The Dallas Mavericks are hopeful that they can lure Hassan Whiteside and Mike Conley to their franchise. If the team is successful and both players sign a max contract, the Mavs will have to fill out the rest of the roster with bargains. One player the team should consider: Andrew Nicholson.
The fourth-year player was set to become a restricted free agent this summer, so the Orlando Magic could have matched any offer for the Canadian power forward. But with the acquisition of Serge Ibaka, the Magic’s desire to be active in free agency and the presence of Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic in the frontcourt, there was little need for Orlando to extend the required qualifying offer.
Instead, the 6-foot-9 power forward will hit the market as an unrestricted free agent and the Dallas Mavericks should look to add the twenty-six-year-old who would be a very capable backup for Dirk Nowitzki.
After being selected with the 19th pick in the 2012 draft, Nicholson had a great rookie year with the Magic, posting a 15.12 PER and averaging 7.8 points on 52 percent shooting and 3.4 rebounds per game in 17 minutes. But after playing in over 75 games in each of his first two seasons in the league, the fiercely intelligent Nicholson who majored in physics after a four-year college career at St. Bonaventure, struggled to get on the floor during his last two years in Orlando.
After playing in just 46 games in his third year in the NBA, Nicholson played in 56 during the 2015-2016 season under the now fired coach Scott Skiles. Although he averaged just 14.7 minutes a night, Nicholson finally began to show the ability to stretch the floor that many had anticipated when he came out of college.
Of his 114 attempts from beyond the arc Nicholson hit 41, after not taking a single three-pointer in his rookie season and connecting on just 31-percent in his second and third year, his mark of 36-percent is certainly encouraging for a team looking for a stretch four.
In addition to his three-point shot, Nicholson is also a capable finisher close to the basket and in the low-post where he uses an array of moves and counters. Between 0 and 3 feet he has shot better than 70 percent in the last three seasons. A career 78 percent free-throw shooter Nicholson is also pretty reliable from the line.
Beyond his shooting, Nicholson can impact a basketball game in plenty of other ways. With a 7-foot-4 wingspan and a reach of nearly 9-feet Nicholson projected to be a solid defender and shot-blocker coming out of college.
Per ESPN, his Defensive Real Plus-Minus of 0.90 ranks him as the 37th best power forward in the league, but his shot block percentage of 2.2 is worse than David Lee’s. Even though his shot-blocking and rim protection (Nicholson allowed 55 percent shooting at the rim) limit his effectiveness on the defensive end, Nicholson did a nice job in rebounding the ball on the glass, something the Mavericks have lacked for a while.
He upped his defensive rebounding percentage to a career-high 22.8 percent, a terrific number for a power forward nearly on par with Kenneth Faried (23.0) and Tristan Thompson (23.3).
After posting far below average PER’s 9.90 and 10.38 during the last two seasons Nicholson upped his efficiency rating to 14.85 during the 2015-16 campaign, a good rating for a bench player.
For the Mavericks, who are probably looking to reduce Dirk Nowitzki’s minutes to 28 or even 26 minutes a night, a lot hinges on the future of Chandler Parsons. If he stays, then Parsons projects to play a lot of the backup minutes at the four spot. But if the Mavericks are able to lure both Hassan Whiteside and Mike Conley to Dallas, then the team will need a reliable big men who can fill in behind Dirk.
Nicholson should be able to give the Mavericks 18 to 20 minutes a night as a stretch four who can be used in the pick-and-roll and as a threat down low. On the defensive end, Nicholson would provide an upgrade as far as rebounding is concerned and as somebody who can use his long and rangy body in space.