Ball Don't Lie - NBA

The Mavericks retained Jason Kidd
. They also might pull in Marcin Gortat(notes). They also might come close to 50 wins this year, if 31-year old Dirk Nowitzki(notes) holds serve, Kidd doesn't drop off too much at age 36, and Josh Howard(notes) stays on the court and plays as if he's in his prime.

Apologies for the dour assessment, but this is what happens when you pay through the roof to keep a 50-win team together. A team that seemed to run (or, walk) to those 50 wins by taking advantage of a primo coaching effort from Rick Carlisle, alongside a turnback year from Kidd.

Yes, the 2009-10 Mavs could very easily fall off the face of the earth. They could fall into the lottery. They could leave themselves prone to be mocked.

And it might not matter.

Because this team has loads of cap flexibility, starting next summer. Starting this summer, actually. Heaps of cap flexibility. Room to move. Beaucoup de options.

If rumors are true and Kidd signed a three-year deal in the $25 million range, then he's overpaid. No way around it. But the team also has Erick Dampier(notes) turning in with an unguaranteed deal worth about $13 million for 2010-11, a contract that figures to be worth its weight in gold on the trading market. Same for Josh Howard, who has a team option for a little under $12 million for 2010-11. Those are huge, huge chips.

Chips bigger than any combination of unguaranteed deals we saw shift hands during this offseason, and this offseason saw guys like Richard Jefferson(notes) and Shaquille O'Neal(notes) switch teams for the pittance of unguaranteed deals and expiring contracts.

It doesn't end there, either. If the Mavs pick on Jerry Stackhouse's(notes) option, he then has an expiring deal worth over $7 million. Jason Terry(notes) is coming off a sublime season, and if you assume that no team (Mavericks or otherwise) will guarantee the last year of his deal at $10.7 million during 2011-12, then you can more or less consider this guy on an expiring contract to play with during 2010-11.

Bottom line, even with Kidd coming back at a price that doesn't suit his talents? The Mavericks can ship out something like $39 million worth of expiring deals between now and February.

Or, the team can just hold serve, go for those 50 wins again (go get ‘em, tigers!), and become major players on perhaps the most storied offseason for free agents in NBA history. As it stands right now, if the team declines all options, they'll have just about $50 million committed in salary to Nowitzki, Kidd, Terry, Marcin Gortat at the MLE, and Matt Carroll(notes).

This works. And though Kidd and Dirk might be on the downside of a pair of fabulous careers, the team has a smart owner who is willing to pay the luxury tax, a fantastic coach, and loads of options. It wants to win, and it'll pay to win. A dangerous combination, in any economy. 

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