So here is the scenario you will see laid out here and other places over the next couple weeks heading into the trade deadline:
The Dallas Mavericks find a trade partner to take on Shawn Marion’s $8 million contract for next season (without sending any money back), then they amnesty Brandon Haywood, make a couple other small moves and with that they will be far enough under the salary cap this summer to offer max deals to sign both Deron Williams and Dwight Howard to max deals to play along side Dirk Nowitzki.
Sounds promising. But can they do it?
Well, sort of.
They can get close, but they can’t offer full max deals, reports Zach Lowe of The Point Forward at Sports Illustrated, who broke the numbers down in detail.
In short: The Mavs would be able to offer Williams and Howard starting salaries of about $15.95 million each before filling out the rest of the roster using the $2.5 million room exception and the veteran’s minimum salary. The problem: Both Williams and Howard are eligible to earn significantly more than $15.95 million next season….
Howard is earning $18,091,770 this season. Under league rules, if he opts out and becomes a free agent, any team other than Orlando with enough cap space could sign Howard to a four-year deal with a first-year salary of $18,996,358 — or 105 percent of his salary for this season….
The Nets’ star point guard will earn $16,359,805 this season. Like Howard, if Williams opts out and becomes a free agent, he could earn a maximum first-year salary equal to 105 percent of his prior salary — or about $17,177,795. You’ll notice that number is well above the $15.95 million figure mentioned earlier.
Essentially this would have to be a Miami Heat situation, where LeBron James and Dwyane Wade took less money to get the big three together.
New Jersey on the other hand has the cap space to offer Howard a max deal and because they have the Bird rights on Williams (the ability to go over the cap to re-sign their own free agent) he could get a max deal, too. This creates all sorts of ugly luxury tax problems down the line (especially if they keep and give a new deal to Brook Lopez, who is coming to the end of his rookie contract) but the Nets would have their stars.
Williams and Howard, if they really do want to play together, need to figure out what matters most to them in a deal — money, location, a chance to win. And how can they balance all three?