Take a good, hard look at this. Save it to your phone or desktop. This right here is going to matter in the coming weeks as everyone tries to figure out what the best path forward for the Mavericks will be.
The salary cap for the 2021-2022 season is expected to land at or around $112 million. There are two paths for the Mavericks to take. One path involves resigning Tim Hardaway Jr. to a market contract. The second path involves letting him walk and using cap space to bring in free agents. There are also a few other ways forward. Let’s take a quick look at what those paths would look like.
Option 1: the Mavericks re-sign Tim Hardaway Jr.
Based on recent contracts, let’s assume a contract for Hardaway would come in around $20 million a year. It might be a million or two off but the difference would not be significant enough to drastically alter their plans. A contract this large would essentially wipe out the possibility of landing another major free agent. They could have around $12 or $13 million dollars if Josh Richardson decides to opt-out or is moved but in a market flush with space, it would be hard to land a player of significant value.
Option 2: the Mavericks and Tim Hardaway Jr. part ways
If Hardaway were to walk, the Mavericks would have $21 million in cap space. If Josh Richardson also opts out or gets traded into another team’s cap space, that figure could rise to just over $32 million. That would be just shy of the max for a player like Kawhi Leonard but they could easily get there by moving off of Trey Burke’s remaining $3.3 million dollar salary.
In this scenario, the Mavericks would have enough to sign someone to the max or spread that $35 million amongst several players. Because this scenario involves starting the offseason as a team under the cap, the Mavericks would not have access to the Mid-Level Exemption ($9.25 million) or Bi-Annual Exemption ($3.6 million). They would, however, have access to the Room Exception ($4.7 million).
Option 3: Dallas and Hardaway work out a “Sign and Trade”
If traded to a team with cap space, it would create a significant trade exception that could be used during the regular season. It would also preserve the team’s cap space this offseason.
If traded to a team over the cap, the Mavericks would take on matching salary and essentially pass on cap space.
Option 4: Dallas operates over the Salary Cap
If Richardson were to opt-in and the Mavericks resigned Hardaway, it would open up the full Mid-Level Exemption as the teams’ primary vehicle to add talent outside of a trade. The team would also have access to the Bi-Annual Exemption since it’s been two years since they used it to sign Boban Marjanovic to a contract and would enter the offseason over the salary cap.
Looking at things this way, it should make a bit more sense why I wondered if the Mavericks and Hardaway had a future back in May.
What the Mavericks do after choosing one of these options is anyone’s guess.