Assessing the Dallas Mavericks Cap Situation
By Sean Bush
The Dallas Mavericks will be one of the few teams holding a significant amount of free cap space going into the Summer of ’18.
League history has shown us that free agency can completely reinvent a team. The 2004-2005 Phoenix Suns went from 29 wins the season prior to 62 wins after signing Steve Nash in the offseason. The 2007-2008 Boston Celtics added Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen transforming them from the league’s 2nd worst team into NBA champions. And how can you forget Miami’s “Big 3” or Kevin Durant joining the super-Warriors?
Unfortunately for Dallas, cap space hasn’t always been quite as kind to them. The franchise has repeatedly struck-out on premiere free agent signings since their championship win in 2011.
Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean cap space isn’t a supremely valuable asset to have. It may be time Dallas gives up the star free agent dreams and go after value contracts, but I digress. This year, the Mavericks will have ample cap space while most do not.
The Dallas Mavericks will have an opportunity to free up the 4th most cap space before trades occur (according to spotrac.com).
There were some things I was unable to take under consideration that will affect the cap. The first is the draft.
Although rookies are locked into a certain contract based on where they are selected, we do not yet know where the Mavericks lottery pick will land, whether they will keep all their picks, and I was unable to find the contract values for each selection. The Mavericks will probably add 3 more rookies to their roster but for this article, I will ignore rookie deals. For what it’s worth, their 1st round pick will likely earn between $4-8 million a year next season.
The other thing I am ignoring is trades. Teams make trades all the time to add or reduce salary. The Mavericks could very well end up playing either of those roles leading up to free agency thus affecting their cap space.
First, let’s assess who is guaranteed to be under contract. Harrison Barnes ($24.1 million), Wesley Matthews ($18.6M), Dwight Powell ($9.6 M), Dennis Smith Jr. ($3.9M), and JJ Barea ($3.7M) round out the list.
That group consumes exactly $59,891,831 of the projected $101 million that teams will have in cap space next year. This figure consumes about 59.3% of their cap room and leaves them with $41,108,169 in available funds remaining.
Next there is the group of players currently on non-guaranteed contracts. Non-guaranteed contracts mean we can choose to keep them at their current salary if the team pleases or release the players for no cap-penalty. Those players are Dirk Nowitzki ($5M), Dorian Finney-Smith ($1.5M), Kyle Collinsworth ($1.4M), and Maxi Kleber ($1.4M).
Those four contracts add up to $9,301,435 million and combined with the guaranteed deals make a grand total of $69,193,266. While Dirk’s contract will almost certainly be kept (unless he decides to take yet another pay cut), the other three are very much in the air.
There are a couple more things to keep in mind when it comes to projecting cap space. The first are cap holds. Cap holds are contract numbers that count against you for your team’s current free agents.
Cap holds can be removed two different ways. The team can re-sign the player to a new contract in which case that new deal replaces the hold. Or they can be renounced, which makes retaining that player far more difficult because you lose their Bird Rights (more on this later). Typically, when a player’s rights are renounced that means the team is ready to move on.
The Mavericks cap holds are Doug McDermott ($9.9M), Nerlens Noel ($7.9M), Seth Curry ($3.9M), Yogi Ferrell ($2.9M), Aaron Harrison ($1.8M), and Salah Mejri ($1.8M). This number adds up to $28,376,008 in cap holds.
The Mavericks would be wise to make decisions on McDermott and Noel quickly because of their high cap holds.
The last rule that effects a team’s cap is the incomplete roster charge. This charge, which is $831,927 per spot, counts against your team when you have less than the 12 players required to be on your roster.
The Dallas Mavericks’ charge would be $5,823,489 if they kept only their 5 guaranteed contracts but only $2,495,791 if they kept their 4 non-guaranteed contracts as well. Okay, I’m sure that was all very confusing, so let’s see if I can break this down simply for everyone now.
Final Salary Cap Breakdowns
- Maximum Available Cap Space: $101,000,000 – ($59,891,831 + $5,823,489) = $35,284,680
This figure comes from the Total Cap minus the salaries of the team’s guaranteed contracts added to the incomplete roster charge of having only 5 players. This scenario means all of the non-guaranteed contracts would be terminated and all of the cap holds renounced.
2. Minimum Available Cap Space: $101,000,000 – ($59,891,831 + $9,301,435 + $28,376,008 + $2,495,791) = $934,935
This scenario considers the situation where the Mavericks keep all of their non-guaranteed deals AND their cap holds. The numbers added above, in order, are the guaranteed contracts, the non-guaranteed contracts, the cap holds, and the incomplete roster charge of having only 9 players.
3. Likely* Available Cap Space (*These numbers are taken from our own Kohl Rast’s offseason roster projections. The link is included at the end of this article): $101,000,000 – ($59,891,831 + $6,544,951 + $16,741,119 + $4,159,635) = $13,662,464
The Dallas Mavericks’ cap space will most likely be in this $10M-20M range. This number takes into account keeping Dirk and Finney-Smith’s contracts and also keeping the cap holds of McDermott, Curry, and Ferrell. Once again, that cap hold number can decrease even while keeping those players.
In one such scenario, the Mavericks quickly agree to deals with McDermott and Curry for let’s say hypothetically $13M against the cap next season. This would mean a couple of things:
1) Your only remaining cap hold is Ferrell’s at $2.9M and your roster charge decreases from $4.2M to only $2.5M.
2) Because you have retained Ferrell’s Bird Rights, you can actually go over the salary cap to retain him. In other words, regardless of Ferrell’s new deal, you would still have $12,820,535 to go out and sign two new players.
I know all of this seems confusing. That’s because it is confusing and math is hard. Believe me, I was probably more confused trying to write this article than you were reading it.
Next: Kohl's Predictions on the Mavericks Free Agents
Math being the devil aside, I hope this article can help bring some clarity to the upcoming free agency period. I will be providing an update to this article with more concrete figures following the end of the draft.