Armed with their highest draft pick in more than a decade, the Mavericks are thinking strongly about trading the asset.
And “strongly” means it is a virtual certainty.
One source put the chances of the Mavericks having the 13th overall draft pick on their opening-day roster next season at 0 percent.
There is an 80-percent chance that the pick is traded before or, more likely, during the draft, the source said. There is at least a 15-percent chance that the pick is a foreign player who is under contract and can be left overseas for a year and not count against the Mavericks’ salary cap.
There is less than a 5 percent chance that one of the top five or six players in the draft slips to No. 13 and the Mavericks take him, knowing fully that they can jettison that valuable chip easily for future considerations.
In every scenario, the No. 13 pick would not be a Maverick next season and, therefore, not count against the Mavericks’ cap, which would free up needed money to pursue a max-contract free agent like Dwight Howard.
Salary-cap gymnastics are usually enough to make anybody’s head hurt. But the Mavericks have to make sure that they are not doing anything silly that would restrict their chances of landing one of the marquee free agents come July 1. If the No. 13 pick counts against the cap, it eats up nearly $1.7 million. It’s that much money the Mavericks would have to find another way to free up, probably by dealing away Vince Carter or Shawn Marion for pennies on the dollar.
They’d rather not do that as they see Carter and Marion as part of the bridge to the future.
It’s going to create an interesting dynamic for the Mavericks heading toward the draft. They are most likely to wait until the draft begins on June 27. At that time, teams generally are more willing to make deals and sweeten offers to make things happen.
The key to everything is that the Mavericks, while remaining realistic, seem to believe they have a serious chance at signing Howard away from the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency. It still appears much less likely that Chris Paul will be leaving the Los Angeles Clippers.
The best-case scenario, it appears, is that the Mavericks would be successful in their pursuit of Howard and have him, Dirk Nowitzki, Carter and Marion as their core for this season. They would have only the $2.5-million exception plus veteran-minimum contracts left with which to build the rest of the roster, although they do plan on making a strong run at retaining Brandan Wright.