Mavs Add Blair and Frontcourt Depth

30 07 2013

BlairMavs

He may have no knees, but he has better knees than another big man the Mavs were pursuing.

The Dallas Mavericks have come to terms on a one-year deal worth $1.4 million (the veteran’s minimum) with DeJuan Blair, according to Marc Stein of ESPN.

The 6-7, 270 lb. power forward/center was drafted No. 37 out of Pittsburgh by the San Antonio Spurs in 2009 and fell that low due to the fact that he has no ACLs in both of his knees. Even though this seems like it would be a cause of concern, he has had a fairly healthy career during his four years with the Spurs, missing only three games during his first three seasons.

Blair has career averages of 7.8 ppg and 5.8 rpg on 52.8 percent shooting from the field. He also has averaged only 18.9 mpg during his four seasons, showing his ability to make an impact with minimal minutes. The 24-year-old bruiser’s per 36-minute stats last season were 13.9 points and 9.7 rebounds on 52.4 percent shooting, according to Basketball Reference. He is known for his scrappy play, rebounding and ability to just find a way to get the ball in the basket. Last season, 81.1 percent of Blair’s shots came in the restricted area or painted non-RA for the Spurs and shot 57.3 percent in these areas. What this means is that Blair does most of his damage in the paint off put-backs or broken plays.

The major downside to Blair’s play is his defense. He may work his tail off on every play, but that’s often not enough when it comes to playing against seven footers in the NBA. Being about as tall as most small forwards, Blair struggles to hold his own against much taller opponents who can shoot over the top of him. Since Brandan Wright (6-9) is also undersized for his position, head coach Rick Carlisle will need to make sure his rotations have enough size on the floor or things could get ugly on defense.

As Mavs fans have grown to love about their own Wright, Blair has always been ready to play, not worrying about his role or how many minutes he gets. (With a coach like Carlisle, who doesn’t care about those things as well, that’s a good quality for a Mav.)

Just take last year’s NBA Playoffs. Due to Tiago Splitter‘s emergence as the starting center, Blair eventually fell almost completely out of Gregg Popovich‘s rotation. That’s why his minutes dropped from 21.3 two seasons ago to 14.0 last season. After only playing trash time in the first two games against the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round, Blair got 14 and 19 minutes in Game 3 and 4, scoring 13 points  in both games on 12-of-15 shooting. He also added 12 total boards.

Even though he didn’t receive consistent minutes during a run to the Finals after being the team’s main center early in his career, Blair didn’t show any sort of frustration or discontent. This team-first attitude is something any organization going in any direction wold be happy to have in the locker room. As Popovich mentioned when asked about Blair falling out of his rotation last season, “To his credit, DeJuan has been a true pro.”

With this signing, it seems that the Mavs have taken themselves out of the Greg Oden race or Oden told them that they were out of the race, so they moved on to Blair. Even if there are those out there that say the Mavs are still in the race, I don’t see Dallas as Oden’s likely destination. It will probably be the New Orleans Pelicans or Miami Heat—teams that can offer him money with no pressure or the chance to win now.

Unlike Oden, who hasn’t played an NBA game since 2009, Blair hasn’t missed a substantial amount of games yet. Oden’s ceiling may be higher than Blair’s, but Blair has a higher floor.

With a higher floor, Blair gives the Mavs a proven rebounder and competitor. For a team whose leading rebounder was their small forward (Shawn Marion) last season, rebounding was clearly an issue. Dallas had a rebounds per game differential of -3.7, which was third worst in the NBA. By bringing in Samuel Dalembert and Blair, the team should be more respectable on the boards.

Dallas management clearly missed out on all their “big fish” targets these past two seasons; however, they do deserve credit for their ability to fill out the roster while maneuvering around the cap line and put together pieces that make the Mavericks a potential playoff team. Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson should be criticized for the “plan powder dry” approach but praised for finding economically-savvy answers to their roster problems. (The only exception this offseason is Jose Calderon, who was given too long of a contract.) On paper, they have their answers: pass-first point guard (Calderon), No. 2 scorer (Monta Ellis) and low-post defensive presence (Dalembert). And they didn’t go over the cap to fill these needs.

Now it’s just time to see these pieces fit together and give Dirk another shot at a postseason run.

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Mavericks Current Depth Chart

21 07 2013

bernard blocking ellis

With the recent re-signing of second-year center Bernard James after he cleared waivers, the Dallas Mavericks now have 13 of their 15 roster spots filled. Here’s where things currently stand:

 

PG — Jose Calderon, Gal Mekel, Shane Larkin

SG — Monta Ellis, Vince Carter, Wayne Ellington, Ricky Ledo

SF — Shawn Marion, Jae Crowder

PF — Dirk Nowitzki, Brandan Wright (pending)

C — Samuel Dalembert, Bernard James

 

Possibilities for the last two roster spots: Devin Harris (very likely), Leandro Barbosa, Greg Oden, D.J. Stephens, Drew Gooden, Tyrus Thomas, Jackie Carmichael, Ivan Johnson, Josh Akognon

 

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2013-2014 Mavs Contract Commitments: What’s Next?

25 06 2013

 

 

 

# - free agent for summer 2013
! - restricted free agent for summer 2013
() - amount free agent counts against the 2013-2014 cap until 
he is re-signed, renounced, or signs with another team

  Dirk Nowitzki       $22,720,000
  Shawn Marion         $9,320,000
  Brendan Haywood      $9,070,000  [amnestied, doesn't count 
                                    against cap]
  Vince Carter         $3,180,000  (if team picks up option)
  O.J. Mayo            $4,200,000  (if Mayo does not opt-out)
  Jared Cunningham     $1,243,080
  Jae Crowder            $789,000
 !Darren Collison     ($3,342,175  qualifying offer)
 !Rodrigue Beaubois   ($3,256,361  qualifying offer)
 #Chris Kaman       
 #Anthony Morrow     
 #Elton Brand    
 #Brandan Wright
 #Mike James
 #Bernard James
 #Josh Akognon     

 

 

As you can see from the contract commitments above, other than Dirk, Marion, Cunningham and Crowder (and the team is currently looking to trade Marion and get rid of that contract), the Dallas Mavericks could potentially look completely different from last year…something that has become the norm since they won the championship in 2011.

Once July 1 arrives and free agency has officially begun, Mark Cuban is going to first go after Dwight Howard and then go after Dwight Howard and finally go after Dwight Howard. (Chris Paul is going to re-sign with the Clippers…just forget about the possibility.) If things go as I expect them to, Howard will either give Lakertown another chance or, more likely, go to Houston in order to play with a rising James Harden rather than a declining Dirk.

After that happens, Cuban and General Manager Donnie Nelson MUST move forward with “PLAN B” and not “Plan Powder Dry” as they have done the past two summers. It’s time for Dirk to get another chance in the playoffs. No more one-year deals for deteriorating veterans and players that haven’t lived up to their potential. This team needs a spark—an actual NBA player that other teams would like to have on their team.

So, I see Monta Ellis and Andrew Bynum as “PLAN B.” With the market not being too interested in Ellis because of his inability to impact the game in more than one way (scoring), Mavs could snag him for three years at an affordable price. He could become a valuable scoring punch off the bench and serve a specific and necessary role. Dallas could also get Bynum on a one-year deal since every single person in the league is worried about a 7-footer coming off surgery on BOTH of his knees. Well, and his attitude is obviously a part of the gamble. But it’s a risk the Mavs can and need to take. He is potentially an 18pts-10rbs kind of guy—with healthy knees and healthy brains cells. At the right price, he’s the right move…even if J.J. Barea wouldn’t agree with me. Signing these two stars (not superstars) would allow Dallas to have the money, with the promised pay-cut from Dirk, in the summer of 2014 to sign one of the many elite players that will be available.

Andre Iguodala is also an intriguing player since he just exercised his early termination option with the Nuggets and will be an unrestricted free agent. Instead of Ellis, the Mavs could pair Iggy with Bynum for next year’s squad. Iguodala can be clumped with Shawn Marion in the group of wing players that don’t get enough credit for the impact they have on all aspects of the game. However, I see him taking less money to go play for a contender, which is something Dallas isn’t. Weird, right?

And then moving down the ladder, “PLAN C” consists of some almost-stars. The Mavs could go after Jose Calderon, Tony Allen, Brandon Jennings (restricted free agent), Nikola Pekovic, Greg Oden (stop laughing), Al Jefferson, Tyreke Evans (RFA) or Jarrett Jack. It just depends on the price and if the team picks up someone from a plan higher in the alphabet.

In the end, though, I have no idea what Cuban is going to do. During his time in the Big D, he has been known to have ideas up his sleeves no one—including the team’s beat writers and the NBA “breaking news” journalists—saw coming. He finds ways to convince players to come to town and owners to make moves that other teams’ managements wouldn’t dream of attempting.

So, let’s sit back uneasily yet again and watch this 2013 summer of free agency unfold. And hopefully, Cuban can fold up his sleeves with something big to show.

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