Once upon a time, in the summer of 2015, DeAndre Jordan verbally agreed to join the Dallas Mavericks — a move that seemed to give Dallas the franchise center it had long coveted since the first departure of Tyson Chandler in 2011. Alas, that dream was short-lived, as Jordan changed his mind and returned to the Los Angeles Clippers instead. Left scrambling to pick up the pieces from Jordan’s decision, the Mavs quickly addressed the hole at the center position by trading a second round pick to the Milwaukee Bucks for Zaza Pachulia and signing a mostly unknown Tunisian prospect, Salah Mejri.
Fast forward three years later, Pachulia is long gone, Jordan finally came to his senses and signed with the Mavs, and Mejri is still hanging around as a serviceable bench player that’s capable of blocking shots on the defensive end and finishing around the basket on the offensive end in spurts.
The Mavs could have let Mejri walk this summer if they wanted to, but instead, they brought back the 32-year-old big man on a one-year contract worth nearly $1.6 million. Let’s take a look at the season ahead for Mejri.
Playing time will be the biggest question for Mejri heading into this season. With DeAndre Jordan starting at center, and Dirk Nowitzki, Dwight Powell and Maxi Kleber all being available options off the bench, Mejri could find himself as the odd man out of the rotation this year — not to mention, the Mavs recently signed another young big, Ray Spalding, who will also be competing for minutes, to a four year deal.
So, unlike the previous three years, it just doesn’t seem like the same amount of opportunities will be there for Mejri this season. However, that doesn’t mean the Mavs don’t see any value in having him on the roster. If that was the case, Dallas wouldn’t have re-signed him this summer. Not only does Mejri have the ability to produce when he’s called upon, but he was also teammates with Luka Doncic, when they both played for Real Madrid. If anything, maybe Mejri can be a familiar, comforting presence for the Mavs’ prized rookie this season, if needed.
Best Case Scenario
The best case scenario for Mejri this season, in my opinion at least, would be for him to play as well as he possibly can in the few opportunities he gets early on, staying in Rick Carlisle’s primary rotation and beating out either Powell or Kleber for more minutes. Either that, or maybe if the Mavs make a trade of some kind at some point this season, Mejri can be used a filler piece and be sent to a team that has more of an immediate need for a center of his status on an expiring deal.
Worst Case Scenario
The worst thing that could possibly happen to Mejri this season, is if he let’s his alter ego, “The Mej,” lash out over his lack of minutes, creating a bad vibe in the Mavs locker room. I don’t see this being an issue, but if it was to happen, I doubt the Mavs would hesitate to release him in the early stages of the season. For a center at his age, that’s in a contract year, that would not be an ideal situation for his career going forward.
Again though, this scenario seems very unlikely to me. Mejri likes being in Dallas, and the Mavs, as it stands, still like having Mejri around as well. As erratic as Mejri’s actions can be on the court at times, his grit and toughness is something that is liked by both his teammates and his coaches, when used in the right way. After being ejected in a game against the Washington Wizards last season, Mejri summed himself up as good as anyone could have:
Love him or hate him, “The Mej” is back for at least one more season with the Mavs, doing what he’s always done, being who he’s always been.