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Could the Dallas Mavericks Land Chris Paul and Dwight Howard?
The free agency crop at an initial glance figures to be loaded with veteran talent. There is no shortage of teams that could position themselves to make one or two big moves. Among the favorites is the Dallas Mavericks. Their owner Mark Cuban is never shy about spending money if its worth the investment. Would he sign off on an aggressive play for point guard Chris Paul and center Dwight Howard.
The Dirk Nowitzki factor
One thing potentially standing in the way of a real Dallas free agent run is their longtime superstar Dirk Nowitzki. The future Hall of Fame power forward eats up a lot of their salary cap next season with $22 million on the payroll. Any Maverick fan would say its money well spent but since he turns 36 this year and his place in history is secure, his goal at this point should be about winning another championship. So would the veteran consider taking a pay cut? News broke earlier in the month the team leader was "very open" to the idea.
As it stands the Mavericks will sit about $22 million under the soft salary cap next year. Given how the new Collective Bargaining Agreement has created much stiffer luxury tax penalties for teams who go over it, that means if Dallas wanted to sign a another star to a max contract they could. However, if Dirk took say a $10 million pay cut that would give the Mavericks enough space to sign two max contracts and still have enough space left over to fill out the rest of the roster with good depth.
Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers in real binds
Two players that will play big roles in how the market shapes up are Howard and Paul. Arguably the best at their respective positions, both have been in the NBA for between 7 and 9 years. That means they will command a contract of $11 million in 2013-2014. For the Los Angeles Lakers this is not good news. They already sit well over the salary cap and face a stiff luxury tax fine. To top it off they aren't sure when Kobe Bryant will return healthy from his Achilles injury. So when Howard announced he might exercise his right to leave next year for a team that fits him better, it set off alarms in the Laker fan base. Losing Howard would completely blow up their teams' plans for the future and force them to start from scratch with a roster that won't see a first round pick this season because of trades.
The Los Angeles Clippers meanwhile should have the money to bring back Paul. A lingering question is does he want to come back? The team clearly runs through his wide skill set but after the firing of head coach Vinny Del Negro there is an element of unknown surrounding the Clippers that veteran players don't like. Two-straight early playoff exist only make that worse. A lot of people thought this season was the one where the Clippers would take that next step. Instead they bowed out in the first round to a Memphis Grizzlies team that is about to get swept by the San Antonio Spurs. So how good is Los Angeles really? Paul may not want to stick around and find out. His quest for a ring is entering its eighth season. He might want to join a franchise that has the blueprint to win one.
The power of Big Threes
Over the past five seasons a major truth has asserted itself around the NBA. The best teams are formed around a trio of stars. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh with the Miami Heat are obviously the standard being the defending champions. Then again, the team that brought that strategy back to the forefront were the Boston Celtics when they teamed Kevin Garnett with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. It won't guarantee a championship but it will offer plenty of chances.
So what would a Nowitzki, Paul, and Howard trio look like? A diverse, dangerous combination if anything. As a floor general Paul would have his pick of plays to run what with Howard commanding attention in the paint and Nowitzki still a dangerous threat from anywhere on the court. For an idea of what their impact would've looked like this season, here is what their collective efforts showed on average during the regular season: 50 points, 19 rebounds, 12 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks. It's also worth noting Howard and Nowitzki both played much of the season hurt. Getting that kind of production from three starters every night is something teams can only hope for. If Dallas could then add a scorer in the draft their starting lineup along with Shawn Marion (12 points and 7 rebounds in '12-'13) would look as formidable as any in the league, let alone the Western Conference.
It is just a question of money and of negotiations.