ESPNDallas.com will compare the Mavericks and Clippers in five facets -- other than money -- that could play a role in Chris Paul's free agency decision in a one-per-day series: owners/front office, coaches, co-stars, supporting casts and franchise tradition. We'll focus on Dwight Howard next week.
Here’s where the Mavs have to make a heck of a sales pitch.
It wouldn’t be difficult for the Mavs to create enough cap space to give Chris Paul a max deal while keeping Shawn Marion and Vince Carter. That might give the Mavs a chance to be competitive next season, but the opportunity to play with a couple of savvy veterans with expiring contracts isn’t going to convince Paul to leave Los Angeles.
To have any hope, the Mavs must make Paul believe in their ability to build a legitimate contender around him next summer. And that’s where the dollars difference between Dirk Nowitzki and Blake Griffin might matter.
Nowitzki is on record as saying he’ll take a “significant pay cut” when he re-signs with Dallas next year, which guarantees that the Mavs can be major players again in the 2014 free agency market. Griffin’s five-year max deal kicks in next season, starting with a $13.7 million salary that increases by a little more than $1 million each year.
Worry about the semantics of what “significant” means if you wish, but Nowitzki has made it clear that his salary won’t get in the way of the Mavs making major upgrades after his current contract expires. The Clippers won’t have nearly as much flexibility with two max players plus center DeAndre Jordan due to make $21.4 million over the next two seasons.
It’s not enough to get Paul to envision the personnel possibilities in Dallas. The Mavs brass has to get CP3 excited about them. It’s a virtual lock that Dallas will be a preferred destination if Paul is running the point and the Mavs have ample cap space.
The Clippers have a couple of complementary talents in addition to Griffin already locked up. You can argue that Jordan is overpaid, but he’s a young big man with freakish athleticism. Jamal Crawford, who has three years remaining on his midlevel deal, is a perennial Sixth Man of the Year candidate.
The Clippers also have a couple of assets that could be extremely attractive in the trade market this season: restricted free agent-to-be point guard Eric Bledsoe, who is stuck as Paul’s backup but good enough to start for a lot of teams; and the $8 million expiring contract of Caron Butler.
The Clippers’ supporting cast looks better on paper. The Mavs leave a lot more room for the imagination.
EDGE: Clippers, unless Mark Cuban manages to convince CP3 otherwise.