FanPost

Rise Up and Power Forward

Sorry this post is so late. Here's my last position-by-position looks at the Mavs' free agency options this summer. The only position left to address is power forward, which has been filled quite excellently by Dirk Nowitzki these last 14 years.

To look at what we need in a power forward, we should start by examining what we have. Nowitzki had, statistically, a poor season, primarily because he started off atrociously after the long lockout -- and with no training camp to get his legs under him. His scoring numbers rose to his normal standards (23 to 25 ppg) by the end of the year, and he had a perfectly playoff-Dirk-quality series against the Thunder despite the team's overall struggle to compete. I think we can expect Dirk to continue to score at around the same rate next year when he has time to prepare and come into training camp in shape.

One trend, however, that's become more noticeable has been his declining rebounding numbers -- down to 6.8 a game this year. Dirk has never been a particularly great rebounder, mostly relying on just pure size and athleticism (when he was a lot younger) to get the job done rather than good box-out technique or a nose for the ball. Unfortunately, the Mavs' need of solid rebounding by our big men has really increased with the loss of Tyson Chandler. Brendan Haywood was decent -- pulling down 6.2 in around 21 minutes a game -- but his offensive ineptitude prevents him from playing significant minutes (or crunch-time minutes), and it's probably the reason he's likely to get amnestied this summer. Both Brandan Wright and Ian Mahinmi have pretty good per-36-minutes rebounding numbers (8.2 and 9.4) and possess good athleticism and willingness to crash the boards, but they also have their own offensive limitations and give up a lot in muscle mass and strength to opposing bigs. To resolve these issues, I think we need to target players that can rebound, play good defense, at least be accounted for on the offensive end, and ideally provide a certain tenacity on the floor.

Obviously we are not in the market for a starting power forward (so no Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, or Elton Brand), so I will limit the conversation to guys that could be quality backups or could fill the role of "generally useful big man" -- basically people who can be plugged in to play alongside Dirk at the 5, but should technically be classified as power forwards.

Here's the breakdown.

Category 1 -- Wily veterans seeking a contender

1. Boris Diaw. Diaw had an interesting year, going from the league-worst Charlotte Bobcats to the league-best San Antonio Spurs after he was waived in March. Few people remember, but Diaw was a really great all-around player for the 2006 Phoenix Suns. He has an extremely versatile game, with excellent vision and passing instincts for a big man, the ability to hit outside shots, and the newly-added girth (basically, he got really fat in Charlotte) to bang down low with opposing centers despite only being 6'8.

In fact, as I watched Diaw tearing it up with the Spurs in these playoffs alongside Duncan (even though he only played 20 minutes), I can't help but think that he filled the role Lamar Odom could have filled for us had this awful season gone differently. Of course, Odom should have been (and is, when he actively tries) a far better player -- taller, way more athletic, and much better off the dribble.

Anyways, back to Diaw. He's done a great job in his role with the Spurs, but a lot of credit has to go to Gregg Popovich's system -- the excellent spacing of their three-point shooters, the penetration abilities of Ginobili and Parker, and the defense's need to always account for Duncan all contribute to Diaw's ability to make smart passes, get easy lay-ins, and even make moves off the dribble.

I think Diaw is pretty much a lock to stay in San Antonio. He's clearly experienced a career resurgence there and would be foolish to think he could be as successful anywhere else. Plus, he's good friends with fellow Frenchman Tony Parker. I"m not sure what he can expect to be paid, since the Spurs have a little over $48 million in salaries committed to next season and still have to lock up Tim Duncan, decide whether to pick up DeJuan Blair's option, and then choose whether they want to re-sign Danny Green and Gary Neal.

2. Reggie Evans. Evans is a 32-year-old hustle player whose most famous NBA moment was grabbing Chris Kaman's balls in a 2006 game. I, for one, believe the Mavs should make every push they can to sign both of these players merely for the entertainment value. Regardless, Evans has bounced around the NBA quite a bit, going from being a regular contributor in Seattle to spot duty off the bench in stops in Denver, Philly, and Toronto. This year, Evans really played a big role as the Clippers' energetic rebounding big off the bench and played a part in their run to the second round, particularly in that thrilling 27-point comeback in Game 1 of the first round against the Memphis Grizzlies.

Evans is only 6'8, but he's a terrific rebounder with a career average of 12.8 rebounds per 36 minutes. Despite his relative shortness, he uses great strength and good technique to box out for rebounds and, more importantly, he has a great motor and always hustles for loose balls. For similar reasons, Evans is a solid, physical defensive player. Unfortunately, on the offensive end, Evans is extremely limited. Having Chris Paul as their point guard has helped the Clippers in that regard since he has the ability to create some easy lay-up chances. For the most part, though, Evans is not a threat to score and, worse, he's an atrocious free throw shooter, at only 50.7% this year.

Although Evans doesn't really have a well-rounded game, the Mavs were frequently outrebounded this season and acquiring him would be a good step to solving their issues on the boards. Evans made about $1.25 million this year and might make more this go around, but probably not significantly. The Clippers' financial situation is pretty unclear since they have $57 million committed but have decisions to make regarding a lot of their free agents: Nick Young, Randy Foye, Chauncey Billups, and Kenyon Martin.

3. Louis Amundson. If there was an award given to the NBA player who looks most like a Die-Hard villain, Amundson would have a great shot at it. Like many of the others in this category, he's a guy who makes most of his money by providing rebounding, hard fouls, and energy off the bench, most famously as a member of the 2010 Phoenix Suns' fantastic second unit that thrashed the Spurs.

He played 12.6 minutes a game for the Indiana Pacers this year sharing bench minutes with Tyler Hansbrough to back up David West. Amundson had decent numbers, averaging 10.2 points and 10.6 rebounds per 48 minutes. He has little to no offensive game other than from offensive rebounds and easy lay-ins created by others, not to mention his poor free throw shooting (around 43%).

If the Mavs have a few other good big men, though, Amundson isn't a bad guy to have as a third or fourth big off the bench. He should be pretty cheap and he's still 29, so he could be a solid bench player for the next few years.

4. Ronny Turiaf. Turiaf is a 6'10 big man who signed with the hated Miami Heat in late March after being waived by the Nuggets. He's seen some increased minutes off the bench for Miami in the playoffs due to the absence of Chris Bosh, and gave them 3.5 points and 4.5 rebounds in 17 regular season games.

I think Turiaf is easily the worst player in this category. Despite his good size and build, he's not a particularly good rebounder and doesn't offer anything offensively. If anything, his statistics are inflated from benefiting from playing with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

Turiaf will almost certainly return to Miami as he has a player option worth $1.2 million he can pick up.

5. Kenyon Martin. Martin, the 34-year-old former longtime Nets forward, signed with the L.A. Clippers (yes, people actually are choosing to sign with the Clippers these days) in early February for the $2.5 million mini mid-level exception. K-Mart primarily backed up Blake Griffin, logging around 22 minutes a game.

While he's no longer an elite talent like he was in New Jersey, he can still be useful as a multifaceted defender, with the muscle and height to play traditional, physical power forwards, but also the lateral quickness and length to bother small forwards and two-guards. In fact, Martin played a lot of important defensive crunch-time minutes against the Grizzlies and was able to switch on pick-and-rolls and really bother Rudy Gay on his jump shots.

His offensive numbers were pretty abysmal this year (5.2 points and 4.3 rebounds and 37% free throw shooting), but some of that can be attributed to his reduced role and the Clippers' abundance of other shooters. In any case, Martin wouldn't be expected to contribute all that much offensively wherever he goes.

I don't see Dallas being that interested. Martin is likely to cost more than other players with similar production simply because of his name and the fact that the Clippers had a good year, and Cuban's bad blood with him (due to a 2009 confrontation with his mother) all but rules it out.

6. Antawn Jamison. Jamison, the 2004 Sixth Man of the Year for the Mavs, has spent the last 8 seasons playing for mostly laughingstock teams in Washington and Cleveland. Despite that, his numbers have always remained consistently good, including this year -- 17.2 ppg and 6.3 rpg.

Those numbers are pretty misleading, though. Both the Wizards and Cavs the last few years have been largely devoid of talent and Jamison has gotten more touches. The last two seasons, particularly, his efficiency has declined alarmingly -- 42.7% and 40.3% from the field.

Regardless, I still think Jamison is probably the best offensive player in this category (maybe debatable between him and Diaw). He has very good length, a very fast second jump (which helps him get offensive rebounds), and the ability to make a lot of unorthodox shots in the paint, a lot like Shawn Marion.

Jamison's getting older (he's 35 now) and coming off a huge contract that paid him $15.1 million this year. I would expect him to want to sign with a contender for the mid-level exception or maybe less. If he's cheap enough, I think Dallas would be interested (and maybe he would be too) because although he's aging, he's a known quantity, a consummate professional, and still has some game left. Other good teams (like the Spurs) have had great success with integrating aging big men into their lineup.

Category 2 -- Quality players in their prime looking for a contract

1. Brandon Bass. This former Mav played big minutes (around 31.5) for the Boston Celtics this year, mainly because of their pathetic lack of frontcourt players not named Kevin Garnett. Celtics GM Danny Ainge managed to trade Glen Davis for Bass straight-up, which is kind of a coup. Bass is a strong, capable defender and he has a knock-down mid-range jump shot. He isn't a guy you can throw the ball to in the post, but he's at least able to finish strong when he's set up to do so. Bass also isn't that great of a rebounder, which helps to explain why the Celtics were historically bad in that department this year.

Overall, he's a pretty solid player who has improved since he left Dallas. Unfortunately, because of the increased load he shouldered for the C's this year (and his higher numbers), he's likely to have more value this summer. Bass has a $4.3 million player option he can pick up, but I see him declining that and testing the open market. Boston could still be interested in signing him because they have plenty of cap space and are looking to rebuild around younger players.

2. Kris Humphries. The Mavs might be tired of reality TV stars after how Lamar Odom turned out, but Humphries, just 3 seasons after leaving Dallas, has developed into a very solid young power forward. (Hmm... is there a trend here? Bass? Humphries? Dallas? Not saying we don't develop players, but...).

Despite the Kardashian drama that's surrounded him the last year, Humphries can play some ball. He's really broken out as a terrific rebounder and legit 10-10 guy every night for the last couple years. He's also only 27, so he can still be a big piece for a team for quite a while.

He's not really a fit for Dallas -- he made $8 million this year as a starter, but that's not happening on the Mavs. Some team will likely throw him enough money to be a starter (if they're dumb enough, Brooklyn) and he'll eventually be known only as the guy who used to bang Kanye West's wife.

3. Carl Landry. Landry spent the past year playing 25 minutes a game for the New Orleans Hornets, who acquired him in a trade with the Sacramento Kings in 2011. Similar to Bass, he's an undersized (6'9) but well-built big with average rebounding ability. Landry's main value is his scoring ability -- he can shoot pretty well, has some very good post skills, and draws fouls very well in the paint (and converts the free throws too -- knocking them down at a a near-80% clip).

It's easy to fall in love with Landry's per-36 numbers, which looked great this year: 18.4 ppg, 50.3% from the field, and 7.7 rpg. Unfortunately, he doesn't play 36 minutes a game and will probably be very highly paid, ruling out the Mavs.

4. Ryan Anderson. Whenever a tall white guy can shoot the 3-ball well, he is immediately said to be "a poor man's Dirk Nowitzki." Anderson is this breed of power forward. He's shouldered a much bigger scoring load for the Orlando Magic the past couple years, even winning the league's Most Improved Player Award this year on 16.1 ppg and 7.7. rpg (with shooting splits of .439/.393/.877).

He didn't really deserve to win MIP, mainly because his per-36 numbers are nearly identical to his 2010-11 statistics (indicating that his increased production was just due to more minutes), but he's nevertheless a very good shooter and arguably the Magic's second-best player.

Still, the majority of Anderson's offense comes due to the open shots generated by Dwight Howard's paint presence. When Howard doesn't play (like in the playoffs against Indiana), most open looks in the offense disappear and Anderson can't simply be a spot-up shooter, which is really what he does. In that sense, a stretch 4 like Anderson (and maybe Dirk in the future) is a perfect fit next to Howard in terms of providing offensive balance and provides more value for the Magic than other teams. It's likely that Anderson will be overpaid for his good numbers this summer by another team, but that's okay -- we already have the rich man's Dirk Nowitzki.

5. Ersan Ilyasova. The man who deserved Most Improved this year. Ilyasova saw pretty staggering statistical improvement in nearly every per-36-minute category this year -- 13.7 to 17.0 in points, 8.7 to 11.5 in boards, 29.8% to 45.5% from three. The only area he did worse was at the free throw line, where he still shot 78%.

His game is pretty similar to Anderson's since they're both great long-range shooters, but Ilyasova is a much better rebounder and off-the-ball player. Not to mention, there's no player on the Milwaukee Bucks with anything remotely close to Dwight Howard's talent level.

He should be in line for a pretty good payday this summer, but obviously not from Dallas.

Category 3 -- Talented guys with something to prove

1. Michael Beasley. For a former No. 2 pick, Beasley has had an interesting career to say the least. He was an absolute stud scorer in college, putting up 26.2 ppg and 12.4 rpg and sweeping a variety of "best freshman"-type awards at Kansas State. Beasley hasn't been nearly as impactful a player in the pros, but through all his different struggles and fluctuating team situations, his talent for scoring has persisted. He's consistently shot around 45% from the field for his career and 37% from three the last couple of years, and despite only playing 23 minutes a game this season, his per-36 scoring average was around 18, which isn't far from his career average of 19.5.

He's an undersized (listed at 6'9, but more like 6'7) power forward who's had some trouble playing against the larger, more athletic big men in the NBA. As a result, his game has become more perimeter-oriented and his role has diminished, especially with the rise of Kevin Love as an All-NBA First-Team player and the Wolves' general depth at forward. I'm not convinced that Beasley wouldn't be better-suited to being an NBA small forward but, regardless of position, he's got to consistently show high-level effort and commitment to defense -- things that he has neglected thus far in his career.

Unfortunately, Beasley's also had a lot of off-the-court issues, including several marijuana incidents. This baggage could definitely deter a lot of teams from pursuing him and could cost him some money, but Beasley will easily be a hot commodity this summer. He's simply too young (only 23) and too talented to not get another shot as a starter.

He has expressed interest in returning to Minnesota, but he has a $8.172 million qualifying offer that I seriously doubt Minnesota wants to pay. Ultimately, I expect him to get a mid-level exception-type offer to be a starter somewhere. I don't expect the Mavs to get involved, but it wouldn't surprise me if they did either -- Beasley could represent the classic low-risk-high-reward move that Mark Cuban loves, especially as a cheap option to put another potential playmaker in the fold if Deron Williams signs with Dallas.

2. J.J. Hickson. Hickson is most known for being a part of the Cleveland team that LeBron James left out in the cold a few years ago. He's always been known as a physically talented athlete (with his 6-9, 240 lb frame and very good athleticism), but pretty raw basketball player -- mostly just good at throwing down dunks.

The Cavaliers traded Hickson to the Kings for Omri Casspi in 2011, so he played the bulk of this season for Sacramento. Unfortunately, he was a train wreck -- he went from 13.8 ppg and 8.7 rpg on 45.8% shooting to 4.7 ppg and 5.1 rpg on 37% shooting. Some of this is just due to decreased minutes, but he was never comfortable and couldn't carve out a productive role.

The Kings understandably waived him in March and he was claimed off waivers by the Blazers. In Portland, he became a totally different player, playing 19 games for them (starting 10) and posting these stats -- 15.1 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 54.3% shooting. That's a pretty impressive turnaround, even though LaMarcus Aldridge's injury no doubt gave him more of a chance to pick up the slack offensively.

Hickson has a $3.4 million qualifying offer. I think basketball-wise Portland would like to keep him since he's only 23 and has shown some promise in their system. Financially, though, it's murky -- the Blazers' highest priority is re-signing Nicolas Batum, who is sure to get a big raise. They will have some cap space to work with but exactly how much isn't clear -- Jamal Crawford and Shawne Williams both have player options to consider.

I think Dallas would be totally out of the picture here. Hickson seems to be a clone of Ian Mahinmi, only shorter.

3. Jason Thompson. Nobody really knows what goes on in Sacramento anymore. I saw a Kings game this year and even I couldn't tell you Thompson plays for them. Side note: That game was the Kings' dreadful blowout of the Mavs on their Grateful Dead Tribute Night (seriously), with Tyreke Evans and others raining 3's, Drake in attendance, and Bill Walton gleefully commenting about how great it was to...actually I don't remember what he thought was so great -- he was rather incoherent.

Anyways, Thompson. He was a pretty reliable contributor for the Kings this season, logging around 25 minutes a night and registering a 9.1-6.9 for them on .535 shooting. He doesn't seem like a starting-caliber player by any stretch, but he provides adequate interior scoring, post defense, and rebounding, and he's very tall at 6-11. I think he's a player who could give a good team around 20 quality minutes a night.

His qualifying offer is around $4.1 million and the Kings have expressed some interest in re-signing him. That's probably too much, but they're the Kings so they'll pay it.

Category 4 -- Intriguing Prospects/Younglings

1. Lavoy Allen. Allen is a 23-year-old rookie who just finished up his first year with the Sixers. He only logged around 15 minutes a game, I couldn't help but think he looked quite capable and mature for a young player, especially when he wasn't at all fazed by Kevin Garnett's verbal abuse in their second-round series with Boston.

He doesn't contribute much at all offensively at this stage, but he has good per-36 rebounding numbers (9.9) and can shoot free throws decently (.786).

Allen's got a qualifying offer of a little over $900,000, which I think the Sixers will easily match. He seemed to mesh well with their young players (like Holiday, Turner, Young, etc.) and other teams probably won't be that interested.

2. Jordan Hill. Hill is a 6-10 forward/center for the Lakers who actually earned a pretty consistent role off the bench towards the end of the year. He was the 8th pick in the 2009 draft (by the Knicks) and never really met the expectations that come with that lofty a pick (like Brandan Wright).

Even so, Hill -- along with Devin Ebanks -- really broke out in that famous game against the Oklahoma City Thunder (yes, the one where Ron Artest could have killed James Harden). Hill brought a ton of energy, hustle, and rebounding to the Lakers and helped lead them to a huge comeback in that game.

Being a former lottery pick, Hill made around $2.9 million this year and has a qualifying offer of $3.63 million. The Lakers are in pretty bad cap trouble, though, so I expect them to let him walk. There will definitely be some suitors -- Hill's per-36 numbers are 14.5 points and 13.6 rebounds.

Category 5 -- Brian Cardinal

1. Brian Cardinal. Sadly, I think the Cardinal era in Dallas is over. The guy didn't make many of his threes this year and he's lost his once-elite athleticism (sarcasm) so there's no reason to waste a roster spot on him. It was good while it lasted though.

Reader Submitted

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