Writer's note: This was written before the preseason, prior to any injuries or changes in the general line up.
I'm just going to say this so we can get it out of the way. I like DeJuan Blair, in fact, I loved his game out of college and was aghast that he kept falling in the draft. But if DeJuan Blair plays a significant role in the 2013-2014 Maverick season, then Dallas is not going to make the playoffs.
Let's back up a minute. DeJuan Blair comes to Dallas after spending his first four years in San Antonio, where his over all minutes were fairly consistent, but he never found a role with the team. Blair was drafted 37th over all in 2009 draft. after playing two years at Pittsburgh. After being projected as a first round pick, Blair fell all the way to San Antonio mainly due to worries related to his knees. Blair does not have ACL's, having them removed in high school after injuries. Thus far, it has not been a concern for his professional career.
In his four years with the Spurs, he averaged 8 points and 6 rebounds in just under 19 minutes a game. As you can imagine, his per 36 numbers are pretty impressive. So why didn't he play? Well for starters he didn't get along with Coach Greg Popovich, but wisely kept his name out of the press most of the time. He also didn't fit very well with San Antonio's schemes; they often had one pivot man surrounded by four shooters, which left an undersized rebounding big man like Blair out in the cold.
Though he played little, he always managed a statistical impact (scroll to the right for more)
So why am I being a negative Nancy about Blair's impact on the Mavericks? In truth, it has nothing to do with him. He'll see minutes with Dallas and he'll be effective. It has much more to do with the roster at large. As it stands, Blair is the emergency fifth big man, after Dirk Nowitzki, Samuel Dalembert, Brandan Wright, and Bernard James. Arguably, Shawn Marion should also be considered part of the big man rotation, as I hope he sees some time at back up power forward.
If Blair sees anything more than situational minutes or garbage time, it means one of two things has happened. First, it means that the injury bug struck Dallas forcing Blair into a more substantial role. Or second, it means the options in front of Blair, the aforementioned Dalembert, Wright, and James, were all ineffective in their minutes. Blair was the last man signed to this roster, and for a fifteenth man, he's much more valuable to Dallas than your average fifteen man on other teams. But if he has to play a lot, then it means the season of Dallas has headed into the danger zone.
When he does play, Dallas fans should expect Blair to be the blue collar player he's always been. He fights for rebounds on both ends of the floor, and on offense this means he gets a fair number of garbage buckets on scrum-style plays. Defensively, his height and shorter wingspan means he might get in a bit of trouble, but he has the build of a defensive end in football. Very few players will be able to push Blair around.
He brings a sense of toughness that was needed on the Dallas roster. Though the team is much better put together than last year's hodge-podge squad, it was missing a player like Blair who can enter the game a mix it up a bit with opposing bigs. DeJuan Blair is an excellent 15th man on a great contract. Though I hope he doesn't see extended minutes, I look forward to seeing how DeJuan Blair can help Dallas get back to the playoffs.