MMB Player Review, 2013-14: DeJuan Blair's underappreciated role

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Blair's contributions were overshadowed by Brandan Wright, but Blair did a good job in his role splitting time at the center position. However, it wasn't enough to guarantee his return.

Looking back

I'm a big fan of Brandan Wright. He's exciting player who doesn't overextend his role. He blocks shots and dunks on Blake Griffin. He always gives me thoughtful answers to his questions. How can you not like him?

You're probably wondering right now if the headline is wrong or something, but no, this is just a long lead-in to say this: I think Wright made me not appreciate everything that DeJuan Blair did last season. Coming off the bench, Blair was able to swing games in the right situation. This was never more apparent than in the San Antonio Spurs first round series, where Blair went for two double-doubles in Games 4 and 6, and his absence possibly cost the Mavericks a chance at a win in very close Game 5 after a one-game suspension.

At a surface value, no, Blair wasn't as efficient finishing around the rim; he didn't provide much weak-side shot blocking; he tried to do too much more often than Wright. His points around the rim were brutish not elegant, and his man-on-man defense depending on maximizing every pound of his frame rather than every inch of his verticle. Wright plays prettier basketball, and generally is the better backup big man, but what he does shouldn't discount Blair's contributions.

Sometimes, you need a 260-pound backup center to throw his body around, to muck up a game when nothing else is clicking. Blair was able to do that, all while posting the third-highest PER of any Maverick at 17.3. Blair is never going to dramatically improve as a player -- he doesn't have ACL's, for Christ's sake -- but as a known quality, he has a role in the NBA, and he did it more often than I would have admitted a week ago.

Looking ahead

Blair does have a role in the NBA, but there's a good chance it's not with the Mavericks. That's the reality of having two centers under contract, and Blair is simply the odd man out.

He played the one-year contract game this year, but NBA players don't like doing that, not at all. The Mavericks have more elaborate plans for this offseason than re-signing DeJuan Blair, and while they may be happy for him to reprise his role as the third big man, it probably won't be until July 12 or 15 that they can commit money to him. There's too many other offseason targets to pursue, one way or another.

Blair didn't do anything wrong; he was just the third-best center on the team who 15.6 minutes a game, and even thought he did his role, that's not enough to make him an offseason priority.

If nobody else is interested in giving Blair a multi-year contract (and by multi-year, I mean two) or pay him more than the veteran's minimum, and if the Mavericks don't acquire another center this offseason, there's a chance he's back in Dallas. It's worth mentioning that if a trade happens, it will probably include Brandan Wright, making Blair's return more important. Otherwise, thanks for the scrapping and we wish you the best of luck, DeJuan.

Expected deal if he re-signs with the Mavericks: 1 year at the vet minimum, possibly two years with a team option
Chances he re-signs with the Mavericks: 35 percent

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