Salah Mejri was added to the Dallas Mavericks roster in the summer of 2015 with little to no expectations attached to him. Dallas was desperate for a big man, and the prevailing thought at the time was that the spot would go to former Maverick center Samuel Dalembert. To the surprise of many, however -- especially those who did not really pay attention to what was happening on the floor in the preseason -- the energetic Mejri beat out Dalembert for the job, and was signed to a three-year $2.4-million deal though the 2018-19 season.
Not your average rookie, Mejri was 29 years old at the beginning of his NBA career, having spent most of his younger years playing in Europe. And while it took him a little while to adjust to the physicality of the NBA game, Mejri has become a decent rotational big man for Dallas. This year, the Tunisian averaged just 2.9 points and 4.2 boards per game, but showed his value blocking shots, and when given enough minutes, showed his ability as a rebounder. He even went for double-digits in a category or two at mid-season ...
Mejri, now 30, played 73 games this season but was given just 12.4 minutes per game. He had Andrew Bogut in front of him for the first half of the year and he had Nerlens Noel ahead of him at the end ... and he had coach Rick Carlisle trying to keep from overexposing him.
Play the "per-36 minutes'' game with Salah and he looks like a guy capable of 8.5 points, 12.3 rebounds, 2.4 blocks and 1.3 steals per. But the coaching staff views him as a "spot'' guy, an energy guy, and most of all, a natural shot-blocker. He has improved as a pick-and-roll threat, too, but mostly, what the 7-2 Mejri brings is an almost blissfully-ignorant approach to disrespecting opponents.
He cannot muscle other centers, but he wants to block all their shots. He wants to taunt the regal Spurs. He's willing to out-cheap-shot the Rockets. (Remember that game in December when Houston players tried to seek him out near the post-game locker room?)
Mejri has one more year on this existing deal, at $1.4 million. One sound strategy has Dallas making sure to collect these sorts of contracts to aid in the affordability of a guy like Noel, the restricted free agent who is a Dallas priority this summer. It'd be nice if Mejri could develop a mid-range jumper and it'd be nice if he was bulkier, but a more realistic individual goal would have Salah working to funnel all of that energy
Overall Season Grade: C+
Note: All Dallas Mavericks player ratings are based on a combination of player expectations and production for the season.