This summer during all of the hullabaloo surrounding the possibility of snagging Deron Williams, I was fairly certain that while getting a solid point guard to go with Jason Kidd (and as it ended up, replace him) was an important piece of the puzzle, I strongly felt that the single most important piece to add would be a solid presence in the post and wrote about it extensively on July 3rd.
Why? Well, several reasons. I outlined some of this at length but briefly:
First, the presence of Tyson Chandler had arguably been the major reason the Mavs went from contender to champion. Tyson provides an enthusiasm you can’t easily replace and clearly his defense is arguably the best in the league, both of which were sorely missed last year. A competent defender and more versatile offensive player were a priority, especially you’re your superstar power forward is not known primarily for his defense or his play in the paint.
Second, the Mavs had accumulated a bevy of combo guards at least one of whom (Delonte West) has been a starting point guard in the past; in fact at one point there was even a bit of a controversy over whether he should be starting ahead of Rajon Rondo during his second stint with the Celtics. Roddy and DoJo can also play the point and Vince Carter is usable as a point forward. It’s not unheard not to have a backup point guard by committee, as Doc Rivers has stated the Celtics will be doing this season with Jason Terry, Courtney Lee, Avery Bradley and newly-signed Leandro Barbosa.
So the Mavericks did in fact, go out and get Chris Kaman who certainly fit the bill, along with Elton Brand, who meets the same qualifications from the power forward position. Following the free agency circus I addressed how well the Mavs had addressed the aforementioned priorities and later, how the Mavs were winners in free agency in spite of missing out on their #1 target.
Unfortunately Kaman is showing his usual tendency toward injury and Brand is not the player he once was, nor was he ever a true center to begin with. He is fine handling the role for short spurts but cannot be expected to log major minutes there. Ian Mahinmi, who showed real promise last year, was traded for Darren Collison and Dahntay Jones and Brendan Haywood was amnestied and picked up by the Charlotte Bobcats. Now with Dirk, Kaman and Wright all injured, the Mavs are basically left with Brand and Bernard James in the post and no one else even as tall as Brand at 6’ 9”.
I strongly feel Bernard James has come exactly as advertised and has put up solid numbers—in only 10 minutes per game he has averaged 3.6 points, 3.7 rebounds and a block. Adjusted for 36 minutes that’s a double-double and 3.6 blocks. That doesn’t solve the depth problem, however, if no one is behind him and when Kaman and Wright had injuries at the onset of training camp, I was puzzled as to why Eddy Curry, Troy Murphy or other available free agents weren’t contacted.
Fortunately Curry’s tenure in San Antonio didn’t pan out but in fact, served to demonstrate he’s in decent shape and can play. Although there were rumors he had been talking to the Mavs earlier in the preseason that didn’t initially happen and the Mavs are lucky San Antonio decided they didn’t need him. Getting Curry at this stage of his career is a real break; he has always had talent and it appears that he is at a point in his life when he is committed to being in shape and trying to get his career back on track.
With Kaman and Wright’s injury history, Curry’s resurgence could be more than just insurance and if they all DO stay healthy, the Mavericks will have a post presence that may be the best in the NBA.
While two additional free agents have been signed, I can’t see one of them making the team unless someone is inactivated. Curry is exactly what the Mavs need. Of course, to make room for him they will still need to cut someone loose and the likely candidate is Delonte West, although there is a strong case for moving Dominique Jones, who would certainly be the presumptive fall guy if it weren’t for DWest’s off-the-court issues. The Mavericks may be looking for options for Roddy B as well.
Regardless the die is basically cast and we’ll get a quick dose of reality as the Mavericks play back-to-back games to open the season starting Tuesday. They’ll visit the new-look Lakers on Tuesday, which should be very interesting as the Lakers were winless in the preseason even with Dwight Howard. A visit to the Utah Jazz follows on Wednesday.