The Mavs were interested enough in Saric for a Donnie Nelson-led contingent to recently travel to Croatia to scout the skilled 6-foot-10 teen. Saric could have been a fit for the Mavs with the No. 13 on two fronts: He’s a high-potential player who could have been stashed in Europe for a season, keeping him from counting against the salary cap this summer.
Alas, Saric has opted to delay his entry into the draft while he develops for another year, taking perhaps the Mavs’ most attractive draft option off the table. There are still many avenues the Mavs could take with their first lottery pick since 2000.
The Mavs are doing their due diligence in determining the value of the pick, actively engaging in trade discussions with teams around the league. That’s one possible way to keep the pick’s $1.655 million hold from counting against the Mavs’ cap as they try to create enough room to offer a max contract to Dwight Howard or Chris Paul.
(The Mavs technically can’t trade the pick due to the rule forbidding NBA teams from dealing first-round picks in consecutive years due to the protected-through-2017 pick that was part of the Lamar Odom deal/debacle and is now Oklahoma City’s property. But the Mavs can agree in principle on a deal, make the pick for another team and then trade the player.)
The Euro stash is another possibility. German point guard Dennis Schroeder and 7-foot-2 French center/forward Rudy Gobert are among the prospects who have worked out for the Mavs and are projected to be selected in the late lottery or middle of the first round. However, it isn’t clear if either would be interested in delaying the beginning of their NBA career to continue to develop in Europe.
The Mavs could also just pick the best college player available – Syracuse point guard Michael Carter-Williams and UCLA small forward Shabazz Muhammad are big names with Mavs-related buzz -- and address their cap issues in other ways.
The truth is the Mavs don’t yet know what they want to do with the pick.
“It depends on what kind of offers we get,” Mark Cuban told us late last month on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM. “Everyone talks about this being a weak draft, so it depends on who falls to No. 13. We’re not going to make the decision way in advance.
"If we like the person at 13, we’ll keep it and we’ll figure something out elsewhere to free up cap space to get there, but that’ll be an option for us. If our guy doesn’t get there, we’ll look at trading it. … If a guy falls, we’ll be happy to take him and figure out how to work the cap. If no one wants to make a trade for whatever reason, we can maybe get a guy to stash overseas somewhere. If we put him overseas and he doesn’t play, he won’t count against our cap. There are so many different options, and we’ll explore them all.”
The only certainty: Saric won’t be one of those options.
UPDATE: “There’s risk involved," Cuban said Monday on KTCK-AM regarding the Mavs exploring possibilities with their lottery pick. "If somebody falls that we think is going to be a superstar and nobody else does, we’ll make the pick. I don’t think that’s likely. On the flip side, if you look at those teams that are over the tax threshold, they can’t sign-and-trade for a free agent. They only have the mini-mid level to sign and for the first time this year, they get hit higher with a new tax level. There are a lot of issues involved with those teams.
“As a result, the one way that they can inexpensively add decent players is through the draft. There able to trade future draft picks and or current players to get current draft picks, so the value of 13 is considerable. We’ll look at taking future draft picks. We’ll look at moving down and getting multiple draft picks. We’ll look at trading for players that we think are good. There are a lot of opportunities and options that we have.”