Many of us know the story about Bernard James aka Sarge. He dropped out of high school when he was 16, and at 17, he would join the Air Force. There’s more to this great story, but I’ll allow you to read it from a much better writer HERE.
It’s been two seasons since the Dallas Mavericks selected James with the 33rd pick during the 2012 draft. During his two seasons with the team, he’s played in a grand total of 76 game. With 46 of those games coming during his rookie campaign; the year the Mavs had Chris Kaman and Elton Brand starting at center.
James averaged 2.8 points, 2.8 rebounds, and .8 blocks in 9.9 minutes of action his rookie season. Not bad, especially when you consider his per-36 averages of 10.3 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 3 blocks. We should expect growth his second season, right?
Last offseason, the Mavericks brought in Samuel Dalembert and Dejuan Blair to man the center spot along with Brandan Wright. It was no shock to see James as the odd man out of the lineup. He played only 4.9 minutes in 30 games, averaging .9 points, 1.4 rebounds, and .3 blocks.
With the lack of minutes, we should see a lack of production, but his per-36 numbers weren’t as impressive during his second season. He would see his points and blocks decrease to 6.9 and 2. His rebounding slightly increased from 10.3 to 10.4 per-36 minutes.
For the second straight offseason, Sarge is a free agent and can possibly be back with the Mavericks. It makes sense for both sides. James is well adapted to the Mavs system and he’s looking to continue his career in the NBA.
But is this a match the Mavs should pursue or avoid, especially with the center spot stabilized with Tyson Chandler back?
The Mavs current frontline consists of Dirk Nowitzki, Tyson Chandler, Brandan Wright, and Greg Smith. Minutes again will be scarce for James, as he won’t see time at power forward and Chandler and Wright are expected to take the grunt of the minutes at center.
The free agent market is filled with injury-riddled bigs: Emeka Okafor, Greg Oden, Andrew Bynum, Charlie Villanueva and Ekpe Udoh . While injuries are a concern, no denying if healthy, they all could would have a greater impact on the court than James.
Established vets Elton Brand, Jermaine O’Neal, Ryan Hollins, Early Clark, and Ivan Johnson are available and should also be able to offer more than James.
Then young free agent talents such as Javon McCrea, Jackie Carmichael, Khem Birch, and Eric Griffin could develop into useful players in the right system.
The risk with these signings is high, as health, age, and development is a concern, but the upside is there. Something I believe can’t be said about James. James has looked great against lesser and smaller talent, whether it’s in the D-League or Summer League, but looks small against NBA bodies. He could probably help a NBA team, but it will probably never be with the Mavs.
With the center spot locked with Chandler and Wright, why not take a chance on these other bigs? We’ve seen Wright blossom from injury-riddled bust to a key rotation player. Why not try to strike gold once again?
If they pan out, the center position will now be three deep, and like shooting, you can never have enough size in the NBA. If it doesn’t pan out? You’ll have what you have now in James; a big man just sitting at the end of the bench.