luka doncic

Julio Cortez / AP

Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) reacts after a play during the first half in Game 4 of the NBA basketball finals against the Boston Celtics, Friday, June 14, 2024, in Dallas.

The general manager of the Dallas Mavericks insists that money is not an object, which is always so much fun to say when it’s not your money.

He will soon discover if this statement is correct.

For Nico Harrison’s former boss, money could be as heavy as a Stonehenge rock. Mark Cuban would throw around his money, but the devils on both shoulders served as a fun governor.

We are not exactly sure about the fun governor on the new governor of the Mavericks. With the Mavs’ season over, we will now begin to see what category new owner Patrick Dumont and the Las Vegas Sands Corp. fit into.

Will Dumont be the type of owner who throws money into the Texas wind to pursue high-priced players in the hopes of winning an NBA title? Or, will Dumont and the Las Vegas Sands Corp. view the Mavericks as an asset in a portfolio whose value is determined by red or black ink, and stay under the threshold?

Stupid spending season begins June 30.

The Dallas Mavericks and the NBA’s salary cap

Cuban wanted to win, but it had to be at the right price. He did not like going over the NBA’s salary cap threshold, which features a punitive tax on teams bold enough to blow money.

Not long after the Mavericks won the NBA title in 2011, the league locked out the players in a contract dispute. When the lockout ended, the new rules featured a luxury tax that Cuban insisted he understood while the rest of the league’s owners did not.

That tax was one of the reasons the team elected not to be aggressive in keeping certain players, specifically center Tyson Chandler. Since that cap threshold was implemented in ‘11, the Mavs have been over it twice.

In fairness to Cuban, he did try to spend some of that surplus cash on top free agents such as DeAndre Jordan, Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, Deron Williams, and a few others. They all passed.

Cuban was right in realizing that going over the NBA salary cap is expensive; where he missed is the willingness of his fellow owners to do just that.

History shows that teams that think “they are close” will over spend to win a trophy.

In the 2023-24 season, the Golden State Warriors had the largest payroll in NBA history, $208 million. The Boston Celtics paid just under $40 million in NBA salary cap “penalties.”

The eight NBA franchises over the tax threshold this season all featured rosters with high-end players on teams that thought they could win a title.

The Mavs were not one of those eight, and now they are one of the teams that are “close.” Since 2012, “close” teams normally win at least one championship.

Since 2012, two teams that went to the NBA Finals have not win a title: the 2012 Oklahoma City Thunder, and the 2021 Phoenix Suns. (Because their rosters were dramatically different after the LeBron James’ era, you can add the 2020 and ‘23 Miami Heat to this list.)

“We’ve got the pieces,” Harrison said Friday. “We need to get better ourselves. The core is intact. Our top seven players, I don’t see anything happening with them.”

The series against the Celtics showed his team needs a little bit more. He needs a shooter or two. He will need to spend some money.

A test for the Mavericks new owners

Since the Las Vegas Sands Corp. bought the team from Cuban in late November of 2023, we don’t know a lot about Dumont and his “style.”

We do know they will raise ticket prices. We do know that Dumont does not have the relationship with the microphone and camera the way Cuban did.

And we know that Dumont’s mother-in-law loves the Republican party.

Typically new ownership groups fall into a pattern; they buy the team, immediately become enamored with the idea of winning a trophy, and will spend money like a bride-to-be. Eventually, the owners grow tired of the stupid spending and slow it down.

Locally, we saw this when Cowboys owner Jerry Jones spent so much he lobbied the NFL to create a rule to protect himself from himself; something called a “salary cap.”

We’ve seen it twice with the Texas Rangers; when they were owned by Tom Hicks, and again by Ray Davis and Bob Simpson. Hicks also did it with the Dallas Stars.

Dumont and the Las Vegas Sands Corp. bought a team that is so close to winning an NBA title. And their GM says “money is not going to be an object.”

With Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving on the books for nearly $40 million each next season, the Mavericks are expected to be over the salary cap for 2024-25. But there is room to add a real player, or two.

The NBA’s postseason is over, and its stupid season is here. We will soon find out if money is an object.

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