Other than a certain four-time scoring leader, Rick Carlisle could have been the most impactful NBA free agent next summer.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is smart enough to make sure that isn't going to happen.
As reported by ESPN.com's Marc Stein, the Dallas Mavericks and Carlisle are close to agreeing on a five-year contract extension for the coach who is entering the final year of his current deal. Cuban has typically allowed coaches to finish their contracts before negotiating a new deal, but that would have been a foolish approach with a coach who helped deliver a title to Dallas and has patiently rolled with the punches of the front office's decision-making since that championship parade.
It's not as if Carlisle, who is two wins shy of breaking Don Nelson's franchise record for coaching victories, has anything left to prove to his boss. He is without question one of the elite coaches in the NBA, as evidenced by the underdog title run in 2011 and playoff appearances with patchwork rosters the past two seasons. There's no logical reason for the Mavs to pause on paying the man market value.
There is, however, really good reason to get Carlisle locked up right now, assuming he wouldn't want to discuss an extension once the season starts. The Mavs probably wouldn't have had an exclusive negotiating window if they waited.
Money wouldn't have been a problem for Cuban, who has never shied away from spending whatever he deemed necessary to maximize the Mavs' chance to contend for championships. Cuban could have won a bidding war for Carlisle.
But dollars might not have been the deciding factor for Carlisle. The chance to upgrade rosters could have been, considering the constant turnover in Dallas since 2011.
For the sake of discussion, let's say the Cleveland Cavaliers fall short of a title in the second season of LeBron James' second stint with his hometown team. Why wouldn't the Cavs seriously consider upgrading from NBA novice David Blatt to Carlisle?
There has been a lot of talk about the arranged marriage between James and Blatt, an awkward relationship for a superstar who often didn't seem to respect his coach. That surely wouldn't be an issue for Carlisle, who more than earned James' respect by delaying the coronation of the king's Miami super team with a masterful coaching performance in the 2011 NBA Finals.
And you're crazy if you think Carlisle's competitive fires wouldn't have been stoked by the chance to coach the greatest player of this generation with a strong supporting cast.
What if the Washington Wizards don't take the next step this season with Randy Wittman, a coach with a career winning percentage that would be a poor field-goal percentage? The opportunity to work with a foundation of a premier backcourt just entering its prime in John Wall and Bradley Beal could have been awfully appealing to Carlisle.
Neither of those scenarios will pick up any steam now, not after Cuban made his smartest basketball decision in years, preventing a competitive market developing next summer for one of the league's best coaches.