The Dallas Mavericks locked in Nerlens Noel as the starting center for another year, but also created some competition for backup center minutes. Who should the Mavs turn to first: Jeff Withey or Salah Mejri?
The Mavs center position is far from a strength on the roster, but it is nice to see that there are multiple guys that can play that role for the team. Bringing Nerlens Noel back is nice, despite the means by which it happened, and adding Jeff Withey gives us a little bit of depth. Add in the fact that Dirk, Dwight Powell, and Salah Mejri are all back and there is no lack of big bodies.
Dirk is a traditional 4 but has been playing a lot of center in his later years. Although he struggles defending opposing centers, he struggles a lot more with opposing power forwards. Powell is also more of a power forward, although can be a decent option as a small 5 if the Mavs do go small ball during the season.
That being said, the main competition for center minutes is going to be between Salah Mejri and Jeff Withey. Which one should be getting the bulk? Let’s see the case for each.
As we know, Mejri was the Mavs backup center last season and, despite his goofy playing style, did pretty well in that role. He averaged slightly over 12 minutes per game and did not deliver much in the way of stats but became a major energizer bunny for the team while on the floor. His entertainment value may be one of his top attractions for the team.
Withey was the backup center for the Utah Jazz last year but played very limited minutes. He will not overwhelm you with his scoring, but his rebounding and shot blocking are both fairly solid. He lost his role with Utah this last season, but the year prior he played well for them in Rudy Gobert’s absence.
If I had to pick, I would choose Withey to be a more solid backup and the obvious choice for starter if Noel were to get injured. However, there is no denying Mejri’s entertainment value or his tenacity. Those both can go a long way in earning some playing time. We will just have to wait and see what happens.