This is the second part in what should eventually become a three-part series. All of the Mavericks’ three main off-season paths revolve around what happens with Kyrie Irving. Either he stays with the Mavericks, he walks for nothing, or they sign and trade him. They would be an over-the-cap team if they re-sign Kyrie or sign and trade him. If he walks for nothing, then they become a salary-cap space team. For all of these scenarios, I will default to the Mavericks keeping and signing the player they draft with the 10th overall pick.
Contenders to sign him away
It has been reported by Marc Stein that the Houston Rockets “could” go after Kyrie want to dive into helping you understand what would happen if Kyrie goes to another team without any sign-and-trade. Explaining the path where Kyrie is signed-and-traded will be the focus of part three.
Here is a list of teams that @KeithSmithNBA projects to have cap space
I've been tweaking roster projections for @spotrac. Here are the teams I project to have cap space this summer:— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) June 8, 2023
1 HOU: $59.1M
2 UTA: $45.4M
3 SAS: $36.8M
4 OKC: $32.2M
5 DET: $29.7M
6 IND: $27.3M
7 ORL: $22.1M
At this link you can sort by preferred view:https://t.co/LqyATFOzsx
This is Keith’s projection with the $134 million salary cap. To get the equivalent under my $136,021,000 cap, you just need to add $2 million to each team’s projected room.
This is what Kyrie’s max will be using my personal projection for the salary cap.
As you can see from the above. If you adjust Keith’s projection to the $136 million cap, then only the Utah Jazz and Houston could sign Kyrie Irving away from the Mavericks outright. The other teams fall far short of being able to offer Kyrie’s max. Kyrie is his own man and could sign for a significantly reduced contract, but that is a very unpredictable scenario. Let’s go with the assumption that a team would need to get over $40 million to offer Kyrie a deal he would take. That puts San Antonio within striking distance. And with a bigger dump, the trio of Oklahoma City, Detroit, and Indiana could make a competitive offer.
Kyrie’s gone, let’s move on
So now let’s talk about the implications for the Mavericks. Wherever Kyrie went, his cap hold also vacated the Maverick’s cap sheet. Here is what the cap sheet minus Kyrie and, to maximize cap space, renounced all their other free agents.
The Mavericks would have $18,828,382 in cap space. I would like to explain why you see “roster charges” in the salary category. You might do your own math and come out with $22,137,169. That would be the Cap of $136,021,000 minus the actual salaried players and 10th pick which is $113,883,831. However, those pesky roster charges come into play.
Roster charges explained via auction drafting
If you have ever played fantasy sports with an auction draft, then this should be a very easy explanation. You usually start with $200 to fill out a roster of 16 players. Let’s imagine a player you really like, and think is the best player in the league. You check your max bid and it is not $200, it’s $185. Why? It’s because you must reserve $1 for each other roster slot. In the NBA, they use they make teams roster 13 players. And if you are under the salary cap, they make you use cap space for all 13 players.
The Cap Space Figures you see are usually the team’s max bid
So, in the scenario above, the Mavericks could bid $18,828,382 on one player and then have 3 roster charge slots reserved to sign 3 more players. Here’s the visual.
Max Bid Contract?
With the cap sheet from above the Mavericks could offer this four year contract if Kyrie Irving walks and signs elsewhere.
Could the Mavericks increase their max bid?
Yes, as detailed in my previous post explaining the salary cap situation if Irving were to re-sign, the Mavericks could waive-and-stretch Davis Bertans. Here’s my explanation about the stretch provision.
The Mavericks could unilaterally increase their cap space if they waive Bertans and stretch his cap hit by using the stretch provision. This mechanism allows teams to take all the guaranteed money they owe a player and stretch that cap hit over the number of years left on the contract multiplied by two plus one.
Bertans has two years and $22,000,000 in guaranteed money left. He has $17,000,000 in 2023-24 and a partial guarantee of $5,000,000 in 2024-25. The two years would stretch to become five years since two times two is four then you add one for a total of five years. Therefore, waiving and then using the stretch provision on Bertans would create an equal $4.4 million cap hit for each of the next five seasons. That means the next time the Mavericks wouldn’t have Bertans on their cap sheet would be 2028-29. That’s the season Luka turns 30. The cap sheet is below. The dead cap goes a year past what I even show in this cap sheet.
Benefits and problems for waiving and stretching Davis Bertans
Here are the main benefits of using the stretch provision on Bertans after waiving him.
- Bigger max bid (more cap space): You’d go from being able to offer $18,828,382 million to a free agent to offering $30,325,453. That’s the difference between acquiring a solid starter and acquiring a potential star.
- Make the decision later: The Mavericks can wait throughout July and August before waiving and stretching Bertans for the 2023-24 season. Therefore, they can be patient for the right situation before committing to 5 years of dead cap.
- Save draft capital: In using the stretch provision, the Mavericks would avoid wasting draft resources to increase cap space.
- Bigger salary cap in the future: The NBA salary cap is projected to go up each season by a lot. This would reduce the relative pain of the $4.4 Million in dead cap each year. Keith Smith at Spotrac is quite aggressive in projecting future salary caps. With cap smoothing the max the cap can go up is a 10% increase. His projections for the 2025-26 and 2026-27 seasons have the full 10% increases. So, the $4.4 million could be much more insignificant in the last years of the stretch.
But there are pitfalls in this process as well.
- Not quite a full max: The $30,325,453 is great but it’s not quite a max. Even for a player coming off their rookie deal, this falls short. That’s because max contracts are a portion of that year’s salary cap. It’s 25% for players with six years of experience or less. It’s 30% for players with between seven and nine years of experience. And the max for players with 10 or more years of experience is 35%. Here’s a table to show the numbers using my projected cap.
- Is a star available? The Mavericks would be looking for a player who would sign for the full four years and already be a star or have the potential to be a star. Those players don’t typically switch teams. (Side note: JALEN BRUNSON). The perfect free agent’s incumbent team would be able to offer more than the Mavericks would because they certainly have full bird rights. According to John Hollinger of The Athletic, the top two tiers of free agents contain 13 players. I recommend reading his piece if you have access.
- Long-term cap hit: Bertans’ cap hit could haunt the Mavericks for a long time. The player Dallas acquires needs to have a lasting positive impact on the team. The fans who are currently behind using the stretch provision might change their minds in the future when it’s too late. The Mavericks front office must be sober-minded in their judgment about if waiving-andistretching Bertans is the right move.
- Future hard salary cap: The $4.4 million does count towards the hard cap as well as the salary cap. As Luka’s max grows, then the potential issue of having to dance below the tax apron while adding talent is a significant one. We’d like to be able to use the new larger NTMLE (Non Tax-Payer Mid Level Exception) each season to replenish the rotation. Despite the increasing cap figures, that $4.4 million might be problematic in 2025-26, 2026-27, and 2027-28.
- Restricted free agents (RFA): You’ll notice Miles Bridges, Cam Johnson, and Austin Reaves are restricted. There are several other interesting RFAs like Grant Williams, Tre Jones, Paul Reed, Rui Hachimura, and PJ Washington. Restricted free agency means the incumbent team can always choose to match any offer sheet their free agent signs. The Mavericks would have to judge accurately if the team would match. This process brings out a big issue. The timing of signing an offer sheet happens deep into free agency. By this time there would likely be very little left on the free agent market. It could result in a disaster for the Mavericks. I would advise them to avoid restricted free agents unless they were 90% or more sure the offer wouldn’t be matched.
Benefits and problems for waiving and stretching Reggie Bullock
The Mavericks could also waive and stretch Bullock to get more cap space, but that is a bit more complicated. Here’s the rundown as to why.
$5 million of his current $10,489,600 2023-24 salary is non-guaranteed. They could waive him now and that automatically lowers the Mavericks’ salary by $5 million.
However, it would also mean they have to replace a rotation wing. Bullock isn’t a perfect player but he’s a very useful rotation player. Bullock’s salary fully guarantees on June 28th. That’s before free agency starts. Waiting to have the exact right opportunity isn’t possible without both Bullock and the Mavericks agreeing to move the date. Bullock has no incentive to do that.
If he was going to get waived (and lose $5 million) then he’d rather that happen before free agency begins. They could spread the $5,489,600 dead cap hit using the stretch provision over three years (one-year remaining times 2 + 1 = 3 seasons).
Despite all the complications, I want to show the result of waiving and stretching both Bertans and Bullock. The Bullock waive and stretch would have to be done blindly three days before free agency starts. The Mavericks wouldn’t know for sure at the time if they’d actually get any of their desired targets. They’d have to read the tea leaves and make the leap. I want to show the different possibilities.
The new CBA (if it goes into effect before July 1st) allows the Mavericks to separate the stretching from the waiving. So, the Mavericks could waive Bullock and then choose to stretch him up until August 31st. This also applies to Bertans as well. Here is the cap sheet with the Mavericks waiving Bullock before June 28th but NOT stretching him.
In this scenario, the Mavericks can offer a free agent a max of $34,060,924. This allows the Mavericks to offer a full max to a free agent with six years of experience or less.
What if they waived and stretched Bullock?
This represents the max the Mavericks could unilaterally get to. Here’s the free-agent contract they could offer in this instance.
I’d like to illustrate this using the cap charge 13 players represented in the amount of cap space.
How would they fill out the rest of the roster?
If the Mavericks don’t use pay a free agent the max bid? Then you calculate a new max bid. Spend $20 million on a 4-year deal with Jakob Poeltl?
Despite what seems easy, the math actually isn’t $37,895,057 - $20,000,000 = $15,895,057. When you fill a roster spot you get to reduce your roster charges. So that adds back into your Max Bid. The formula to get the new max bid looks like this:
(old max bid) – (Cap space used) + (roster charge). = (new max bid)
$37,895,057 - $20,000,000 + $1,102,929 = $18,997,986. That would make the new max 4-year deal that the Mavericks could offer a free agent look like this.
After these two signings, the Mavericks would use the roster charge minimums to offer up to 4-year minimum deals to free agents. The actual minimum exception when over the cap only allows 2 years. So, using the cap space slots for players we want to sign longer makes a lot of sense.
There’s also the Room Exception!
After exhausting all our cap room the Mavericks would get a larger exception to use on a free agent, it’s called the Room Exception. It starts at $7,609,000, can go up to three years, and has 5% raise each year. That’s a total of almost $24 million over three years. That’s a big improvement from the previous Room Exception. I believe the NBA wanted to better reward teams going under the cap.
After this exception, the Mavericks would only have minimum contracts to offer. Here are the projected Minimum Salaries for the 2023-24 season. Again, when they are over the cap the minimum exception only allows for two years max.
Let’s see what could happen. I’m not going to predict a draft trade but I will the number of possibilities is nearly endless. Okay, maybe one trade.
June 22nd: The Mavericks keep the 10th pick. They want to pick Taylor Hendricks, Jarace Walker, or Anthony Black but they are all taken before the Mavericks pick at 10. Since I don’t have the option for a trade-down, I’ll choose Bilal Coulibaly with the 10th pick. He is a great potential long-term fit. For this season he’d be able to incrementally play more and more as the season progresses. I could have chosen a different player at 10. Substitute Cason Wallace, Gradey Dick or Dereck Lively II or Kobe Bufkin, or whomever you’d like.
June 28th: The Mavericks let Reggie Bullock’s contract become fully guaranteed. Just not enough advanced knowledge of Kyrie leaving to go ahead and waive him. Wish we could move the date, but Bullock has no real incentive to do so. He’s not a negative value. So, I think he could be traded to another team.
July 1st: The Stein Tweet hits, “Houston agrees with Kyrie on a 4-year max”. Mavericks must face the music that they gave up Dorian, Spencer, and their 2029 1st and have nothing to show for it. However, even when they made the trade, they knew they could fall back into being a cap space team. They go out to
The Mavericks renounce all their free agents and only have the Cap Sheet left that I showed earlier. They go out knowing they can offer $18,828,382 or, by waiving-and-stretching Bertans, they can offer $30,325,453.
Fred VanVleet: The Mavericks aim at Fred VanVleet. He’s a seven year veteran so his max is 30%. That puts the max he can get in 2023-24 at $40,806,300. However, I can see Toronto not wanting to offer that. The Mavericks can only offer a four year $130.4 million. I predict the Raptors do just enough to keep Fred and the Mavericks lose out.
Jakob Poeltl: The Mavericks try and take advantage of the Raptors spending on VanVleet to target his teammate, Poeltl. The Mavericks offer to put Poeltl in the rare air of $20 million centers. The Raptors just can’t go that high despite giving up a 1st for him. Dallas gets a legitimate center. The Mavericks give him the deal I showed above.
New cap space max bid formula: (old max bid) – (Cap space used) + (roster charge). = (new max bid)
$30,325,453 - $20,000,000 + $1,102,929 = $18,997,986. That would make the new max bid for a free agent $11,428,382.
This amount is lower than my earlier exercise because the Mavericks didn’t waive Bullock. However, I’m going to break my “no trades policy” and have the Mavericks trade Bullock to the Detroit Pistons for a 2026 2nd round pick (2026 second-round draft pick from New York or Minnesota (more favorable).
Bruce Brown: I think Bruce Brown can be had because the Nuggets can’t bid more than $7.6 million. The Mavericks come in and offer 4 years $60 million. This secures a strong two-way wing rotation player.
That creates the following cap sheet.
July Negotiations Continued: The Mavericks pivot to using their two remaining resources to bolster the bottom of the rotation. They have the cap space of $7,964,494 and the Room MLE which starts at $7,609,000. I reach out to give straight three year deals without options to Trey Lyles and Shake Milton. I think both contracts outbid their incumbent teams. This is what they look like.
Technicalities: We can offer minimum deals using cap space on three players before they use the Room MLE. To get to the amount I’m giving Lyles we would have to renounce all the cap holds. This means they lose bird rights, early bird rights, and non-bird rights on Christian Wood, Dwight Powell, Theo Pinson, Frank Ntilikina, Justin Holiday, Markieff Morris, AJ Lawson, and McKinley Wright IV. With the three minimum slots, we could offer three-plus year contracts to these players of any other free agent. The formula for a player like AJ Lawson or McKinley Wright IV would be to offer a fully guaranteed 2023-24 minimum, then a non-guaranteed 2024-25, and a team option for 2025-26.
Let’s add in minimum salaries for McKinley Wright, AJ Lawson, and a Rookie. That’s 14 players. This is what the final roster looks like.
I may have misjudged the market for Poeltl, Brown, Lyles, and Milton. I’m going off my perception of their market. I tried to simulate what could happen if the Mavericks tried to remake the team in free agency. Draft-wise, I could be overrating Coulibaly but his upside would be tantalizing. He is a very athletic wing who can play great defense.
If it played out this way, I’d be happy for how they rebound after Kyrie walked. Overall? I believe the Mavericks would be better off if Kyrie chooses to stay. On one hand, this new Mavericks team would have multiple new wings, better defense, and a lot more youth. On the other hand, the Mavericks would have a lot less star power and be even more reliant on Luka to create the offense. Hardy would likely need to have a big sophomore leap for this team to be a home-court advantage team.
I hope you have learned some of the CBA rules and cap mechanics of how the Mavericks would navigate a Kyrie Irving exit.