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MMB Player Review, 2013-2014: Samuel Dalembert

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He was the center the Mavericks needed, not the one they deserved

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Looking Back

I don't think that Samuel Dalembert has gotten credit for how weird of a player he is. He's approaching Jae Crowder levels of nonsense, as his stats indicated all season that he was a hyper-efficient player who kept the Mavericks' offense humming and the defense stable, when, despite all the data, it just doesn't seem like he was or did.

Dalembert has been a bit of a journeyman for the last few years. He started in Philly where he played his first eight seasons in the NBA, averaging solid starters minutes as a solid-to-good defensive specialist in his prime. Since his last season in Philly, though, he's been on a different team every season, from Sacramento to Houston to Milwaukee and finally to Dallas, where Mark Cuban was willing to take the gamble that his fading prime hadn't killed his defensive talents.

It turned out that the Mavs' front office was both right and wrong in their assessment. Yes, for a 32 year old who was at best a good specialist in his prime, he held on to his talents fairly well. No, he wasn't nearly enough to support this Dallas defense that's so bad that even Tyson Chandler would struggle to save it at this point.

Dalembert was actually one of the most infuriating players to watch all season, as he seemed to be in the wrong place in the wrong time remarkably often on defense, despite his skillset, he could never seem to finish the easiest of gimme shots at the rim, and he would take maddening 15 foot jumpers from time to time.

Similarly, he was so bad at even catching the basketball on a roll or a cut to the basket, and so bad at keeping his hands on a rebound, that he earned the nickname "Pizza Hands" Dalembert from yours truly, after I had cycled through every other "bad hands" joke I could think of, in honor of the fact that his hands probably functioned better as pizzas than as actual hands.

Nonetheless, Dalembert did actually manage to score hyper-efficiently, his propensity for missing bunny shots aside, and the Mavericks were better on both sides of the court with him on. He was by far the best defender of the Mavs' center rotation, and when he was actually awake for a game, he could even be a huge impact player.

Sometimes he was inclined to sleepwalk through a game, but when he was engaged, he could be a force defensively and someone to not take lightly offensively.

The truth is, Dalemebert was pretty good, but he's just not a starter anymore. If he wasn't playing 30 minutes per game, or thereabouts, his deficiencies would look a lot less painful and his skillset would look more appealing. He's a good, solid player with lots of time of relevance left, as long as he's not topping too many minutes.

2013-2014 Grade: B-

Looking Ahead

Signed through 2014-2015 for $3,867,282 in unguaranteed salary

Dalembert is an interesting case going forward: he's a limited player to the extent that if he's still the starting center for the Mavericks next season, the team may end up facing issues that could hamper any and all growth that the team needs to make. Unfortunately, Sammy D is limited as a bench piece, too, because, despite his talents, he'd be less useful taking up bench minutes than energy-guy and fan-favorite Brandan Wright.

It seemed curious that he was buried on Milwaukee's bench last year, given the dearth of talent on that team, and given that he was pretty good for Houston the year prior. The answer becomes much clearer when considering his future with the Mavericks, however. Essentially, he's not good enough to be the starting center on a good team, and he's too old and not good enough to be worth a team's resources to bury a young, talented player deep on the bench to give Sammy playing time. He's in an awkward spot in his career where there just isn't a clear role for him.

Samuel Dalembert is, then, essentially, the perfect stopgap center for a team who needs someone to fill in for a little while.

The fact that Dalembert's salary is unguaranteed for next season is the key here, I think. I'd be willing to bet that the Mavericks end up taking a run at a better free agent center this offseason - Pau Gasol or Marcin Gortat are the obvious names - and see if they can get one of them.

If they pick up someone better than Dalembert for the offseason, the FO will probably take a look at the cap situation and remaining needs for the team, and make a decision whether or not Sammy D's almost $4 million cap hit will be worth roughly 9 minutes off the bench for them in the DeJuan Blair role. If the Mavs have already addressed most of their needs for the team in the offseason, they'll probably keep him on. If not, they can cut him with no consequences.

If, though, the Mavs can't get any of the centers they want this offseason, they can just keep Sammy D for another year for some more stopgap production at center. And, as weird as it is to say this, that may not be the worst thing in the world, as long as the Mavericks' defense can be bolstered in other positions.

The other thing to look for, though, will be the Mavs using Dalembert as trade bait for teams looking to save some money. Dallas can match salary in a trade using Sam's $4 million cap hit, that a team can then waive for essentially cash. So, if a team like the Knicks or Bulls wanted a little bit of extra flexibility, that is a thing that Dallas could offer.

So, Dalembert's situation with the team for next season could be massively in flux over the course of the offseason, and will be something to watch very, very carefully.

Supplementary Material

A game in which Dalembert did many good things:

The Dallas video crew, too, had a fun time with Dalembert this season.

What did the Mavs say:

Say yay 2 Jose:

Tim Cato discussed how great it was that Samuel Dalembert started to find his role on the team and play well just as the Mavs needed him the most.

Rami Michail, in a FanPost before he was a contributor to the site, discussed whether or not the Mavericks need to move on from Sammy Pizza Hands.

Josh Bowe talked about the early lineup conundrums caused by Dalembert's unfortunate and odd habit of sleeping in too late.

Doyle Rader had the preview of Ol' Pizza Hands before the 2013-2014 season started.