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.

Goodnight, Sweet Hump

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 8, 2010 under News | 9 Comments to Read

It’s with an incredibly amount of regret that I have to announce the end of Hump Day. The Mavs have completed the deal in principle that we discussed here last week, sending Humphries and Shawne Williams (who will subsequently be cut) to New Jersey for Eduardo Najera.

New Jersey will have to use it’s trade exception ($2.4 million) to absorb the excess salary. More to come tomorrow, but a tip of the hat to Humphries for all of his hard work during his short time here in Dallas, and a nonchalant look-away for the exiled Shawne Williams.

More to come tomorrow in terms of what it all means.

Rumor Mongering: Do the Hustle

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 5, 2010 under Rumors | 6 Comments to Read

Trade season is officially upon us! While there’s been plenty of speculation concerning what the Mavs should do with Erick Dampier and his virtually expiring contract (as well as Drew Gooden and his conveniently structured deal), there’s been little in the way of whispered rumors much less substantive trade discussions. Credit the Mavs’ record and chemistry thus far for that.

But apparently, the Mavs were still actively looking to cut ties with Shawne Williams, and were willing to part with Kris Humphries to do so. Yahoo!’s Marc Spears and Adrian Wojnarowski:

Discussions for a trade that would’ve exchanged Eduardo Najera for Kris Humphries and Shawne Williams are “on life support,” a league source said, because the New Jersey Nets have been unable to clear a roster spot to make it happen. New Jersey had hoped the Dallas Mavericks would add some money to the deal to allow them to buy out Williams’ contract, but the Nets haven’t been able to make a roster move. They tried to trade former first-round pick Josh Boone to Denver for Joey Graham and his non-guaranteed deal as a precursor to the Dallas deal, but those talks dried up, too.

Najera has fought injuries all season, but when healthy he’s certainly comparable to Humphries; Najera a bit more range, a bit less athletic, and much better defensively. But that’s hardly why the Mavs would pursue such a deal. Najera’s contract over the next to seasons is partially unguaranteed, meaning they’re likely to be on the books for less in total coin if Hump and Williams were shipped out in favor of Najera. Eddie would make his grand return to Dallas and be a free agent by summer, and Shawne Williams would likely be the Nets’ problem. But it wasn’t meant to be, and unless there’s a change in New Jersey’s roster situation, the talks are dead.

The Bottom Line

Posted by Rob Mahoney on October 22, 2009 under News, Roster Moves | Read the First Comment

The Mavs announced today that they’re requesting waivers on Jake Voskuhl, making Shawne Williams a Mav for a bit longer.

If I was the type of person to decipher a moral from this story, I wouldn’t be pleased. Shawne Williams is clearly out of the team’s favor, for something of the unspeakable variety. Voskuhl, on the other hand, came as training camp addition, and reportedly worked hard and played reasonably well during his short time with the team (his defensive efficiency was good for third on the team for the preseason). No, he’s not a great player or even a very good one, but at this point the Mavs just need someone to sop up minutes in the middle. Voskuhl is a center, he’s a hard worker, and he’s not Shawne Williams. In theory, that should be that.

But alas, this brief tale of motor and team need was trumped by the almighty motivator: money, money, money. Williams is owed $2.4 million guaranteed, while Voskuhl’s contract is unguaranteed and can easily be swept under the rug. Forget that Williams won’t see the bench or the practice facility, much less the court. Footing the bill (twice, if you consider a waived Williams would still bear luxury tax ramifications) just doesn’t make financial sense for the team when Williams’ expiring contract could play a role in a trade later this season.

On the court and on the depth chart, this move makes no sense. But with few teams looking to take on the walking headache that is Shawne Williams at this point, the Mavs had few other options.

Micro, Macro

Posted by Rob Mahoney on October 20, 2009 under News, Roster Moves | Read the First Comment

News all around this afternoon.

First, the Mavs have taken a step towards resolving their roster quandary. Nathan Jawai has been shipped to the Wolves for a future second round pick, though the year and protection on the pick have yet to be unveiled.

It makes sense from all angles. Despite the Mavs’ lack of depth at center, Jawai’s inexperience and defensive limitations made him expendable. Shawne Williams, on the other hand, while likely less attractive to the Mavs than Jawai, has a NBA rap sheet and a larger deal. Unfortunately for Jawaibberwocky (and possibly Jake Voskuhl), those two factors make Williams an awfully difficult sell to opposing GMs.

But the news of greater import: According to Marc Stein and Chris Sheridan, the referee lockout could be coming to a close. There’s nothing concrete as of yet, but any movement between the league and the refs is a cue for smile time. The replacement refs have done their jobs admirably, but if every regular season game turns into a television miniseries with periodic journeys to and from the foul line, things could turn dour.

Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on October 13, 2009 under xOther | 3 Comments to Read

  • Is J.J. Barea one of the top five back-up point guards in the league? I don’t think that’s a stretch of the imagination by any means. But I’m going to need a harder drink (gasoline?) if you’re going to convince me that Anthony Carter is a super-sub. Anyone heard of Nate Robinson? Jarrett Jack? I’d even prefer youngsters like D.J. Augustin, Shaun Livingston, or Jonny Flynn over Carter.
  • We’ve known for awhile that Shawne Williams was on the proverbial outs, but he may find himself out in a more literal sense very soon.
  • Jawai, Voskuhl, and Williams: now entering the Thunderdome.

Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on September 29, 2009 under xOther | 2 Comments to Read

  • Does anyone else see this picture and think barbershop quartet?
  • Is there a better way to start the new season than to relive petty, forgettable memories from the previous one? Kenyon Martin doesn’t think so.
  • Is Devin Harris really the 24th best player in the league? I mean…really? (Just a few that SLAM chose to rank as inferior to Harris: Vince Carter, Rajon Rondo, Caron Butler, Manu Ginobili, Carlos Boozer, Gilbert Arenas, and obviously many, many more.)
  • Tim MacMahon noted a leaner, more refreshed Dirk at Media Day, which is plenty of reason for optimism. Nowitzki has no reputation for reporting out of shape, but to see Dirk return from a restful summer and still slim down will only help his mobility on both ends: “For the first time in a long time, Dirk looks forward to the grind of training camp. That’s partially because he didn’t play for the German international team this summer, a mutual decision he made with Mark Cuban. He didn’t touch a basketball for nine weeks before getting back in the gym with mentor/personal coach Holger Geschwindner. Don’t take that as a sign that Dirk didn’t work hard this summer. He dropped about a dozen pounds, weighing in at 243 pounds, the lightest he’s been since the early years of his NBA career. He slimmed down in anticipation of the Mavs playing at one of the fastest paces among NBA teams. ‘I feel good,’ Dirk said. ‘I think I’m moving pretty well. It should be fun.’”
  • If you chug some cough syrup and watch this video, you’d probably think you’re at Media Day.
  • Dirk’s assessment of the off-season moves, via Marc Stein: “I’m really looking forward to meeting all the new guys because we made some good moves. Obviously I think [Shawn] Marion can help us on both ends of the floor, address some [of Dallas' lack of] athletic ability. I think [Quinton] Ross is going to be able to guard some scoring 2s that have given us trouble. I think [Drew] Gooden is a nice piece. Tim Thomas gives us more shooting, which we need…I’m fired up. I’m ready to get this whole thing started. I’m ready to focus on having a great season.”
  • Mike Fisher from listed a series of “off-beat” items from Media Day. Among them was a nugget that hopefully represents the camraderie that all great teams seem to have: “In a very short time – maybe a week of pickup games – JJ Barea, Kris Humphries and Matt Carroll have become pals. It’s also clear to me that Erick Dampier and Drew Gooden have a buddy-buddy chemistry that belies the competition they are about to engage in. Oh, and every time Dirk and Shawn Marion were in the same vicinity, they were always giggling about something or other. In fact, The Matrix behaves as if all his new teammates are actually old frat brothers, especially when it comes to poking fun at their advanced ages. The topper: When he insists that Erick Dampier has an endorsement deal with Rogaine.”
  • Shawne Williams is apparently not with the team, and the Mavs are looking to trade him.

Time to Unload the Clown Car

Posted by Rob Mahoney on September 17, 2009 under Commentary | 13 Comments to Read

The Mavs are in a funny place. They’ve got a boat full of third wheels and mouths to feed, but the stone bird in the hand place isn’t worth two roster spots in the bush. Don’t argue, just nod.

Sixteen players, fifteen roster spots. Waiving Greg Buckner moved the Mavs one step closer to roster equilibrium, but that was the easy part. Parting ways with Buck was a no-brainer considering the savings involved, but unless the Mavs can find a trade partner willing to do a 2-for-1 swap, they’ll be paying a player’s full player salary for naught. No prospect, no practice squad filler, no D-League assignment, and no donut runner.

Most of the players are safe. The Dirks, JETs, and Kidds of the world hardly have to worry about being cut before training camp, and even the Tim Thomases and Matt Carrolls can sleep easy knowing their roster spots are likely safe. But if the league-imposed guillotine comes down to enforce the roster limit, there are three guys in particular that may want to consider alternative arrangements:

  • Shawne Williams – one year, $2.4 million: Williams has long been out of the Mavs’ plans. Brought in as a gamble and a project for Rick Carlisle, Williams never cracked the playing rotation and only turned in a few solid efforts. Shawne has been held at arm’s length for some time with no clear indication of exactly when things went sour between him and the Mavs. But “personal reasons” is the new “back spasms” is the new “plantar fascitis” (I kid), and the team’s apparent lack of interest in Williams could never be more pertinent. If Carlisle, Nelson, and Cuban are convinced that they’ve seen all they need to from Williams (and that outcome seems likely), Shawne could be on his way out.
  • Kris Humphries – two years, $6.1 million: Kris Humphries is one of the new kids, but his role on the team is certainly ambiguous. The Mavs have already filled their high-energy undersized big slot with a familiar face in James Singleton, and Drew Gooden and Shawn Marion would seemingly make all of Humphries’ skills redundant. Can Humphries defend centers? seems to answer that question with a conclusive “Meh.” Humphries’ substantial price tag may be enough to keep him a Maverick (though only from some bizarre logic that keeping him forces validation, regardless of the fact the price is paid regardless)
  • Nathan Jawai – one year, $736,420: Nathan Jawai is still a man of mystery, and Mark Cuban himself admitted in his chat with the Dallas Morning News that even he hasn’t had a chance to see Jawai and evaluate him properly. I can’t claim to be any more knowledgeable, as I admit that most of my insight into the Jawaibberwocky is based off of second-hand judgments and footage of limited game action. But his contract is slim and there’s no built-in obligation, making him easy to sever ties with.

Player Valuations: Shawne Williams

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 28, 2009 under Commentary, xOther | 7 Comments to Read

Specs: Small forward.  6’9”, 225 lbs.  Drafted with the 17th pick in 2006 out of Memphis.

2008-2009 Stats: 2.8 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 28.6% FG, 7.6 PER.

Why we want him: Shawne is a project.  Rick Carlisle evidently saw enough in Williams during their shared time in Indiana that he thought Williams might have something to offer to the Mavericks, but so far he’s fallen pretty short.  Still, he’s got legit NBA size for the three, and his length and body make him a good rebounder for his position (his rebounding rate, though from a pretty small sample size, is good for second on the team).  The general line of thinking with project players is that if you find a player with the right unteachable skills (height, athleticism, etc.), you can instruct them to harness those assets into positive forms of production.  Williams has all of the requisites necessary to be an adequate scorer and rebounder at the three, and he’s still just 22 years old.  Every once in awhile he’ll put up stats that catch your eye (a 12 rebound effort against Phoenix comes to mind), and that kind of tease may be enough to keep Dallas’ curiosity piqued.  In truth, Williams is a long way from becoming a productive NBA player, and seems much more likely to fall the way of prolonged NBA inactivity than to clossom into a rotation player.  Sorry, dude.  It’s kinda what happens when you combine pedestrian defense, an errant jumper (he’s shooting 5.9% from three on the season), and a questionable work ethic.

Why they want him: Two reasons: reputation and contract.  Shawne Williams showed flashes in his rookie season and continues to tease to this day, and GMs might be inclined to look upon those games with rose-colored classes.  He’s still young and still seen as having potential, and for that reason a team might consider him an adequate throw-in or even a low-level asset in a trade.  Williams’ former off-court issues may have had time to fade into the shadows, and his time in Dallas has been without note.  Supposing other teams buy into the idea that Shawne won’t be an off-court distraction and view him as a prospect with upside, another team might be willing to bite on a trade.  Otherwise, Williams is an interesting player for contractual reasons.  His salary is around $1.5 million for this season with a team option (around $2.5 million) next year, meaning that he is a prime candidate for trade filler or cap-clearing (EDIT: Williams’ option has already been picked up.  Thanks, Jared.  But his value remains for matching reasons.).  Matching salaries in a trade isn’t as easy as it seems, but with pieces like Shawne Williams, a potential trade partner would get an extended look at an intriguing prospect for a minimal price, and then choose to pick up his option or jettison him this summer.

Trade value: Low.  It’s pretty doubtful that Donnie Nelson’s phone is ringing off the hook with requests for Williams (let’s face it, he’s no Zepp), and it’s very unlikely that he would be included in a trade as a centerpiece.  His ticket out of Dallas is as a contract throw-in, and based on the types of players the Mavs are targeting, that could be a possibility.

Likelihood of Being Traded Before the Deadline: In honor of Jim Jackson, former Maverick and the most stereotypical NBA journeyman to ever journey, man, each player’s likelihood of being traded will be evaluated using the Jim Jackson Index (JJI; a scale of 0-5):

2 Jim Jacksons out of 5.