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Free-agency preview: Centers

6/27/2014
The Mavericks have been rumored to have interest in "Birdman," a high-energy rebounder. Issac Baldizon/Getty Images

The Dallas Mavericks made a major upgrade in the middle before free agency began by trading for Tyson Chandler.

They have a productive backup on the roster in Brandan Wright, the lanky, high-leaping lefty who has ranked among the league’s most efficient reserves the last few seasons.

The search for center depth isn’t a top priority for Dallas in free agency, but it’s definitely on the Mavs’ checklist.

If the Mavs don’t succeed in their quest to sign a superstar, they’d still be interested in pursuing Pau Gasol. He’d get some playing time at center, but the majority of his minutes would probably come at power forward while Dirk Nowitzki rests his 36-year-old legs.

The more likely scenario is that the Mavs sign a low-priced banger to be the final piece of a three-headed center rotation. A look at some of the potential fits:

DeJuan Blair: The 6-foot-7, 260-plus-pound Blair was a bargain banger as a minimum-salaried Mav last season, averaging 6.4 points and 4.7 rebounds in 15.6 minutes per game. He put up a pair of double-doubles in the playoff series against the San Antonio Spurs, his former team that was simply too physical for Wright.

The Mavs value Blair’s toughness and tenacity. They just aren’t willing to pay a premium price for it, particularly after bringing Chandler back to Dallas.

Blair would obviously like to be paid more than the minimum, but if that’s his price tag, he’d be welcomed back in the Mavs’ locker room.

Chris Andersen: The Mavs have been rumored to have interest in “Birdman,” a high-energy rebounder and rim protector who doesn’t fly quite as high as he used to. However, for the money the Mavs would offer, it’s hard to envision Andersen leaving Miami unless LeBron James goes elsewhere.

Andersen would be excellent insurance for the Mavs given Chandler’s durability issues. Bringing Birdman on board would assure the Mavs of always having an athletic, physical, intelligent, long, defensive-minded center available.

Emeka Okafor: The Mavs’ medical staff would need to give Okafor a thorough examination after he missed the entire season due to a neck injury, but he could be great value as a minimum-salary signing. He’s averaged almost a double-double throughout his career (12.3 points, 9.9 rebounds) and put up 9.7 points and 8.8 rebounds as Washington’s starting center in 2012-13. If relatively healthy, he’d be a heck of an insurance policy at center.

Greg Oden: The former No. 1 overall pick whose career was crippled by knee injuries chose the Heat over the Mavs last summer. The 7-foot, 250-pounder played only 212 minutes for Miami but was relatively productive during that limited time. Assuming he’d get the minimum salary again, Oden continuing his comeback bid under the supervision of the Mavs’ outstanding medical staff might be a mutually beneficial situation.

Jermaine O'Neal: The 18-year veteran is considering retirement, but he was a contributor to the Golden State Warriors last season, averaging 7.9 points and 5.5 rebounds in 20.1 minutes per game. His offseason home is in suburban Dallas and he showed interest in playing for the Mavs last summer. O’Neal is no longer the All-Star he was when he played for Rick Carlisle in Indiana, but he’d be well worth the minimum if he wants to play as a 36-year-old.