What do the Dallas Mavericks do with Salah Mejri?
By Isaac Harris
With a string of impressive performances from Dallas Mavericks’ rookie Salah Mejri, what should the Mavs do with him?
Over the summer, the Mavericks we’re believed to be exhausting all options in looking at big men across the country…and the world.
After losing out on DeAndre Jordan and before trading a future second round pick for Zaza Pachulia, the Mavs had done their homework on a certain Tunisian big man across the pond who had been playing for Real Madrid.
His name is Salah Mejri.
Intrigued by his athleticism and defensive ability, the Mavs decided to sign the 29-year old to a three year partial guaranteed contract where he made his way to training camp to compete for a roster spot.
After impressive play in the preseason and training camp, Mejri beat out long-time NBA veteran Samuel Dalembert to join Pachulia and JaVale McGee as the big men on the active roster.
Mejri has spent the most part of the season going back and forth between the end of the bench and the Mavs D-League affiliate, the Texas Legends. It was when Carlisle decided to rest most of the starters in Oklahoma City, that most fans were truly introduced to the big man as he registered 17 points and 9 rebounds in 25 minutes.
A little over a week later, the Mavs faced off against the Thunder at home in Dallas where they found themselves down by 15 in the second half. In comes Mejri to lead a valiant comeback that was highlighted by monstrous blocks on two of the best players in the league.
First, was Russell Westbrook…
Then it was Kevin Durant…
The Mavs ended up losing the game, but it was Salah Mejri that stole the headlines as everyone was scrambling to their computers to find out who this big dude from Tunisia was. But Salah wasn’t done impressing.
Starting in place of an injured Pachulia in Houston, Mejri recorded 10 points, 11 rebounds, and 3 blocks in 29 minutes while showcasing another highlight block against James Harden.
So with three impressive performances by Salah Mejri, what do the Mavs do with him?
Most Mavericks fans are screaming for the guy to get more minutes but few are offering solutions for how.
Should Mejri replace completely the role that JaVale McGee plays off the bench? Only 11% thinks so. Should Mejri stay in his same role by spending the majority of time in the D-League? Only 13% thinks so.
The Mavs are faced with a difficult decision that I think will come down between two choices.
Choice 1: Reducing the role of JaVale McGee
McGee has somewhat of rejuvenated his career in Dallas as he continues to come off the bench in his spark plug role. He provides a near perfect compliment to Pachulia as he gives the Mavs a presence above the rim on both ends of the floor.
If Mejri starts to take time away from McGee or even replaced his role completely, the Mavs might not see that big of a difference on the defensive end. Even though it is a short sample size, Mejri’s PER sits at 3.4 bpg, while McGee sits at 2.8.
On the offensive end, Mejri wouldn’t provide the Mavs with the high flying oops, but could provide better ball security in the sense that Pachulia provides.
In a weird way, Mejri is somewhat smarter than McGee, but not as athletic. But at the same time, he is more athletic than Pachulia, but not quite on the same game knowledge level as Pachulia.
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Choice 2: Keep the Same Role
The Mavs could just keep Mejri at the same role at the end of the bench while sending him to the D-League periodically. This would allow him to build on the foundation he has established and polish out his game in the D-League.
Most of all, keeping him at the same role gives the Mavs insurance for the rest of the season. They know what they have waiting in the distance now in the case of an injury to Pachulia or McGee.
An underlying factor that some might be overlooking is how expendable it might make Pachulia depending on how high the Mavs view Mejri. If the Mavs could package Pachulia, Felton, and/or Powell together in a big trade, would they be comfortable enough to roll through the rest of the season with Mejri and McGee at center? I realize this is premature, but not impossible, especially if Mejri continues to impress over the next couple of weeks.
Next: What Team is Most Likely to Clean House at Deadline?
Whatever the Mavs choose to do with Salah Mejri, it’s clear he has proved the impact he can have on the game.
Now it’s just a matter of if the Mavericks will fit him into the rotation.