Highway 14 Revisited

Posted by Rob Mahoney on July 1, 2010 under Commentary, News | Be the First to Comment

When the Mavs traded resident dreamboat Kris Humphries (along with resident headache Shawne Williams) for Eduardo Najera in January, the primary motivations for the deal seemed to be financial ones. Najera and Humphries are comparable players after all, and Mark Cuban saved an immediate $4.6 million after tax implications by trading Hump for a player almost 10 years his senior and ditching Williams’ 2009-2010 salary. However, the long-term financial outcome of the move is dependent on what the Mavs choose to do with Eddie or rather, what they chose not to do prior to midnight.

Had Dallas chosen to waive Najera prior to the start of free agency (and opted not to fill the open roster spot he left behind), Mark Cuban would have saved a combined $2 milion over the next two seasons after tax. It would be tough to blame him if that’s where he elected to trim the fat; although Najera definitely has utility, Cuban will already be spending a ridiculous amount of money over the next two years (the Mavs already have over $55 million in guaranteed salary for next season, and that’s not accounting for Dirk Nowitzki, Brendan Haywood, a potential MLE signing, and whomever the Mavs fetch using Erick Dampier’s contract). Instead, this move is precisely what makes Mark, Mark: rather than cutting a usable bench player for minor savings, Cuban will foot the bill and keep a big who played almost 15 minutes per in 33 contests for Dallas last season.

There will undoubtedly be power forward options superior to Najera on the open market this summer, but the Mavs will have limited means in which to attain them. The mid-level exception should be conserved as a last resort to grab a center should both Brendan Haywood and Erick Dampier sign elsewhere, and to target a backup 4 in a sign-and-trade would waste an incredible opportunity to satisfy one of the Mavs’ clearer positional needs. Keeping Eddie is the right move for a team over the cap, provided the owner is willing to pay for him to stay. Cuban is, so Najera will.

If the Mavs elect to hold on to Najera through 2011-2012 (his salary for that year is also partially unguaranteed, and waiving him next summer could save Cuban $1 million after tax), they will actually end up paying Eddie more money over his three seasons with the Mavs than they would have paid Humphries and Williams through two. That’s not the kind of move that wins championships, but it could give Dallas another big body to use during the draining regular season. He’s more than just a practice body, even if he’s not quite productive enough to be a full-time back-up for Dirk. Nothing Najera is or does makes him vital to the Maverick machine, but sometimes it’s just nice to have one of those pieces that makes everything run just a tad bit more smoothly.

Here are the updated finances of the deal, with Humphries’ accepted player option, Najera’s guaranteed ’10-’11 salary, and Shawne Williams not receiving a qualifying offer:

'09-'10'10-'11'11-'12
Kris Humphries$2,900,000$3,200,000---
Shawne Williams$2,416,067------

'09-'10'10-'11'11-'12
Eduardo Najera$3,000,000$3,000,000$2,750,000*

*Najera’s 2011-2012 salary is partially unguaranteed ($2,250,000)

Salaries are from Storytellers Contracts.