Do the Mavericks have a chance at top free agents?

DALLAS — A working thesis: The Mavs’ No. 1 free-agency target this summer is Chris Paul. Besides moving Heaven and Earth to bring the stellar point guard to Dallas, what financial moves would the Mavs need to make in order to clear the room for a max contract? If you know the way the rules work, it’s easier than you think:

On July 1, Dwight Howard hits the free-agent market. So does Chris Paul. At this point, the Dallas Mavericks are wisely not playing their hand in regard to which player they prefer … and as pipedreamy as it is, we think it’s even worth spending the time to consider the dollars, cents and moving parts to attempting to acquire both.

We know, we know. Ridiculous. But we’ll roll up our sleeves and put in the work, just in case, OK?

For the moment, let’s theorize that Dallas has to choose which doorstep to plant itself on come midnight July 1. For the moment, let’s theorize that the lucky potential partner is Paul.

(We’re very comfortable with that Paul-over-Dwight “educated guess,” for what it’s worth.)

Assuming he’s truly willing to depart the Clippers (possibly folly given his existing employer’s ability to guarantee him a fifth contractual year) … What would Dallas have to do to make room for him?

We’ve calculated the maximum four-year deal for Paul to total $83 million and to start at $18.666 million.

From there, you will find it’s a surprisingly easy fit to near the $18 million range:

Option 1: Keep the five players Dallas presently has under commitment (Nowitzki, Marion, Carter, Cunningham, Crowder); keep the 13th pick; and waive the two non-guaranteed players James and Akognon.

a) If they NBA cap is at $58.044 million, Dallas has room to spend $16,232,171 on one player. (Meaning another move — like the giveaway of Carter — is necessary. Or Paul agrees to take less than the max.)

b) If the NBA cap is at 60 million, Dallas has room to spend $18,188,171 on one player (and you are very close to Paul’s max.)

Option 2: Keep the five players under commitment (Nowitzki, Marion, Carter, Cunningham, Crowder), get rid of 13th pick, and waive the two non-guaranteed players.

a) With a $58.044 million cap, there is room to spend $17,397,291 on one player (again, the need for a “minor” move.)

b) With a $60 million cap, there is room to spend $19,353,291 on one player.

There are some misunderstandings about Dallas’ “commitments” and “aging roster” and such. Maybe this clear’s that up:

Mavs Player Do-Nothing Obligations  
Dirk $22,721,381  
Marion $9,316,796  
Carter $3,180,000  
Cunningham $1,208,400  
B. James $788,872  
No. 1 pick $1,655,300  
4 cap holds @ $490,180 each  
Total $42 million  

You see the total. It adds up to about $42 mil — down from $46 million with the news that Mayo is opting out of his $4.2 million — and with a cap guesstimate of $58-60 mil, yes that leaves in the range of $18 million.

What we’re discussing here — a continuation of Dallas’ pursuit dating back to July 12, 2010, when reported exclusively on the Mavs’ “kitchen-sink” trade offer to the Hornets for Paul — is an example of what “Plan Powder” has always been about. Acquire a player like Paul without necessarily further dismantling the club. Improve drastically in 2013-14, and then next summer when Dirk’s contract is expired, re-up him at a reduced rate and create even more room to add the next piece — aided by the recruiting skills of Chris Paul.

You now have the thesis. You now have the numbers. Next step: How the Mavs execute this pursuit of their “pipedream.”