A quick recap:
Bernard James was drafted 34th overall in the 2012 NBA draft by the Mavs after Dallas acquired two second-round picks after trading back in the first round with the Cleveland Cavilers.
James played two seasons of college ball at Florida State where he was known as a defensive, rim-protecting big man -- in the same mold of a Tyson Chandler. James was the type of center you don't throw the ball into in the post on offense. His job was simple: be ready for passes near the rim and swat anything coming toward that rim on defense. At Florida State James mastered this role. He finished with college career averages of 9.7 points, 7.0 rebound and well over two blocks per game.
But that's not what James is really known for. He's know for abandoning the majority of his college career by enlisting in the Air Force and serving as a member of the military.
That gave James his nickname ("Sarge") and also gave the Mavericks an unlimited source of feel-good PR stories. Which team wouldn't want a model citizen and former soldier working his tail off every day? It's a PR director's wet dream.
There were worries that the Mavs drafted James more for his story than his game -- afterall, second round picks aren't guaranteed to make a roster and rarely pan out anyway, so you can't blame some people who thought the Mavericks were doing this just for James' military background.
Fortunately for Mavs fans, James backed up his story with a pretty solid game.
In 46 games played (11 starts):
Points: 2.8 Rebounds: 2.8 Blocks: 0.8 FG%: 51.5 FT% 61.0
For second round rookie center that has a listed height of 6'10'', James did some damn impressive things in his limited playing time.
James' minutes were in flux all season and for a stretch, he was actually a DeShawn Stevenson-type starter: Start the game and second halves but only play maybe 10-15 minutes total.
The Mavs went this route because their two biggest weaknesses, rim-protecting and rebounding, were things that James was doing well. Unfortunately, the stats don't bear this out: According to NBA.com, the Mavs defense remained about the same whenever James was on the court or on the bench. The starting lineup James was apart of mid-way in the season posted only a net-positive rating of 0.2. James just couldn't push the needle either way for the Mavs, which when you consider where he was drafted, could be interpreted as a big success: James wasn't good but he wasn't bad. You can't ask for more from a second-round rookie, to be honest.
Looking at James' per-36 numbers are especially tasty: 10.3 points, 10.3 rebounds and 3 blocks per game. The man can rebound and block shots and if he can ever nail down Rick Carlisle's system and play more with his intelligence rather than his athleticism, James can be one hell of a second round steal.
What to expect going forward:
This is the problem, however: James contract isn't guaranteed. Which means if Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson need to shed a few thousand dollars to wrangle in a top-tier free agent, James could be one of the first to go.
It would be a shame. Despite his age (28) James shows some decent potential as a defensive-minded center. If the Mavericks can keep James while reloading, he'd be a nice backup for next season, as long as his development continues without any setbacks. James will probably never be a starter in this league but he doesn't have to be to exceed his draft value.