The trade deadline is rapidly approaching and as usual, we’re all wondering if the Dallas Mavericks will make any moves. I broke down where things stand with Goran Dragic and what they could do with their trade exception in part one, which you can read here. I’ll break down some other trade possibilities here.
Jalen Brunson and Dorian Finney-Smith’s contract status creates a complicated situation
Both players are on good contracts and can contribute to almost any team, so this is no surprise. But Marc Stein has reported consistently that Dallas has no plans to trade either of them unless they are completely overwhelmed with an offer.
There’s an inherent risk to this stance. Finney-Smith and Brunson are both unrestricted free agents this summer. If Dallas doesn’t trade them, there’s a chance they both leave for nothing. That alone would be a problem, but when you consider that the Mavericks won’t have any cap space to replace them, it would be an absolute disaster.
I’ve broken down why the Mavericks should trade Finney-Smith here, and our own Matthew Phillips talked about why they shouldn’t here. As I mentioned in my piece, this isn’t to say the Mavericks should trade Finney-Smith just to trade him.
But if they can move Finney-Smith for a couple of valuable assets, it’s not the risk it seems on the surface. Reggie Bullock has been playing well lately, scoring 20 points in three of his last four games. Josh Green has proven he’s playable. If Finney-Smith is moved, Bullock can take his place in the starting lineup and Green adds some depth on the bench.
If they don’t love the offers they’re getting for Finney-Smith, they can re-sign him and always move him in the next couple of seasons. The number that’s always mentioned is the Midlevel Exception, which is around $12 million per year. But I doubt Finney-Smith signs for something that low. He’s the same age as Tim Hardaway Jr., shoots 3-pointers at a similar clip (though on way lower volume), but is a much better defender and rebounder. Why would he settle for much less than Hardaway’s $18 million per year?
Maybe Finney-Smith settles for a three-year deal worth $15 million per year. That’s a good contract, and if he works for the Mavericks’ plans that’s great. If not, he can be easily traded in the next two seasons, and after that would be an expiring contract. It’s a low risk re-signing.
The Brunson situation is very similar. He’s an unrestricted free agent and is rumored to be looking for a deal along the lines of four years, $80 million. $20 million per year for Brunson seems a little steep, but keep in mind, with the salary cap rising to $121 million next year, a max contract will be between $35 and $41 million. $18-$20 million per year is the going price for a quality starter. And that’s what Brunson has become.
Re-signing both Brunson and Finney-Smith, though, pushes the Mavericks into the luxury tax. Is Mark Cuban willing to pay the luxury tax for a team that, unless something weird happens in the spring, hasn’t even made the NBA Finals?
Further complicating matters is the fact that currently, Brunson and Finney-Smith make less than $6 million combined. That makes trades almost impossible. The Mavericks must match salaries with any team they trade with, and it’s nearly impossible to find players that can match Brunson and Finney-Smith’s on-court production that have such low salaries.
That means it’s unlikely either Brunson or Finney-Smith get moved unless some team offers up a ridiculous deal. Surveying the league, there’s not a team desperate enough to add just one player that they’d overwhelm the Mavericks with a deal.
Other possible deals will be difficult
The Mavericks don’t have any players on expiring deals besides Brunson and Finney-Smith, so it’s unlikely they make any trades with teams trying to dump salary. Maybe a rebuilding team wants to take a chance on Frank Ntilikina, who’s on a minimum deal with a club option for next season. But I searched high and low without finding a deal that makes sense for the Mavericks.
The Indiana Pacers, who just moved Caris Levert to the Cleveland Cavaliers and are looking to deconstruct their roster even more, might be open to a deal. Maybe exchanging Rick Carlisle favorite Dwight Powell for Jeremy Lamb, who’s on an expiring deal and could take the injured Tim Hardaway Jr.’s minutes this season.
Or maybe the Mavericks want to look more long term and take a chance on the injury-ridden T.J. Warren, who’s currently rehabbing a broken foot. He’s also on an expiring deal, so the Mavericks can either re-sign Warren on a discount contract or cut him loose for salary relief. That salary relief, however, really won’t matter, as they’ll still be over the cap this summer unless they make other moves.
Add in the fact that Maxi Kleber is currently dealing with a left knee effusion, which means fluid on the knee. That’s a result of either an injury, which as far as we know hasn’t occurred, or overuse, which is much more likely. Maybe the knee effusion clears up with some rest, but it’s possible it’s something Kleber will be managing the rest of the season. That might make the Mavericks hesitant to part with Powell.
Is there a team out there willing to take on three years of Hardaway for $18 million per year? There’s been rumors of a C.J. McCollum deal floated. That would take Hardaway and either Powell or Kleber. I’m not sure the Portland Trail Blazers do that deal. It lowers their annual salary, but Hardaway’s contract runs one year longer than McCollum’s.
Does McCollum raise the Mavericks’ ceiling significantly? That’s a debate we don’t have room for here, but keep in mind, adding him also makes filling in the roster more difficult. That would mean more than $90 million in salary committed to McCollum, Porzingis, and Doncic for the next two seasons.
This is a very long way of saying there are no obvious trades available. For there to be a significant move, either the Mavericks or some other team is going to have to panic or settle. But this is why Nico Harrison and Michael Finley get paid, and we sit around and just speculate. It’s their job to figure out trades where it seems there are no trades available. Hopefully they surprise me.