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The Mavericks’ centers have a lot of potential and a lot of risk

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Andrew Bogut gives the Mavericks their best center since Tyson Chandler but can he stay healthy?

Oklahoma City Thunder v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Welcome to part five of five as we rank the Mavericks by position against the rest of the league.

Click here for the intro to our positional rankings along with PG rankings.

Click here for our SG rankings.

Click here for our SF rankings.

Click here for our PF rankings.

At center, Dallas is ranked 19th in the league with six wins.

PREDICTABILITY (1 Dirk- not reliable, 3- somewhat reliable, 5- reliable)

Maybe this is more like a 1.5 Dirks, but center carries all the risk of small forward with the added wrinkle that the starter, Andrew Bogut, is older and significantly more injury-prone, making center a somewhat less predictable position. Bogut is almost as likely to play 70 games as he is to play 50 games (though 50 feels more likely).

Like Harrison Barnes, Bogut needs to do more in Dallas than he did in Golden State, where he was largely a defensive specialist. So to some extent, evaluating his potential involves taking a leap of faith and making some projections in terms of expectations. He should be up to the task on offense, but it remains to be seen exactly how well he can perform and how often.

Off the bench, Dwight Powell and Salah Mejri are back in familiar roles and are hopefully a little more developed.

UPSIDE POTENTIAL (1 Dirk- low ceiling, 3- average ceiling, 5 high ceiling)

From a modeling perspective, this position presents an opportunity for the Mavericks to outperform the model, which doesn’t know that Bogut is changing his role drastically this season. He’s going from a 20mpg defensive specialist to one of a team’s top three two-way players, but the model is focusing on his recent sliding minutes trend.

However, just by virtue of staying on the court more this season, Bogut can raise the ceiling of this projection. Playing just 70 games at 25mpg would be the most minutes he’s logged since 2010-11.

Powell and Mejri should have room to grow in their game, but probably won’t net more than one or two wins combined unless Bogut gets seriously injured, which would likely nullify any of their gains. The key is Bogut’s health.

DOWNSIDE RISK (1 Dirk- low floor, 3 average floor, 5 high floor)

This could also be a 1.5 Dirks. Bogut’s injury history is the worst of any Maverick. If you bet your paycheck on him only playing 50 games, you would be a negative Nancy but not a neurotic Nancy.

Powell and Mejri both need to be better than they’ve historically been if they are to hold the five down for any extended period of time without Bogut.

OVERALL RATING (1 Dirk- weakness, 3 average, 5 strength)

The Mavericks love what Bogut brings to the team (court awareness and defense) but need him to stay healthy and play regularly to stay competitive at the five, barring a major leap from Powell and Mejri. The backups will get their chances to showcase both their potential and their growth.

OVERALL CONCLUSION

For those keeping score at home, the sum of Win Shares projected for the Mavs across all five positions is 40, which is slightly higher than predicted by most betting sites, national pundits or FiveThirtyEight’s model.

To be fair, there is quite a bit of risk with 40 wins. Every Mavericks starter is facing some combination of a new role, a history of injury, or advancing age. Also, as the Mavericks have finally embraced the youth movement, their backups have more potential than veteran savvy for the first time in years, further trading predictability for upside. This should pay off in the future but means that the range for this year’s performance is harder to predict.

From one to five, the Mavericks’ have no glaring weaknesses as they trot out basically league-average starters and back-up units. At the same time, they don’t have an overwhelming strength at any position now that Dirk is the senior member of the Veterans Preservation Program. But there will be advantages from game to game for the Mavericks, and there are one-to-none coaches better able than Rick Carlisle to spot and exploit those opportunities.

It will be a lot easier if the Mavericks stay healthy and get the most out of their young guys.