Considering that the news that Peja Stojakovic had given the Mavs a verbal commitment to join the team essentially came paired with a report that Dallas would sent Alexis Ajinca to Stojakovic’s old team, the Toronto Raptors, in exchange for no tangible assets at all, it’s not surprising that league officials raised an eyebrow. Regardless, the NBA looked into the specifics of the Ajinca trade and apparently failed to find evidence of collusion; the Mavericks announced today that the deal has been completed, and that in exchange for Ajinca they will receive the rights to Georgios Printezis, who will likely never play in the NBA, and generate an Ajinca-sized $1.5 million trade exception.
Officially, these are two separate and unrelated moves, but unofficially the Mavs sent Ajinca — along with a wink and a nudge — to the Raptors in exchange for Stojakovic, who will cost Dallas far less than his previous annual salary of $15 million. Toronto will foot that bill, while Dallas will likely sign Peja for the league minimum.
Ajinca is a talented big, even if he has yet to find a real NBA home. Charlotte seemed like a poor fit from the very beginning, and though Rick Carlisle gave Ajinca some playing time as a reserve forward and center in Dallas, he was on the court to showcases his abilities for a potential trade, not to establish a long-term place with the Mavs. Ajinca never would have been a Maverick if not for the salary matching required in trades for teams over the salary cap, and Dallas had been shopping Ajinca in hopes of finding him an alternative home.
Toronto could be an interesting opportunity for Ajinca, who isn’t ready to play big minutes in the middle, but paradoxically could benefit from large amounts of playing time. Dallas couldn’t afford to play Ajinca all that much given how much they have at stake, but the Raptors are focused on development and team construction, not competing for a playoff spot. Ajinca could theoretically earn a regular spot in Jay Triano’s rotation, but the pressure is on him to learn the Raps’ system, and prove that he’s worthy of an investment of resources.