: Wesley Matthews, J.J. Barea, Salah Mejri
Back in December, when I proposed a similar trade scenario with the Mavs and Cavs, Cleveland was actually humming along just fine, making the chances of obtaining that pick pretty slim. But as it currently stands, the Cavaliers are struggling mightily. They have a 30-21 record, having only won four of their last 10 games. Cleveland is still holding on to the three-seed in the Eastern conference, but they're also closer to missing the playoffs (4.5 games back of ninth place) than they are to catching up to the Toronto Raptors, who are currently sitting at the two-seed (5.5 games ahead of Cleveland).
Not only do they need some help on the court, but they also need to shed some salary in order to get below the luxury tax threshold. Right now, the Cavs are nearly $15 million into the luxury tax, which would be fine if they were actually performing like a championship-caliber team. This particular trade would do three things for the Cavs:
1) It would shed the bad contracts of Thompson and Smith (both have two years remaining after this season, while Barea and Matthews only have one), saving them close to $7 million.
2) It would significantly bolster their bench and possibly enhance the team’s chemistry by adding “winning culture” guys like Barea and Matthews.
3) It would possibly reassure LeBron James that the organization is still in “win now” mode, even if this move doesn't involve a superstar player. With LeBron set to be an unrestricted free agent this summer, the clock is ticking for Dan Gilbert and the Cavaliers to turn this thing around before it’s too late.
Now, let’s bring two new teams into the equation.
Mavericks get a first-round pick from Charlotte for Matthews
Mavericks receive: Nicolas Batum, 2018 first-round pick (top-five protected) -OR- Dwayne Bacon
Hornets receive: Wesley Matthews
Currently, the Hornets are on the hook for Batum’s large contract for three seasons after this one, while Matthews will, at most, only have one year left after this year (he has a player option). This would be a way for the Hornets to shave about $4 million off their books for next season and potentially open up $18 million more in space soon after that. This is assuming that they don’t want to keep paying Batum all that big money.
For the Mavs to take on their assumed burden, though, the Hornets would need to throw in either a slightly protected first-round pick or a promising young player to get the deal done. As much as I love the idea snagging Malik Monk, who has not performed up to expectations in his rookie year, I think a player of Dwayne Bacon’s status is more reasonable. Also, a trade like this wouldn’t hurt the Mavs’ free agency plans as much as the Lakers and Cavaliers scenarios we discussed above.
Mavericks take advantage of Magic’s hesitance to pay Aaron Gordon
Mavericks receive: Aaron Gordon, Bismack Biyombo
Magic receive: Dwight Powell, Salah Mejri, Josh McRoberts, 2019 first-round pick (top-10 protected)
We’re assuming that the Magic truly are shopping Gordon as the trade deadline draws closer, which would mean that they are getting cold feet about potentially paying him max money this summer when he hits restricted free agency. If that’s the case, Orlando might as well trade him now and see what they can get in return.
Personally, I think Gordon is on his way to being a star, and I’m not sure the Magic would really part with him this early. However, considering that Orlando’s promising rookie, Johnathan Isaac, plays the same position as Gordon, and that the team will go well over the projected salary cap if they do give Gordon a max deal, I could see this as a plausible trade scenario. Biyombo and Powell’s contracts are both bad, but Biyombo’s is twice as bad as Powell’s. With Powell, the Magic would get a watered down version of Gordon at about a third of the price. They’d shed Biyombo’s deal, which still has $34 million on it for two years after this season, while getting a cheap, but very capable replacement in Salah Mejri.
Overall, the Magic would accomplish three things with this trade:
1) They’d avoid paying Gordon the big bucks (again, assuming they don’t want to pay him).
2) They’d shave close to $10 million off their books going into next season.
3) They’d add two serviceable role players and a potential first-round pick.
Will it happen? Probably not. Have we seen crazier things, though? You bet. All of these trades are just mere speculation, but they’re trades that could definitely happen, depending on the desperation level of other teams around the league. The Mavericks may make a trade, or they might decide that the right opportunity just isn’t there this time. Either way, we will know something very soon. Stay tuned!