Rumor Mongering: Counterproductive Problem Solving

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 8, 2010 under Rumors | Be the First to Comment

On TrueHoop, ESPN’s Chris Sheridan notes that Milwaukee center (and former Mav) Kurt Thomas could have a new home by the trade deadline: has learned that Thomas, the 37-year old backup center/forward for the Milwaukee Bucks, has emerged as a fallback trade option for the few playoff-bound teams (including Portland, Dallas and Cleveland) open to the idea of taking on additional salary.

Dallas owes a 2nd rounder to Indiana and has the option of sending its 2010 or 2011 pick to the Pacers, and the Mavericks are also owed a 2010 second-rounder by Oklahoma City — although the Thunder keep it if it falls between Nos. 31 and 45. Dallas also does not have a one-for-one salary match for Thomas other than Drew Gooden, who is a better player than Thomas. (The Mavs do have a $2.9 million trade exception from the Kris Humphries trade to New Jersey, but that exception is not large enough to absorb Thomas’ deal.)

As Sheridan notes, acquiring Kurt Thomas would be a tricky proposition for the Mavs. The Bucks will move him if they can score a very minimal asset — a second round pick, the standard trade chip of cap-clearing deals. But that requires Milwaukee’s trade partner to be $3.6 million under the cap, or in possession of a trade exception to trim that number.

But here’s the catch: teams that are over the cap, like the Mavs, can’t use trade exceptions to absorb incoming player salaries if the value of a single trade exception does not exceed the incoming player salary. Or, if the Mavs were to include actual players in the deal to even out the salary for trade purposes, they still wouldn’t be able to receive salary worth more than 125% of the outgoing salary. All of this is to say that the Mavs are stuck in a position where they can’t use a trade exception to acquire the player they want, which if Sheridan’s sources are correct, is Thomas.

There’s one hypothetical deal that the Mavs could throw Milwaukee’s way: Quinton Ross, Tim Thomas, and J.J. Barea for Kurt Thomas. Make no mistake: this is a horrible deal for Dallas. Ross and Thomas are great guys to have at the end of your bench, and I’m convinced that the Mavs could get back more for Barea than a 37-year-old center with an expiring contract. But if the Mavs somehow end up with additional depth via another trade (say, one involving Josh Howard) and are convinced that Thomas is the answer, there is at least one option where the salaries match. It would only save the Bucks’ a few hundred thousand dollars and wastes Barea on a team with no need for a point guard, but it can technically be done.

I can’t see how Thomas would solve the Mavs’ problems, though. He would give Dallas another traditional center, albeit one that doesn’t operate from the low post on offense and isn’t really the answer to shoring up the defense. Thomas is a fine one-on-one post defender, but why bother if Kurt won’t offer much in the way of a team defensive concept? He’s a fine player to have, but I’m just not sure he’s worth the headache of involving a third team or completing the trade mentioned above.

Thomas has averaged just 13.3 minutes per game for the Bucks this year, along with 2.6 points per game and 3.5 rebounds per game.