- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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Perhaps the Mavs can make Chandler a promise: They’ll eventually sign him to a market-value deal, whether it’s with the intention to keep him in Dallas or send him to a contender.
That contender would be the Los Angeles Clippers. Of course, the Clippers would prefer to keep DeAndre Jordan, the third-team All-NBA big man who ranks right up there with perennial All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge as the Mavs’ top targets in free agency. However, Jordan intends to consider all of his options and has privately made it clear that he’s highly intrigued by the possibility of coming to Dallas as a featured attraction for the Mavs.
A sign-and-trade swap of the centers, which has been mentioned in Mavs front-office offseason brainstorming sessions, would make a lot of sense for all of the involved parties.
Jordan has all the leverage in this situation. If he decides to leave Lob City, Clippers coach and president of basketball operations Doc Rivers would be crazy not to cooperate in this scenario. It’s the only way the Clippers could get a legitimate replacement for Jordan next season.
The Clippers are essentially capped out heading into the summer, leaving them with only the mid-level exception to fill the massive void in the middle if Jordan leaves. That’s a fraction of what an average starting center will command this summer, much less a big man of Chandler’s quality.
But if the Clippers take advantage of owning Jordan’s Bird rights, they could potentially plug in Chandler. He’s not quite the rebounder, finisher or rim protector that Jordan is, but Chandler isn’t a drastic downgrade in any of those departments and is a tremendous leader with championship experience. The Clippers, who were a historic comeback away from advancing to the Western finals this season, could certainly contend with Chandler complementing superstars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.
The Mavs want to do right by Chandler, who has been the epitome of a class act during his two one-season stints in Dallas -- first as the finishing piece of their championship puzzle in 2010-11 and again last season, when the team wasn’t nearly as successful but the big man was every bit as productive and professional. But that doesn’t mean the Mavs’ motives for a sign-and-trade would be purely unselfish.
Dallas would insist that the Clippers also take reserve point guard Raymond Felton, who was the Tyson Tax in last summer’s trade with the New York Knicks. Felton earned a lot of respect from the Mavs with his approach last season, when the longtime starter stayed ready despite playing sparingly, but they’d still like to dump his $3.9 million salary after he officially exercises his player option for next season.
The Mavs could make much better use of that money. For example, it could go to Al-Farouq Aminu, the 24-year-old reserve forward who will be on the market again after his breakout second half of the season for the Mavs, who signed the former lottery pick last summer as a minimum-salaried reclamation project. Keeping Aminu, an athletic, versatile defender who is still developing, would be a critical move for Dallas.
With the Clippers operating over the cap, Felton’s salary is basically pocket change for megabillionaire owner Steve Ballmer.
The benefits for Jordan would be to give his new team maximum roster flexibility and do a favor for his former team on the way out of town.
For Chandler, this swap would provide him a chance to be paid handsomely while competing for a championship in his native Southern California with old friend and former New Orleans Hornets teammate Paul. If Jordan doesn’t choose Dallas -- or if Mark Cuban and Co. lands Aldridge instead -- the Mavs would welcome Chandler back with open arms and a market-value contract.
Wouldn’t that be a win-win scenario worth waiting for?