The Mavs hope is to re-sign Brendan Haywood, but they better have some backup plans to fill the hole in the middle.
Haywood is flirting with a handful of Eastern Conference teams and could end up with an offer that’s beyond Mark Cuban’s financial pain threshold.
Here are some options for the Mavs in case that happens:
Al Jefferson: He’s only 25 years old and is a proven 20/10 player. There are few better low-block scorers in the league. What’s not to like? Well, he’s a mediocre defender whose numbers were down last season after coming back from a torn knee ligament. And he’s owed $42 million over the next three seasons. If Minnesota decides to dump Jefferson’s salary, the Mavs should make the deal. If the Timberwolves want basketball value for him, they’ll have to go elsewhere.
Andris Biedrins: He’s another potential salary dump (due $36 million over the next four seasons) with two major problems: He’s injury prone and foul prone. When he’s on the floor, he’s a phenomenal rebounder. He rarely takes a shot outside of a few feet from the rim, so it’s not like he’ll take offensive pressure off of Dirk, but he’s runs the floor well and is a good finisher. He’s only 24 years old, so there’s untapped potential ... if he can stay out of the trainer’s room.
Jermaine O’Neal: He’s been ridiculously overpaid for years with a max contract, but he might be a good fit for the Mavs at a much lower salary. He was a legitimate go-to guy when he played for Rick Carlisle in Indiana, but those days are long gone. However, he’d be a good third or fourth offensive option, providing by far the best low-post punch the Mavs have had during the Dirk era. He’s a good defensive player despite being only an average shot-blocker at this point of his career. He allowed only 0.77 points per post-up last season, according to Synergy Sports, which was the ninth-lowest total in the league. Only three centers took more charges last season, according to HoopData.com. Durability is a significant concern, but he could be a bargain for a healthy chunk of the midlevel exception over two or three years.
Marcin Gortat: You know the Mavs like Dwight Howard’s backup. They believed they found their center of the future when they signed the athletic 7-foot banger to a midlevel offer sheet last summer, only to have the Magic surprise them by matching it. A year later, after Orlando drafted Kentucky big man Daniel Orton in the first round, the Magic might be willing to make a deal.
Erick Dampier: It’s assumed that he won’t see a cent of his nonguaranteed $13 million salary for next season. The Mavs hope to use that golden trade asset, possibly for another player on this list. But that doesn’t necessarily close the door on Dampier’s tenure in Dallas. The Mavs value the dirty work that Dampier does. But they don’t value it enough to pay him the full midlevel exception, which is what a source close to Dampier told ESPNDallas.com’s Jeff Caplan that the big man wants.
Tyson Chandler: He’d be an expensive stopgap solution for next season, with the Bobcats willing to dump his $12.6 million salary, and it’s questionable whether Chandler could be effective for the Mavs. He’s missed more than 60 games the last two seasons due to a variety of injuries, and his significantly declining rebounding numbers are an indication that he’s lost explosiveness, which was his best asset. He’s never been a great shot-blocker despite his size and athleticism, but he has been a good all-around defender. He runs the floor well, but his offensive game is limited to finishing around the basket.
Brad Miller: He’s one of the most skilled centers in the league, a pretty passer with a soft shooting touch. He’s also a physical player willing to swap paint in the post. However, he’s 34 years old and extremely limited athletically, which makes him a liability defensively. He isn’t the rim protector the Mavs want, but his offensive ability will warrant at least a chunk of the somebody’s midlevel exception.
Elton Brand: Just checking to see if Cuban is paying attention. The odds of him bailing the Sixers out of this awful contract are closer to none than slim. It’d be crazy to pay $52 million over three seasons for an undersized player whose production has plummeted since injuring his Achilles tendon two years ago.
Emeka Okafor: The Hornets would certainly love to shed his contract, which has four years and $53 million remaining. The Mavs would love to have him … as long as he comes with Chris Paul. If the price was reasonable, he’d actually be a pretty good fit for the Mavs. He’s a solid shot-blocker, good rebounder and a double-digit scorer despite his limited offensive game. But it’s doubtful that the Mavs will be desperate enough to make a deal to acquire Okafor without his superstar teammate.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas: The Mavs hoped to bring Big Z to Dallas after the Wizards granted him a buyout last season, but he returned to Cleveland as expected to continue his career with the only NBA team he’s ever known. The Mavs wanted him as a backup/insurance policy. At 35, with extremely limited mobility, the set-shooting center can’t be counted on as a starter and isn’t likely to leave Cleveland in free agency anyway.
Shaquille O’Neal: The Big Fill In the Blank has a home in Frisco and a fondness for Mark Cuban. But the Mavs aren’t interested in a part-time player/full-time ego who is a huge liability in pick-and-roll defense.