Money Plays

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on September 13, 2013 under Commentary | Read the First Comment


For those who didn’t notice, I wrote a blog post series for ESPN Dallas over the last two weeks. It was with the premise that the NBA is a game that’s played on the floor as well as a game that’s played via spreadsheets and calculators. With more punitive actions directed towards them when going over the salary cap, franchises must do a better job of finding talent that can outperform the contracts that were given to them.

I took some heat for the grading I did over the course of the series. The heat mainly generated from not going below a B- on the grades. When you really look at it, the deals that they gave out as a whole were not bad. The players might or might not be the ones you were hoping for, but the deals they were signed to weren’t bad in comparison to the rest of the market.

Keep in mind, the Mavs had to operate under their Plan B, C and D options because Dwight Howard decided to go elsewhere. They the equivalent of max-out money to spend with Howard, Paul and the rest of the big name players off the market and they did the best they could with what was out on the market.

Another thing to remember is the classic debate that Mark Cuban has had an internal debate about is the idea of going for the one, max-out free agent and leaving the cupboard bare to fill out the rest of the roster or use the strength in numbers approach which the Mavs ultimately ended up doing this summer (after going after the star).

In my opinion, they avoided the perils of the Detroit Pistons back in the summer of 2009. For those who don’t remember, Joe Dumars figuratively lost his mind in 2009 as he signed Ben Gordon to a $55 million, five-year contract and Charlie Villanueva to a $35 million, five-year contract. Needless to say, neither of those deals really worked out for the Pistons. In fact, those deals crippled them as they tried to move forward. Dallas was in danger of falling into that trap last summer and they didn’t make that mistake. They didn’t make that mistake because they offered one-year deals to their acquisitions. They made more a commitment this offseason by giving multi-year deals to Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis.

In addition to giving out grades for all of the new additions, I also wanted to look at the best value deal for this year and long term. Since there wasn’t necessarily a deal I didn’t like for the year, I’d look to see which long term deal might be considered problematic.

When looking at the deals in terms of just this year only, I especially like the 2012-13 value with Devin Harris, Jose Calderon and Brandan Wright. If I had to pick one, I would pick Harris’ deal. He originally signed for a three-year, $9 million deal but had to renegotiate a deal for one year at the minimum due to his toe issue. His original deal was widely regarded as a steal for the Mavs. Now the deal is considered to be an absolutely amazing one.

Harris’ veteran status, ability to play both guard positions and push the tempo all for the minimum is a no risk, high reward move for the Mavs. The only downside to the deal, in my opinion, is the fact that he was only signed for one year in the new deal instead of the original three. Minimum deals can only be for one or two years, so the Mavs will have to hope that Harris’ desire to come back to Dallas stays true past this season, especially once he outplays his current deal.

Changing the settings and looking at the new contracts under the basis of evaluating for the life of the deal, the deal I would have some minor reservations about is the one with Calderon. While I think the value for this year ($6,791,570) is great for an incredibly underrated point guard, the years on the deal have valid merit in rating it questionable. Calderon will be 35 in the final year of his deal and his mobility on defense is already an issue. While that’s an issue, the team’s training and medical staff have a very strong track record of getting the most out of their players.

In addition, players (especially on the Mavs) have done a great job of adjusting their training and dieting habits in order to give themselves more durability and extend their careers. For a smart veteran such as Calderon, his ability to prolong his career through those methods would certainly mitigate the possible concerns about the length of his deal.

The Mavs found bargain players that will either be expected to be critical parts of the starting lineup or rotation. They have established depth at each position. They had hope through a youth movement last season. That ultimately didn’t pan out. This year, the Mavs have hope through experienced players who have chips on their shoulder.

They were forced to go down the other side in the fork in the road as Dwight Howard selected the Houston Rockets. To their credit, the Mavs’ front office did a solid job of reloading on the fly. Time will tell if the bargains pan out for them in one way or another.

Bryan Gutierrez writes about sportsmen. He also attended Ball So Hard University. Bryan channels his inner-Clark Kent on a day-to-day basis. You can follow him on Twitter @BallinWithBryan.

  • beachdrifter

    Carlisle said about Harris that he would be a two position player for them “in December or January”. So it looks like he is going to miss a large chunk of the season. That’s the downside I see – of course the deal itself is still fine, he’s just not going to help the Mavs anytime soon.