In 2007, the Dallas Mavericks poached a power forward off the NBA scrap heap named Brandon Bass. After two disappointing seasons in New Orleans, Bass opened eyes playing on the Mavericks' Summer League team. Dallas signed Bass to a two year deal with their bi-annual exception. In his two years with the Mavericks, the undersized Bass averaged 8.4 points and 4.5 rebounds per game.
The 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons are dark years for Mavericks fans. While the teams won 51 and 50 games respectively, the seasons stand between the crushing postseason losses in 2006 and 2007 and the eventual triumph in 2011. So everyone will be forgiven for forgetting that Brandon Bass may well have been the best Dirk Nowitzki back up of the last decade.
At a glance, this may seem like a silly statement, but let's look back at some of the various names who have filled the role of Robin to Dirk's Batman in the years since Bass left: DeJuan Blair (sort of), Troy Murphy, Brian Cardinal, Yi Jianlian, Lamar Odom, Kris Humphries, and Tim Thomas. Shawn Marion also filled the role from time to time, but Marion was so overworked by Dallas that he may not be a fair comparison. Other than the Matrix, I still believe that Bass offered the right mix of what Dallas needed off the bench.
Of course this could be nostalgia speaking. I fondly remember his midrange touch and offensive rebounding paired with the occasional putback slam. However, in the six years since he parted ways with the Mavericks, Bass has been a remarkably consistent player. After dealing with rotation issues with Stan Van Gundy in 2009 and 2010, Bass went to Boston where he put up similar numbers the last four years (10 points, 5.5 rebounds in 27 minutes per game). He also played in 305 of a possible 309 games.
Bass was a part of the Celtics mid-season resurgence, rejoining the starting line up a month after the Rajon Rondo trade and was a key cog in the 29-16 finish to the season. But with younger, cheaper front court options already under contract, the Celtics may very well be looking at moving a different direction.
Fit with the Mavericks
With Dwight Powell under contract, it's debatable if the Mavericks actually need a true Dirk Nowitzki back up. It's also worth noting that the Mavericks plan to pursue unrestricted free agent Al-Farouq Aminu, who played well at both forward spots down the stretch. There's a real question to whether the Mavericks even need a player like Bass, who is coming off the end of a deal paying him nearly $7 per season. While he's due for a reduction in pay, at 30 years old he's also likely seeking his last contract of any substantial size.
And yet I can't dismiss Bass. By all accounts he's an excellent locker room guy and a consummate professional. He's incredibly strong, possesses a good mid range game, and is a reasonable rebounder despite being a hair undersized. That he's been with the Mavericks before, including a year under Carlisle, works in his favor. With so many one-way players on the roster these past two seasons, a veteran who is capable of functioning in an offense and not being a revolving door on defense sounds awfully appealing to me.
The problem facing the Mavericks right now is the abundance of roster spots they have to fill. A guy like Bass becomes a luxury when they don't have a starting point guard, shooting guard (maybe?), or center. But Bass also strikes me as a guy who could easily fall through the cracks. After the first few rounds of free agency shake out, there's less and less money for the remainder of the free agents. Should Bass fail to sign with a squad early, he could be the kind of value candidate Dallas has become adept at grabbing these last few years.
So keep him in mind after the first week of free agency. He's not the answer to any pressing question, but Bass is the kind of veteran who could help Dallas hold the line against the brutal Western Conference.
Just for fun, here's a playlist from Bass as put together by the Player's Tribune.