Sources: Mavericks might dump Marion, No. 13 pick

DALLAS — Rumors are everywhere insisting the Dallas Mavericks are “close to dumping” Shawn Marion and the No. 13 pick for cap room as part of their pursuit of Chris Paul and/or Dwight Howard. But sources tell that Dallas is remaining flexible in its use of Marion as 1) a possible Mavs keeper, 2) cap-saving bait if needed or 3) a sign-and-trade chip as part of a three-way deal.

Marion could end up staying with the Mavericks for the guaranteed $9.32 million remaining on the final year of his contract if other Mavs opportunities aren’t realized. And there is no reason to dump him prematurely before having a feel for what is on the July 1 free-agency horizon.

A trade of Marion to the Cavaliers (with an exchange of picks 13 and 19)? Cleveland has nowhere near enough cap space to take Marion’s contract right now without sending salary back to Dallas – and Dallas doesn’t want salary back. The Mavs could piece together a June 30 trade that looks something like this: Cleveland sends C.J. Miles’ non-guaranteed contract to Dallas and then sends out another $4 million (Marreese Speights) to a team that could take him without having to send back guaranteed salary.

But that’s not “imminent” because Marion hasn’t yet agreed with the Mavs to pass on his Early Termination Option – a way for him to become a free agent while also forfeiting his $9.32 million guarantee.

Might Marion do so? A source close to him suggested that it’s a consideration (in exchange for a smaller annual salary but three years of security).

Until June 29, Marion can exercise the Early Termination Option and forfeit that final year to become a free agent this summer. If he does not wish to opt out, he may formally decline the ETO, or he can simply fail to exercise it by the deadline date.

Marion could opt out. And if he does, that would eliminate any need to trade him in a cap-clearing move. As this is yet undecided, again, there is no “imminent” trade.

A strong possibility: Marion on June 29 declines his ETO and takes the money – and then faces a small pre-July window during which he can be dealt: On the day of June 30.

If he’s dealt then (to Cleveland or somewhere else) Dallas obtains cap room. But again, Dallas would be premature in clearing room it might not need – and also in losing Marion when he might be needed as a weapon in a sign-and-trade for Paul or Howard.

Could Dallas and Cleveland draft for each other and then come back and make the swap of chosen players, along with Marion, on July 10 or so when the Cavs will have cap room and when Dallas might have a commitment from a free agent? That, in theory, is possible. But it wouldn’t be binding, and would therefore come with inherent risks in waiting.

One problem with trading Marion, or with him exercising his ETO, is the loss of his contract as a sign-and-trade asset. Without his contract, the Mavs would have more cap room, but would only have $6.9 million total in existing non-Dirk Nowitzki contracts. If they land a big fish and want to do a sign-and-trade for him, that lack of enough existing matching salary complicates things.

So is there a way to have Shawn Marion positioned as a weapon ready to fire in multiple directions?


• For example, say the Mavs are somehow able to persuade Dwight Howard to come to Dallas and the acquisition comes in the form of a sign-and-trade. In that case, they’ll need to send out about $15.5 mil in salary to make the match. By including Marion going to Cleveland as part of that sign-and-trade, he would count for $9.3 million of that $15.5 million, and Dallas would only need to send another $6.2 million to the Lakers – or somewhere else. (If all the remaining required $6.2M salary went to the Lakers, it would require the kitchen-sink package of Vince Carter, Jared Cunningham, Jae Crowder, Bernard James and Josh Akognon all going to L.A.)

But if the Lakers said no? Then the Mavs still come out ahead. Marion can still be traded to Cleveland (or wherever), leaving the Mavs plenty of cap room to sign Howard outright rather than trade for him.

• If it’s Chris Paul who is successfully courted, Dallas would have to send out about $13.6 million in total. Marion to a third team could represent $9.32 million of that, with Dallas only needing another $4.2 million (a sign-and-trade away of O.J. Mayo? Carter plus Cunningham?) to the Clippers or elsewhere to complete the swap.

• And even if the Mavs missed on both Howard and Paul, Marion’s contract could be used for any sign-and-trade, if needed, as well as in any trade for a player already under contract, and alone could match up to almost $14 million in incoming salary.

As a pure salary dump, arranging a deal to get rid of Marion’s contract makes no sense. But as a per-arranged part of a sign-and-trade, should the Mavs land a big fish and want to do one, or as an asset for another trade, that adds up.

Our question to a Mavs source: Are we on to something in examining a three-way Marion for cap space/sign-and-trade usage? And could Marion somehow be kept if nothing desirable materializes in free agency?”

“All options are open,” is the affirmative response.