The Mavs were reeling last summer in the wake of DeAndre Jordan slipping through their fingers in the waning moments of the free-agent shopping period. Were they desperate as they looked at picking up any big-man prospect they could get their hands on? Maybe, in the case of JaVale McGee. Less so with another signing.
And finally, on July 30th of last summer, Dallas signed a 29-year-old out of Real Madrid (Maybe the best international team in the world outside of the NBA) named Salah Mejri.
Mejri came to the Mavs as a raw prospect in terms of his NBA experience, obviously. But he showed up consistently as a playmaker in the international game -- and video of that work impressed the Mavs leading up to his signing. As he checked in at 7-2 and just 245 pounds, his slight frame combined with his inexperience at the NBA level made it a difficult early adjustment for Mejri.
He flashed big in a January "scheduled forfeit'' at OKC ...
And by late March, Mejri began to draw consistent minutes in the rotation, and made the most of that time as best he could.
Mejri’s shot blocking and rebounding ability made him a valuable piece of the puzzle down the stretch of the season for a team that struggled mightily in both of those aspects of the game. He also helped changed the trajectory of a few games late in the season that the Mavs desperately needed during their run at a playoff spot including a 13-point, 14-rebound performance in a win against the Trailblazers on March 20th.
The Mavs have Mejri signed through the 2018-2019 season at a minimum deal with an average base salary of $804,825. In short, they have time to develop the young Tunisian big man, at minimal cost to their cap space moving forward. And based on what Mejri showed them during certain points of the season, he could become an integral part of this lineup through next season and beyond.
When you look back on it, Mejri essentially beat out Sam Dalembert for a job last summer and then beat out McGee for playing time all year. That's "experience'' of a different kind, and makes him a viable, "in spots'' backup to Andrew Bogut this year. Oh, the Mavs will play Dirk Nowitzki at the 5 a little bit, and we're all hoping second-round pick AJ Hammons explodes onto the scene. But Mejri -- driven by a level of intensity that some find comical but that we find refreshing -- is a success story as a back-of-the-rotation player who is no longer here out of desperation, but rather, as a result of performance.