The vultures have begun circling, ready to take advantage of any misguided interest Flip Saunders may have in overpaying for O.J. Mayo.
Dallas doesn’t own Mayo’s bird rights, so a sign-and-trade is not going to happen — meaning Saunders will have to clear enough salary to sign Mayo outright. After waiving Brandon Roy’s $5.3 million deal, it would appear the process has begun.
Opportunists like Mark Cuban would seem to be paying attention.
The Mavs would like to keep Mayo, but all indications are that they won’t be dragged into any bidding wars for him.
Mark Cuban is likely to have a set price in mind for Mayo – the midlevel exception ($5.35 million salary next season) is an educated guess – and wish him well if the shooting-starved Timberwolves or another team offers more.
The Mavs’ priorities this summer are to make upgrades at point guard and center, whether it’s pie-in-the-sky free agents Chris Paul and Dwight Howard or other more likely options. It’s difficult to envision the Mavs committing huge money to a shooting guard who had some great moments during his season in Dallas but was inconsistent and sputtered to the premature finish line.
Minnesota’s interest in Mayo, however, could benefit the Mavs. One of the major decisions Saunders must make this summer is whether the Timberwolves are willing to pay what it takes to keep restricted free agent center Nikola Pekovic, a 6-foot-11, 290-pound 27-year-old who averaged 16.3 points and 8.8 rebounds last season.
The Timberwolves have the right to match any offer for Pekovic and some wiggle room under the salary cap created in part by shedding Brandon Roy’s $5.3 million nonguaranteed salary, but Saunders can’t just be thinking about next season. Can the Timberwolves afford to continue paying Kevin Love’s max deal, re-sign Ricky Rubio to a huge contract in a couple of years, add Mayo and keep Pekovic?
If Mayo is a higher priority than Pekovic in Minnesota, the Mavs might be able to benefit by signing the big man.