You’re going to see a whole heck of a lot of this over the next few weeks, leading up to the NBA draft on June 27. The Dallas Mavericks did not plan to be and are not happy to be in the lower 14 picks of the draft, due to their first playoff absence in 12 years, and though the team has a fantastic front office and scouting staff (complete with myriad analytic plans they don’t let anyone in on), this is a thin draft and the Mavericks have their eyes set on bigger and better things than their 13th pick in next month’s draft.
Like Dwight Howard, the free agent center that is looking to embark on a tour of suitors this summer that we’re all already annoyed with. In order to clear up more cap space (the 13th pick is set to make $1.7 million next year) to sign Dwight, the Mavericks are reportedly considering shopping their first rounder. From Eddie Sefko at the Dallas Morning News discussed one option on Thursday:
[Dallas owes] the Oklahoma City Thunder a first-round pick before 2018. That pick is protected through the first 20 picks of the draft. But if the Mavericks don’t convey it by 2017, the Thunder gets the pick no matter when it is in the 2018 draft.
The Mavericks are drafting 13th this year, which means it won’t go to OKC. But what if they went to the Thunder and said, we’ll give you that pick to complete the roundabout set of trades that ended up giving Oklahoma City the Mavericks’ pick (it went through the Lakers and Rockets). The Mavericks could get back a future second rounder and maybe a spare part off the OKC roster like the expiring contract of Ronnie Brewer.
The problem with this scenario is that it’s illegal for the Thunder to deal Brewer, a free agent on July 1, in the weeks leading up to the draft or on draft night. On top of that, the Thunder has its own payroll considerations to make. Remember, this is the team that dealt James Harden prior to the season in order to avoid the luxury tax, and rumors abound that they might pass on re-signing guard Kevin Martin, or waive Kendrick Perkins (though general manager Sam Presti shot down the latter at a recent meeting with media) to avoid a tax that they’re currently a few million away from, heading into Martin’s free agency.
There’s also the chance Dallas could whiff again in the free agent period, or any number of complications could collude and create a pretty terrible 2017-18 for the Mavs. It’s hard to see why OKC would do Dallas a favor like this, in a draft this weak, and with its own payroll pushing perilously closer to the tax.
This is what you’ll hear, though, as the draft approaches. GMs will still talk themselves into gems, and the ability to draft for need (a rarity in most cases but a necessity this time around) will be tempting to teams either trying to hoard or keep picks.
Dallas’ need is simple – another superstar to go alongside Dirk Nowitzki, who is already on record as saying he might take a pay cut next summer in order to stack his team’s deck. The way to get there is to go all-in now, and for rebuilding teams this means clearing as much cap space as possible.
This isn’t to say Dallas will make that move, or that they’ve discussed it. It is odd to consider, though, for a team that was once on the vanguard of sending cash toward other teams to buy their draft picks.