Art Garcia breaks the news on his blog that the Mavericks have reached agreement with former Timberwolves power forward Juwan Howard. The deal can't conclude until Howard clears waivers tomorrow. Howard will presumably sign for the full mid-level extension. To make room for Howard, the Mavs released project center D.J. Mbenga, whose development was seriously thrown off by a knee injury at the end of last year. Finally, the Mavs guaranteed shooting guard Mo Ager's salary for next year.
Howard will not only provide more veteran experience, he will also offer a strong offensive post game. The move underlines the Mavericks commitment to making their offense more versatile. With Nowitzki expanding where he starts his offense to further inside and across the key, and some real post players in Howard and Bass, the Mavs have an incredibly difficult offense to stop.
Howard's defense is not his strength, but head coach Avery Johnson has been able to do wonders with the Mavericks based on a disciplined team defense. As a result, until Dampier returns, we may see line-ups with Howard playing center and Dirk at power forward.
Mbenga, a fan favorite, never really was able to demonstrate a feel for the game. His biggest problem was his overaggressive defense, logging fouls at a prodigious clip. In his most extended preseason action, he averaged a foul every 2 1/2 minutes.
No one can deny Ager's talent, but his incremental improvement and inconsistency have seriously dampened what was once healthy optimism for his future. It is possible that the extension is more of a defensive move by the Mavs. With little reason to cut him this year, and the possibility of continued improvement, losing him as the Cavaliers lost Diop was not a pleasant option.