Coming into the season we knew the Dallas Mavericks' center situation would be up in the air. And while Zaza Pachulia has been more than we could have hoped (who even remembers about Tyson Chandler and DeAndre Jordan, right?), there hasn't been much help behind him on a consistent basis.
Dwight Powell's play and minutes have been up and down recently. Charlie Villanueva isn't a solution for either position. And JaVale McGee, though still regaining form and physical conditioning, may never be the consistent answer or presence the Mavs could use behind Pachulia.
The Mavericks certainly will try look at the trade market before next month's deadline, but as we've seen, making a trade is easier said than done. It's not like the Mavericks are stacked with assets, either, because as of now Raymond Felton may be the Mavs most likely trade chip, which isn't saying much. Mid-to-late second round picks aren't the most enticing, and while Dwight Powell and Justin Anderson could be used as trade sweeteners, it's probably best for the team to hang on to each unless they're netting bonafide talent.
Now that we've tempered your expectations sufficiently, here are some names that could be in play.
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Brandan Wright: While this is a slim to none option, this would probably be the dream scenario if the Mavericks were very lucky. The Memphis Grizzlies have a plethora of bigs on the roster, and Wright, who is currently out with a knee injury, could be the odd man out. If the team does look to move him, the Mavs probably have to find a third team to involve in an attempt to bring in his deal and the final two years of Vince Carter.
In such a scenario, the Mavs could send Felton's expiring deal to Memphis, take on Wright, and find a way to squeeze in Carter's deal by dealing a few other small contracts. Unfortunately, there's no reason to think that Memphis has turned into a seller or has soured on Wright, who they signed this summer, as part of their team construction.
Markieff Morris: Why Morris is still a Sun is a mystery, but may also be a good sign for the Mavs. If teams were throwing out good offers for the scoring big man, he would probably be gone already. The Mavs have taken chances on "cast offs" and have had mixed results. But as we're seeing, this list isn't the prettiest, and the risk may be worth it. If Morris can buy in, the Mavs would get a player who just averaged 15 points and six rebounds last season coming off their bench. Felton plus McGee and Mejri works financially.
After last year's Rajon Rondo debacle, though, you have to wonder if the Mavericks have any desire to bring another volatile presence into their locker room.
Chicago Bulls big men: The Bulls have a great front court situation, with Nikola Mirotic, Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and Bobby Portis all playing the four and five. Of those names, they certainly won't move Portis, who the Mavs passed on to draft Anderson, or Mirotic. Noah and his expiring deal could be the easiest to target, but the Mavs would need to use Zaza to make any deal happen and that's not exactly a step forward. Gibson's name has also been mentioned in rumors. The Mavs might have to dangle Justin Anderson along with Felton to make this happen, but even that doesn't guarantee the Bulls bite. With Gasol, the Mavericks could offer Felton, Anderson, and Powell, but is that too much to give up? Or could the Bulls net more from somewhere else?
Either way, a move for a Chicago big man will cost Dallas a decent price.
Josh McRoberts and Chris Anderson: These two are completely different players who can fit in now if needed. McRoberts proved to be one of the more versatile forwards in the league two years ago with the Charlotte Hornets. He can pass, make plays, handle the ball and has enough range on his shot, all traits that Rick Carlisle could use. Bringing in McRoberts would force either him or Powell to play out of position at center, though. As for Anderson, he's 37 now and isn't the same high-flyer or shot blocker he once was, but Carlisle does love veterans.
McRoberts has three years on his deal and has been battling injuries since joining the team last summer. The Mavs could offer Felton's expiring deal or even J.J. Barea, who Miami almost signed this summer, McGee, and fillers to bring in one or both.
Miles Plumlee: Like some of these other teams, the Milwaukee Bucks have a log jam at the big man spots. The team brought in Greg Monroe, just extended John Henson, and have Jabari Parker, so Plumlee, who is set for free agency this offseason, is the most likely to be moved. The Mavs were able to snatch Pachulia for next to nothing from Milwaukee. They may be able to do it again.
Of all the names listed, this one might be a favorite. Plumlee's only played 22 games while averaged 8.5 minutes for Milwaukee this season, so he's clearly expendable. At the same time, his skills appear like they'd fit very well in Dallas' backup center spot. If Dallas only makes one inquiry before the trade deadline, hopefully it's a phone call seeing if they can work things out with the Bucks.
DeJuan Blair: As frustrating as it was to see him take Wright's minutes two years ago, Blair's activity would be a nice sight off the bench. Since joining the Washington Wizards, he has struggled to find a role. A change of scenery could do him well, especially to one where he's excelled before. Blair's on a friendly deal, so dealing McGee, Jeremy Evans, or John Jenkins along with Salah Mejri would be all that's needed to bring him back to Dallas.
J.J. Hickson: Hickson now finds himself stuck behind the Denver Nuggets' young and now healthy frontcourt. He won't help on the defensive end, but can open things up on the offensive end with his rebounding and scoring around the basket. The Mavs can offer a combination of four fillers (Jenkins, Villanueva, Evans, McGee, Mejri) or just Felton to make it happen.
Kosta Koufas: This may not be the Sacramento Kings center Mavs fans would love to get their hands on, but would be a nice consolation prize. He still has four years left on his friendly deal. And with first round pick Willie Cauley-Stein back from injury, Koufas may be expandable now. Still, the Kings don't need any more point guards (the already have two former Mavs) and that's all the Mavericks really have. And even if his role shrinks in the coming weeks, it's still a leap to assume Sacramento is ready to send him out the door after inking him to a four-year deal this summer.
Other notable names: Channing Frye, Dewayne Dedmon, Aaron Baynes, Joel Anthony, Tyler Hansbrough, Kendrick Perkins, Kyle O'Quinn, Derrick Williams, and Kevin Seraphin.
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There are some decent and usable names on that list. Something that gets overlooked in trades is timing. The Mavericks shouldn't look to rush to make a move just yet. If they're able to be patient and play their cards right, a trade they can't turn down might be able to fall onto their lap. As they usually do, I'm sure Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson are doing their due diligence to find help behind Pachulia.