Mark Cuban's Dallas Mavericks are actually close to the bottom of the league in payroll, but the owner insists he's willing to spend as he has in the past if it means they'll land a big-time player on the trade market.
Cuban announced his team's intention to look for trades Monday night, after the team's third straight win, as Tim McMahon of ESPN Dallas wrote.
"We're letting everybody know that the "Bank of Cuban" is open," Cuban said Monday night, a couple of days after declaring that there was a "100 percent chance" the Mavs would aggressively pursue trade opportunities before the Feb. 21 deadline."
As a result, the 16-23 Mavs' best chance to make major roster upgrades is probably in the trade market. And Cuban has made it clear that he intends to explore every trade possibility, saying he's poring over rosters and making suggestions to Dallas president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson on a daily basis.
Cuban's teams have typically been amongst the most expensive in the league: they in 2008-2009, they were second in the league in salary with $94 million - over the luxury tax, and $36 million over the league's soft salary cap. That high level of spending held up, and in turn, the team was a contender, winning the NBA Finals in 2011 with the third-highest payroll in the league. But now, their payroll is relatively bare: $59 million, 24th in the league. The championship team featured four players earning more than $10 million in Dirk Nowitzki, Tyson Chandler, Caron Butler, and Jason Terry. Now, they only have three making over $5 million - Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, and Chris Kaman. It would seem the low payroll is less due to Cuban's lack of willingness to spend but rather failures in strategy: the team let Chandler, Butler, and Terry, amongst others, go in hopes of landing a second max player to pair with Nowitzki - namely Deron Williams. But that fell through, and there aren't many max players available: Al Jefferson and Josh Smith are the biggest names likely to enter the free agency market this year.
The good news is that their low salary figure will allow them to bring in big contracts if they chose to do so in free agency. However, it might be too late: they're already 16-23 in a tough Western Conference. That leaves them five games below the eight-seed with nearly half the season in the books. They'll need to be significantly over .500 if they want to make the playoffs, so they'll need to act quickly if they do intend on contending.