Passing Go

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 9, 2010 under Roster Moves | 3 Comments to Read

All indications show that Monday will be Kris Humphries’ last day as a Maverick, making his time in Dallas rather short-lived. On a basketball level, the swap of Humphries for Eduardo Najera accomplishes very little. Najera counters Hump’s athleticism and rebounding instincts with experience, defensive acumen, and veteran savvy, but at best, this deal seems to be a wash for the Mavs.

Najera is not the rebounder that Humphries is nor the finisher, but I think there’s legitimate reason to believe that Eddie is a superior defensive big man than Kris, despite his 33 years of age. Hump has the tools to be a pretty decent defender, but watching him defend the pick-and-roll is just brutal. And although he puts in the effort on the low block, he simply isn’t a good on-ball defender in the post. Wrap all of that up with a “somewhat lacking in defensive awareness” bow, and you’ve got the whole Kris Humphries package. Energetic player, terrific rebounder, and a limited defender.

It’s hard to know what to expect out of Najera at this point, given his recent injury history. He had yet to be effective in his limited time with the Nets this season (just 204 minutes in 13 games due to various injuries), so it’s difficult to determine exactly what he can offer at this point in his career. But there’s definitely reason to believe that Najera should perform better as a Maverick, if for no other reason than the superior talent surrounding him and the lack of dark clouds lingering overhead. Energy guys like Eddie operate at their best in systems where they don’t need to make regular, tangible contributions; it should be more about his influence on the team’s energy level than his rebounding totals. He won’t fly around the court like Hump, but Najera is plenty capable of physical play inside, scrapping for possessions, etc. Plus, New Jersey’s record is bad enough to get into anybody’s head, and to make the jump from a dismal 3-33 squad to the 25-11 Mavs should be a breath of fresh air for a vet like Eddie.

Keep your fingers crossed that Najera can make an impact defensively. Although Erick Dampier and Drew Gooden are doing a nice job at the top of the center rotation, it would be nice to have Eddie as a situational alternative.

But in all honesty, this trade isn’t about basketball. Looking at the levels of talent on both sides, Humphries is a better talent than Najera, and though he has holes in his game, he has plenty of time to mend them. He has a reasonable contract for this season and next, but in Najera, the Mavs have found a contract that’s even more reasonable. The slight savings there compounded with Shawne Williams’ contract (and the luxury tax savings from both) make this a nice, tidy cost-cutting move for the Mavs. Though it’d be nice to see if Humphries could stick around and become a more complete player, Dallas has managed to save nearly $5 million without making a significant drop-off. Hump was having a nice season for the Mavs, but he’s still and end-of-the-rotation guy. If Cuban can save $5 million by making a slight concession, that’s just sound management.

For those of you that are curious where this $5 million number is coming from, let’s break down the salaries:

Kris Humphries$2,900,000$3,200,000 (PO)$0
Shawne Williams$2,416,067$2,41,1487 (QO)$0

Eduardo Najera$3,000,000$3,000,000*$2,750,000*

Salaries from Storyteller Contracts.

First of all, a few things to consider:

  • The second year of Kris Humphries’ contract is a player option, which he will likely accept. 2010 may be a big year for the free agent market, but I don’t see teams knocking down Hump’s door.
  • The second year of Shawne Williams’ contract is a qualifying offer, which he would not have been given by the Mavs and will not be given by the Nets (reports indicate that the Nets intend to waive Williams).
  • The last two years of Najera’s contract are partially unguaranteed; the guaranteed values are $2,500,000 for ’10-’11 and $2,250,000 for ’11-’12. So if the Mavs decide to sever ties with Najera after this season, they can cut a bit of the longer-term salary commitment.

So in terms of ’09-’10 salary, you have Najera’s $3 million vs. Humphries’ $2.9 million plus Williams’ $2.4 million. The difference in salary commitment is roughly $2.3 million, which is doubled because the Mavs are well over the luxury tax. That’s $4.6 million back in Mark Cuban’s pocket, which is pretty substantial.

However, if you’ll take a look at the Mavs’ salary commitments down the line, some of that $4.6 million is hedged by the final years of Najera’s deal. Najera’s contract runs one year longer than Humphries’, and how the Mavs stand financially could very well be dependent on their decision keep or release Najera. If the Mavs keep him and choose to pay his full salary both next year and the year after, their total financial commitment from this trade is $8.75 million. By comparison, the total obligation of Humphries’ and Williams’ combined contracts (assuming Hump takes his player option) is $8.5 million. If the Mavs choose not to keep Najera, their total salary commitment is $7.75 million. So although Cuban and the Mavs shave their salary commitments now, you can see that down the line, most of those savings end up in Najera’s hands.

This, of course, assumes that the Mavs’ total salary remains more or less the same. If Nelson and Cuban would wiggle the team under the luxury tax line in the future (which doesn’t seem likely, given the talent and contracts on the roster), any minor savings from the deal over the long-term (such as the slight margin if the team cuts Najera) are doubled. Plus, it gives Cuban’s wallet a bit of a break today, in exchange for paying out tomorrow. Given the current state of the economy, that’s something.

While I’m sure Najera wasn’t exactly what Mavs fans were hoping to net in exchange for Humphries and Williams, it’s a sound deal. It’s far from a home run, but as long as the overall savings work out in the end, the Mavs have accomplished what they were looking to accomplish. This will also likely be the last that we hear of Shawne Williams, and good riddance. While the details of his indiscretions are still held in-house, I’m glad to finally have some closure.

  • DOH

    Details? HE BROUGHT WEED TO THE TEAM PLANE. That was not what Carlisle had in mind when he uttered: “His ass will be grass, and me, Donnie and Mark would be the lawn mowers.”

  • Rob Mahoney

    Ehh, nothing official there, DOH. I’ve read the same, but pretty far from confirmed.

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