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Brendan Haywood and the Price of Doing Without

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The blogosphere—and even the legitimate media sphere, as if anyone cared what those jokers thought any more—did NOT like the contract the Mavs handed Brendan Haywood, who is currently being paid 7.6 mil, a number that will only go up in the coming years (if he doesn't get waived).

There’s the Mavs, overpaying for a center again, joked insertmediamemberhere. It wasn’t his or her most hilarious joke, but it wasn’t wrong. These jokes did not get better after Chandler beat Hay out for the starting job, either.

The Mavs did overpay for Brendan Haywood in that they gave him more money, per point (5.3 this season) and rebound (6.8) than basically anybody on the team.

But they didn’t OVERPAY for Brendan Haywood.

They overpaid because they didn’t want to have to make do with whatever they could get after they didn't get Haywood. Now in his 2nd full season with the Mavs, Haywood is showing that despite his low production, they made exactly the right choice

This is not a lovesong to Hay, a fairly competent player who makes me throw up in my mouth whenever he dribbles the ball, which is shockingly often for someone for whom it's never turned out well. But this much I know:

Lost in the Mavs’ history of overpaying centers is the concomitant, completely non-coincidental, and much more tragic history of not having centers. The latter explains everything about former, though no one on ESPN wants to talk about it.

The fact is, and remains, and you and I know it, that there were enough Evan Eschmeyers, Shawn Bradleys and Raef Lafrentzes in the Mavericks' past that what was essentially a trade of the then future two-time-MVP Steve Nash for Erick Dampier, a guy who approached every dump-off pass like it was a shark and he had to save his family's lives, still doesn’t seem like that bad a deal.

Of course they overpaid for Erick Dampier. They’d been staring at Raef LaFrentz for a few years. And the next year, they made the Finals (and should have won). And the next year they went 67-15. My-oh-my, what if they'd been playing with a MORE than competent center in those days?

The Mavericks also should have Marcin Gortat a couple of years ago, till they were double-crossed by Otis Smith, in his fiendish plot to get as many people who play the same position as the most dominant player at that position in league on the same team as possible.

That would have been great, by the way. Marcin’s averaging 16, 10.4 and 1.6 over there for Phoenix, with a PER that’s 24th in the league (21.37). All those numbers, by the way, are better than Tyson Chandler’s in New York. Imagine what he’d be like on a team where he didn’t have to do ALL the defense himself. Would we have won a championship with him instead of Tyson? Only the oracle of Apollo at Delphi knows that.

The Mavs had tried and failed to get a good center, repeatedly. They had made do for too many years. Last year, they had two and let one go for reasons that may need a lot of defending in a year's time. But before that? They had none. They'd seen none. They'd seen Raef LaFrentz.

Of course they signed Brendan for too much money. It was the only way to have Brendan. And this year? Without Brendan?

I love what Brandan Wright’s been doing. Everybody does. But Wright and Mahimni both would be more comfortable at power forward if there was an opening there, which there isn’t. They're skinny, they're poor face-up defenders, and their rebounding, which is very to extremely poor, leaves the Mavs in an vulnerable position in that respect.

Brendan may play only 22 minutes a game, but he is, by leagues, the best man-to-man defender among the Mavs centers, their best rebounder, and that’s really what matters.

You may not love him. But without Brendan Haywood, the Mavs would not be where they are today. They would not be a threat to repeat, they would not have been in so many games that they had so much opportunity to lose. None of that means Haywood’s amazing, or even very good. He’s above-average. He does the things a center is supposed to do.

And without him, the Mavs wouldn’t have that. That may not be worth WHATEVER it takes, but it’s worth more than you’d want to pay, to avoid going without, for sure. A hundred times for sure. .

And if you want to know why, it’s because the difference between the Spurs, Lakers and Mavs, three teams that have been basically good for twelve years now and have 10 championships between them,, with only one going to the Mavs is Tim Duncan, Shaq, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol.

It’s because since 1999, the player who collected the most rebounds in the playoffs was on the championship winning team 10 times (and, when it was Dirk in 2006, on the "really, basically, would have won the championship under any normal circumstsances" team once). That player was Tyson Chandler last year, and it won’t be Brendan Haywood this year.

Still. It’d be a heck of a lot worse if nobody came close.

The Mavs are, somehow, 5th in the NBA in rebounds per game this year. They don't have a single player averaging more than 7. Dirk and Hay are tied for the team lead at 6.8. But what Dirk does in 30 minutes, Hay does in 20, and not only are 2.6 of Hay's O-boards, but that's what he's averaged his entire career. It doesn't mean championships, necessarily. But what would it mean to go without?

-----Stat Shot----- tells us that Haywood is allowing a 35.1% shooting-percentage when he gets posted up, to 54.5% when from Brandan Wright, 52.4% to 55.6% when Iso'd. Wright is performing much better against the Pick and Roll (47.4% from Hay, 33.3% from Brandan), but Brandan has only had 3 opportunities to Hay's 23. Mahimni, for the curious, is a much better Iso defender (21.4% to Hay's 52.4%) and a much worse post defender (41.7% to 35.1%). This presumably explains Mahimni's falling playing time, since the Mavs have lots of other Iso defenders and essentially no other post defenders.

Sean Williams, everyone's favorite, has not been posted up this year.