Posted: 3:40 p.m. Wednesday, July 24, 2013
By Kirk Henderson
The entire discussion of asset valuation was started by Andy Tobo months ago, when it became clear to everyone that "Plan Powder" had a very low success probability. Now it's all the rage in Mavsland to talk assets, particularly in reference to all the new players Dallas signed this off-season. I've see the term asset tossed about frequently, and almost always with some positive value attached to the word.
I think we all need to take a step back and examine what an asset is, at least in reference to a basketball team. I want to preface this by noting that I am not an expert, but that my wife works for a mutual fund, so I hear a lot at home about asset management and the values placed on securities like debt or equity.
Where I get rankled is when folks tell me that every single player is an asset. It's true that every player on the Dallas roster IS an asset. But we're looking at the wrong things and asking the wrong questions. What sort of value does that asset have? Is that value just to Dallas or would the asset be valuable on the open market? Is there a chance at an increase or decrease in value over the time of the contract?
These things matter a great deal, and we aren't considering them as much as we should. It's worth considering what the value of these players mean, both for this season (on the basketball court and in the locker room), but also moving forward as Dallas tries to assemble a team with upside. These are my opinions on some of the roster, so please let me know where you think I'm wrong or misguided in the comments. I'm usually very open to persuasion.
The most valuable assets, in the most conventional use of the word, on the Dallas roster are Brandan Wright and Vince Carter. Wright, with his brilliant contract and reasonable upside, is an attractive piece for anyone looking for a young post player to round out a rotation. He's probably not a starter, but to get a rotation big man who helps on both ends of the floor for $5 million is a steal. Carter is also appealing, particularly for contending teams in need of a shooter on rental (this is the final year of his contract). These players also hold a great deal of value in Dallas: Wright for his scoring punch off the bench and Carter for his leadership and play making.
Of the newer additions, Samuel Dalembert is quite the asset -- to Dallas. He may not be valuable as a trade piece, but his contract should match up well with his productivity, a rare thing in professional sports. It's also short enough to not cause Dallas any long term issues should something unforeseen arise. Jose Calderon is an excellent addition for Dallas, but his value, again, is to mainly to the Mavericks. At $7 million per year, his value as a trade asset declines with each year, because age matters. Devin Harris, if he actually signs, would be a brilliant signing for Dallas, but I assume his contract will be too cheap to have any useful trade value. That's okay with me though, because he brings some immeasurable things to the Dallas rotation.
Monta Ellis is the biggest question mark. David Lord of DallasBasketball.com reports that Monta's deal is three years for $25 million (not 3 for $30 million), with year three being a player option. If he plays poorly, trading a deal worth $8 million is challenging but not impossible, particularly if that player has an opt out. If Monta somehow fits well and bucks his frustrating tendencies, Monta will look like a good price for his deal, becoming valuable not just to Dallas, but to teams looking for an additional piece.
Dallas does have is options to improve the team; I want to be very clear on this point. I just don't think the Mavericks have a bright a future as others. It's going to take a lot of luck for Dallas to be anything other than a 7 or 8 seed during Dirk's twilight years. I don't care for the idea of "well if player X doesn't work out, we'll just trade him." I understand there's a history of weird trades in the NBA, a lot of them recent. While I believe Dallas could find a trade partner if they wanted to dump poorly performing assets, keep in mind the most recent Golden State Warriors example meant giving up draft picks to Utah to take on the cost. I hate hate HATE giving up draft picks, mainly because Dallas is fighting a decline. Any draft picks forfeited in a trade is a mortgage on the future and it would have to be VERY beneficial to Dallas for me to like any deal that included sending away picks. This is the world we live in with the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
We have learned that cap space is not an asset in and of itself, so by that measure, going out and getting some of the players they did, I think we can say the front office has taken some steps in the right direction. I've gotten killed in the comments for not loving every move that's been made, and I still reserve the right to be skeptical. But I do appreciate what they are trying to do, even if I think we're on a long and winding road to stagnation.
The Mavericks DO have assets. These assets have value, but that value is often different to the team compared to what is valued on the trade market. This distinction is important , and we cannot automatically assume every asset has a positive value. The player, the contract amount, the contract length... all of these things have to be considered when talking about the value of an asset.
**Writer's edit - It's been pointed out that I make no mention of Marion. I think he's fantastic, but his value is primarily in Dallas. He contributes to the team AND his contract is up at year's end. Unless they are getting back a player they want for his $9 million plus deal (with 15% trade kicker). Dallas is one of the few teams gunning for space next year, so I don't see him moving. This was mainly meant to be about the framework of the conversation as opposed to specific players anyway.