The Dallas Mavericks took one step forward by trading for Christian Wood, but then took another step back by losing Jalen Brunson to the New York Knicks in free agency.
Although it appeared that the Knicks would simply sign Brunson into their cap space, there’s still a chance that it could develop into a sign-and-trade situation … which would be music to the Mavs’ ears.
The Knicks, after trading Kemba Walker to the Detroit Pistons to clear cap space, initially agreed to another trade with the Pistons that would basically salary-dump Alec Burks and Nerlens Noel. Since that deal hasn’t been finalized yet, paired with the fact that Brunson’s signing wasn’t made official on Wednesday despite the NBA’s moratorium period being lifted, this informs us that the Mavs are working with both the Pistons and Knicks to get in on a three-team sign-and-trade deal - or maybe a four-team deal that allows Nets involvement. ... and brings up the idea of acquiring Kyrie Irving or Ben Simmons.
Trade 1 — The Bare Minimum
Knicks receive: Jalen Brunson
Pistons receive: Alec Burks, Nerlens Noel, NYK second-round picks
Mavs receive: Traded Player Exception (TPE) of $12 million
This route benefits all sides, as Dallas gets a TYPE that can be used later on if an opportunity presents itself, New York can operate as an above-the-cap team, and Detroit would still have around $8 million in cap space remaining afterwards. However, the parties involved could get a little more creative here, and that could be why the official announcements of these deals are taking a bit longer than others.
Trade 2 — Swapping Pieces Around
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Knicks receive: Jalen Brunson
Pistons receive: Tim Hardaway Jr.
Mavs receive: Alec Burks, Nerlens Noel
Different pieces can be swapped in and out here, but you get the idea. Detroit reportedly had interest in Hardaway last summer. Would they still be interested now? Would the Mavs like somebody like Detroit's Saben Lee? Should the Mavs want the TPE vs. trading Hardaway after a down year? If so, how about trying to make that TPE even bigger to expand the possibilities?
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Trade 3 — The TPE Trade, Plus Some
This idea is pretty much identical to Trade 1, but with the Mavs sending more salary out (like Josh Green, for example), to make the TPE closer to $15 million. A move like this would open up the possibility of taking in a player like Patrick Beverley, Garry Harris or Malik Beasley, to name a few. The movement of the TPE allows flexibility, and allows the Mavs to involve Brooklyn, and in its efforts to move off of Irving or Simmons, there can be a match here. ... at which point we're at Trade Idea 4, 5, 6 ...
A 2-for-1 trade, by the way, might explain why there wasn't room for Dallas to add Goran Dragic. That's a background wrinkle. But moving forward? Adding Josh Green to the pile could potentially make a match for a Harrison Barnes, a Bogdon Bogdanovic, a Jae Crowder or a Myles Turner. The 125-percent rule means a way to trade pieces that "trade-match'' with even Irving or Simmons. Yes, we're aware of the gossip that Dallas doesn't love the Irving idea. But do the Mavs love it more than getting nothing for the departing Brunson?
What's being explored is all about flexibility, for the Knicks and the Mavs. Done a certain way, a team can get room to take salary without actually matching. At its essence, the multi-team sign-and-trade gives elbow room to all involved to expand their ability to operate in the trade market, for names big and small. Whether the Mavs end up getting something from Brunson’s exit to New York or not, it’s apparent that GM Nico Harrison is trying to make the most of a crummy situation — the more talent, and the more flexibility, the better.