The Mavs had options galore in free agency this summer, so why did they choose Jeff Withey?
The Dallas Mavericks had plenty of options in free agency. While they were much quieter than usual, the Mavs did make one small move, bringing in center, Jeff Withey, from the Utah Jazz on a one year deal.
The move initially was underwhelming and uninspiring for spoiled Mavs fans used to the big-name pursuits, but the move was a savvy get for a team beginning its rebuild. For one thing, there were many young, developmental players available to the Mavericks who could have been an interesting addition to the team.
Shabazz Muhammad, Trey Burke, JaMychal Green, and Justin Holiday all could have helped the Mavericks accelerate their rebuild. Instead, they preserved their cap space and finally took the smart approach in free agency. While a long term deal wasn’t reached, the Mavs prioritized re-signing restricted free agent Nerlens Noel and ultimately re-upped him using the qualifying offer.
So why did the Mavs choose to go after Jeff Withey? For one, the Mavs have been closely linked to the Utah Jazz over the years. The Mavs have consistently looked to add players who have come through that organization at some point in their career. Wesley Matthews, Devin Harris, Jeremy Evans, and Deron Williams have all been additions to the roster after playing for the Jazz.
Withey is just the latest example of this trend. The backup center is anything but a star in today’s NBA, but he is a productive player who can surprise people with his athleticism. An underrated rim protector, Withey adds a defensive presence to the bench which is something the Mavs have been looking for since Brendan Haywood.
The Mavs could have also looked to add a player to another position on the roster, as shooting guard and power forward still have long term question marks that have yet to be answered. The Mavs chose to make a signing at the center position because of the level of uncertainty surrounding the group of centers on the team.
No one knows for sure what is up with Nerlens Noel. The Mavs will get a full season to evaluate his worth and make a more informed decision on his long term future with the team next summer. While Noel will be an unrestricted free agent next time around, the Mavs can offer him more money than any other pursuer and a fifth year on any potential contract.
Secondly, Salah Mejri is not a long term piece to the Mavs roster. While the first ever Tunisian-born NBA player has been an overachiever during his time in the NBA, he is 31 and doesn’t have much room to grow in the NBA. The Mavs were smart to add a center who could become a long term piece for the team behind Nerlens Noel.
This is where the Mavericks got it right. If they were going to bring in a player, it had to be one who could fill a specific role for the team during the long run. While the team doesn’t know what it has yet in Dennis Smith Jr., the team can pencil him in as their long term starter at point guard. Yogi Ferrell checks off the backup point guard spot. Harrison Barnes does the job at small forward, and Noel, while assuming he’s retained, takes care of the center position. The Mavs have now given Withey a year to prove he can be the backup center for the long term.
The Mavs finally got their offseason right. They retained their own, preserved their cap space, and added a potential star in the draft. Now they can leave it to their experienced coaching staff to coach up their youth and develop the team into a contender down the road. Mavs fans best be patient, as there will be many growing pains along the way.