Mavs Big Help For Dirk? Amare 1 Of 5 Ideas

Now that we've got the NBA All-Star Weekend over with, the NBA trade deadline is upon us. So we fine-tune our views regarding Mavs needs. Let's start here: Mavs Bigs? Evaluating Five Possible Solutions, including Amare Stoudemire, just made available with his Knicks buyout ...



The set-up

OK, we've got the NBA All-Star Weekend over with. Dig around here on DB.com Boards for all the goodies on Dirk and beyond while you amaze yourself with his once-a-decade dunk ... and even more rare celebration ...



... It's back to business. Front-office business. The NBA trade deadline is upon us. So we fine-tune our views regarding Dallas Mavericks needs. Let's start here: Mavs Bigs? Evaluating Five Possible Solutions ...

The Mavericks have a glaring weakness. Since trading away Brandan Wright in the deal to acquire Rajon Rondo back in December, the Mavericks have failed to show any significant stretches of competency whenever Tyson Chandler is not on the floor.

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The backup big man situation is dire. Sure, the Mavericks are naturally a worse defensive team when Chandler’s rim protection and ball-stopping instincts are removed from the equation. That drop-off is not shocking, considering Chandler is a former Defensive Player of the Year.

Unfortunately, even the offense has looked abysmal without Chandler, which was most recently evidenced by an ugly 87-82 victory over the Utah Jazz in which Dallas shot 37 percent. Greg Smith started in place of the injured Chandler and recorded zero rebounds in 22 minutes.

The need to address this issue -- and what Dallas does about it can make all the difference come playoff time. The Mavericks have an excellent starting lineup when Rondo returns from injury. They are more than capable defensively and will only improve offensively as time goes on. Those starters will increase their minutes in the playoffs and the advantage of having Rick Carlisle calling the shots will become more prevalent. Call us homers, but we say with the addition of a competent big man to sub in for Chandler the Mavericks are a legitimate contender to win the NBA Championship.

Without that addition, they will be exploited for large chunks of games. Smart playoff coaches will find ways to utilize the minutes that Chandler is off the court by attacking the mismatch of the Mavericks’ backup center or exploit Nowitzki, Charlie Villanueva or Al-Farouq Aminu when they are playing out of position.

Most importantly, if the Mavericks can find a big man to contribute on both ends of the court for 15-20 minutes a game they will be a team without a major weakness, which would make them a very dangerous threat.

So who's who?

1) Amare Stoudemire

Stoudemire has agreed to a buy-out with the Knicks and will be free on Wednesday afternoon once he clears waivers. DB.com broke the story of Dallas' desire to have Amare come here.

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From an offensive standpoint he would be a terrific fit in Dallas, more as a 4 than a 5, though can pitch in at both. All the wasted opportunities of big men unable to utilize potential passing lanes would go out the window. Playing stretches with Nowitzki, Parsons, Ellis and Rondo would allow Stoudemire to actually score rather frequently.

The worry would be his health. Stoudemire (knee, ankle) has needed to sit out games for rest semi-frequently for the Knicks. He has been often effective when he is on the court, but can’t be expected to play every single night.

Since Stoudemire’s career has been handicapped by injuries he has only played for below-average Knicks teams. The change of scenery to a small but important role for a contender could make a big difference. It’s possible that 18 minutes of hard play each game would allow Stoudemire to be consistently relied upon, but we will not know that until it becomes a reality.

Note one catch to this candidate: Why DB.com has reported only on Dallas' interest in Amare and not the other way around, there are reports elsewhere that the Mavs are "frontrunners'' here. That sounds great. ... except there are reports in Golden State that the Warriors are frontrunners and there are reports in Phoenix that the Suns are frontrunners. (The reliable Marc Stein says Golden State is not involved here. But our point stands: It's hard to know who will win the race before the combatants are even in the starting blocks.)

2) Bernard James

Bernard James’ return to the Mavericks last Wednesday night a day after signing a 10-day contract was quite promising. In the one-game sample size, he already looked more effective than Greg Smith. Sarge helped Dallas top Utah as he scored nine points to go with three rebounds and three blocks.

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The subtraction of a lob threat via Chandler really hinders the Mavericks’ offense. Greg Smith has looked unable to take advantage of the potential created when his defender cheats off him thus wasting the penetration of guards like Rondo, J.J. Barea, Monta Ellis and Devin Harris. James is miles behind Chandler in his ability to finish at the rim, but he is likely better than Smith, which is a start.

Sarge is a class act, of course. And now he seems a very confident one, too.

When James’ 10-day contract expires, the Mavs will have the option to sign him to one more 10-day contract. After that, they will have to sign him for the rest of the season if they want to keep him. Choosing to retain James for the rest of the season would not necessarily mean they wouldn’t go after another player on this list as they can always buy out the contract of someone on their roster, freeing up space to go after another big man.

James seems to be a savvy acquisition and could be an upgrade if they choose to retain him, but he is not an upgrade capable of filling the void that would take the Mavs to the heights they are capable of.

2) Jermaine O’Neal

DB.com sources have long pointed us towards O’Neal eventually deciding to sign with the Mavericks. The key factors are clear: he lives in the Dallas area, he was coached by and has a good relationship with Carlisle and he would be playing important minutes for a title contender.

But why hasn't this happened yet? Why, if JO has a relationship with the Mavs, wasn't he the guy who signed on for emergency duty in that Utah game (with TY hurt) rather than Sarge?

What is worth noting is that, even in the event that O’Neal has planned to sign with Dallas all along, he is hurting them by prolonging his decision. The need for an upgrade has been pressing. Is it fair to say the delay has cost the Mavericks victories. ... even though he "owes'' nothing to them?

In any even, he would likely be an important contributor on the roster. He played a very similar role last year for the Golden State Warriors backing up defensive big man Andrew Bogut. O’Neal averaged 7.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and .9 blocks. He’s a smart defensive player who can hold his ground and rotate at the right time.

The biggest concern would be the simple question of whether or not O’Neal, who is 36 years old and hasn’t played a game this season, has enough left in the tank to be relied upon to be effective on a night-to-night basis.

Mavs sources tell DB.com that they want assurances of his good health. It's time -- now, in advance of Dallas' return to the floor on Feb. 19 in OKC -- to get those assurances and get a deal done.

4) Willie Reed, or ...

Reed is 6-9 center currently playing for the Grand Rapids Drive in the Developmental League. He is a 24-year-old who came out of Saint Louis University early to go undrafted in 2011. Since then he has become stronger and refined his game in the D-League.

Here are a few of the stat lines from games in the past month:

2/7: 13 points, 17 rebounds, 1 block
2/6: 33 points, 19 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks
2/4: 20 points, 13 rebounds
1/24: 9 points, 23 rebounds, 3 blocks

Reed, at this level anyway, is athletic and quick with strong hands and brings a lot of activity. If Dwight Powell had a couple years of experience in the D-League under his belt then he might have what it takes to give the Mavericks what they need. Reed has that experience. Reed probably belongs in the NBA ... though we say that with some bias as Auping is a Saint Louis University guy. But even if it's not the pinpointed guy, at least let's respect the process here: It's Donnie Nelson's job to know who is who in the D-League. If there is another Whiteside in the wings, the Mavs need to be as "on it'' as anyone.

5) Andray Blatche

DB.com broke the story of the idea of Blatche joining the Mavericks -- featuring "investigation'' into just now much knuckleheaded baggage he carries.

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Problems, from the outside looking in: He’s rarely shown a consistent ability to utilize his offensive skillset with his team’s schemes. He has often had the tendency to go rogue and leave his teammates watching him on isolation. He has essentially been "sent home'' by his last two NBA employers in Brooklyn and Washington.

All that being said, he is a gifted player ... and when other options are exhausted, new ones are reexamined. It was only four years ago that Blatche averaged 16.8 points and 8.2 rebounds for the Wizards. The 28-year old has been playing in the Philippines, and in China, which is not ideal competition, but as we’ve already mentioned, the role the Mavericks need to fill is a specific, but not overwhelming role. All it takes is the right player to fit into it and bringing talent to the table is certainly a plus.

Are there more options? Sure. As with Reed at the D-League level (where there are other candidates), the Mavs will be shopping for a cheap trade for a center who is superior to Greg Smith. Is there coach-'em-up help on the roster? Dallas hasn't given up on Dwight Powell as a project, but he's been eliminated from the rotation lately, a telling sign. Is there room for two pickups? Absolutely. If, for instance, Dallas ends up helping Dirk and company with both O'Neal and Stoudemire?

The speculation, the research and the patience will all have been worth the wait.

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