The defending champion Dallas Mavericks have been uncharacteristically quiet as free agency in the NBA has reached a fever pitch over the past few days. The team that notoriously has been willing to spend into luxury tax territory hasn’t been connected to any of the top free agents, and in fact, seemed simply uninterested in re-signing Caron Butler (heading to the Clippers) or Tyson Chandler (likely on his way to the Knicks).
Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas emailed Cuban to ask what was up, and Cuban responded with a detailed and thoughtful answer. Basically, it comes down to the fact that with the changes in the new collective bargaining agreement, Cuban doesn’t believe it’s smart financially to extend everyone and be locked into the same team for the next five years. Some of the relevant passages:
The reality is that in the new system, cap room will have far more value than it had in the past. I realize that everyone is all freaked out about how and where free agents and future free agents are going, but it’s not just about getting one guy.
We are not saving cap room in hope of that one super special free agent being there. It’s about being in the position to improve every year and possibly add some significant, younger players next year and in future years.
What I don’t think people understand is that once a team hits the tax level the ability to improve our team is reduced dramatically. In addition, your ability to make trades is reduced. So basically, if we made the move to keep everyone together with five-year deals, the team we have today is going to be the team we have for the next five years. If we were a young team it would be one thing. But we are not a young team.
In the past, it was different. If we had a problem, I could fix any mistake by having Donnie find a trade and just taking on more money. … That trick doesn’t work any more for teams over the tax. So we have to change our approach.
Sounds like Cuban is actually on the right track here, which is interesting considering his admitted reputation for continuing to throw money at the team’s personnel issues in search of an eventual solution.
But just because Cuban understands the new system and seems to playing within the new rules the right way doesn’t mean he likes it. He told a Dallas radio station on Friday that he was one of five owners who voted against the new collective bargaining agreement — which is also of note because it was supposed to be the small-market owners who didn’t like the deal, not the big spenders like the Mavericks.
If nothing else comes out of the new agreement (competitive balance certainly won’t), the new luxury tax rules that go into effect in its third year are doing their job of scaring owners like Cuban from conducting business as they have in the past.
“If we were able to sign everyone to two-year deals that would have possibly changed things as well, but that wasn’t in the cards either,” Cuban said.