The most popular mailbag question by far continues to be: Will the Dallas Mavericks make a significant deal before the trade deadline?
The answer continues to be: Don’t get your hopes up. I just don’t think the Mavs have the assets to pull off a blockbuster, barring a potential trade partner who just gets desperate to dump salary.
On to some other questions, some of which are on the trade subject.
What do you think of the Mavs making a run at a trade for Larry Sanders? I know the off-court issues, but his interior defense could be just what the Mavs are missing. The veteran leadership the Mavs have in place would seem to suit the young center well. -- Parker (Dallas)
Now that’s an interesting name because he's a talented guy whom the Milwaukee Bucks could be motivated to unload in a salary-dump deal. Sanders is a freakishly athletic big man with defensive player of the year potential, but this season has been an absolute disaster for him on and off the court, and his four-year, $44 million extension kicks in this summer.
Here's a purely speculative three-way deal that would make sense for all parties involved: The Mavs give up the expiring contracts of Shawn Marion (to Houston) and DeJuan Blair (to Milwaukee), the Bucks send Sanders and Ekpe Udoh to Dallas, and Milwaukee also gets Omer Asik.
Sanders, whose baggage includes needing thumb surgery after getting in a barroom brawl earlier this season, comes with one huge question: Does his potential justify the risk?
If the Mavs can get Sanders' head screwed on straight, he's a 6-foot-11, 235-pound 25-year-old who has proven he can be an elite shot-blocker. Physically, he'd be an outstanding fit next to Dirk Nowitzki.
But that's a huge contract for a head case. The due diligence on Sanders for the Dallas front office would surely include discussions with ex-Buck Monta Ellis, who reportedly had issues with Sanders last season.
Sanders certainly has some red flags, but it's not ridiculous to think he could be the most talented player within the Mavs' reach before the trade deadline.
I recently heard that the third year of Monta Ellis' contract (for the 2015-16 season) is actually a player option. If true, it seems likely that he would opt out in search of a longer deal at a higher salary. How would this affect the Mavs' plans going forward? -- Mark (Dallas)
The third season is indeed a player option, and it's hard to imagine that Ellis would decline to test the market again in the summer of 2015 if he continues to perform at this level. The Mavs have to operate under the assumption that they have a two-year window to determine whether Ellis is a foundation piece worthy of making a larger investment in.
If the Mavs are determined to keep Ellis, it shouldn’t be a problem. They'll have his Early Bird rights, which would allow them to exceed the cap by signing Ellis to a deal that starts at 175 percent of his salary the previous season.
Here's another very interesting name. How much would be too much for the small-market Pacers to pay? How much luxury tax can Indiana's ownership stomach?
Stephenson isn't a star, but he's a 23-year-old who does a lot of different things to help his team win, averaging 14.2 points, 7.0 rebounds, 5.3 assists and playing outstanding defense.
Two comparable players are Portland's Nicolas Batum (four years, $46.1 million) and Golden State's Andre Iguodala (four years, $48 million). Not sure if that's enough to outbid the Pacers, but it'd be a price worth paying for Stephenson.
With Devin Harris back, do they have a chance to slow down the quicker guards that have been killing them this year? -- @iamcolc (on Twitter)
They've at least got some hope. Harris is by far the Mavs’ best defender in the backcourt, which is kind of like calling somebody the toughest guy in the choir. Rick Carlisle made it clear that he doesn't plan on inserting Harris in the starting lineup any timesoon, but it wouldn't be surprising if he closes out a lot of games, particularly against the better offensive point guards.
Should Jason Kidd's jersey be retired by the Mavs? -- Daniel (Austin, Texas)
Yes. The championship wouldn’t have been possible without him, and he spent a good chunk of his career here. That qualifies for putting his number in the American Airlines Center rafters. The same logic applies to Jason Terry and Shawn Marion.