Dallas Mavericks

Dallas Mavericks: A look at Mavs’ center options: Their own players, potential FAs (DeAndre Jordan anyone?) and the draft

Whenever the Mavericks see DeAndre Jordan, there are always emotions.

The Clippers’ center jilted the Mavericks badly in free agency during the summer of 2015, agreeing to join the team for a maximum contract, then reneging and going back to the Clippers in a now famous week of decisions and indecision.

That begs the question of whether the Mavericks would revisit the Jordan scenario next summer when he has the option to be a free agent again — an option he would be silly not to exercise.

The Mavericks, of course, can’t comment on other teams’ players.

“We only care about doing what it takes to compete for a championship,” owner Mark Cuban said Friday.

But should they have interest in Jordan?

The answer is that the Mavericks are going to do whatever they feel helps make their team better, both in the short and long term. It does a franchise no good to hold grudges. And Cuban has shown that he can move on from sticky situations (see: Don Nelson and Jason Kidd).

But what Jordan did to them in 2015 was nasty.

Plus, there might be more enticing options when they look for a center to take over when Dirk Nowitzki retires.

In the aftermath of Wednesday’s terrible display of rebounding by the Mavericks’ big men and with Jordan in town for Saturday’s game, it’s time to examine possibilities for the Mavericks as they try to accelerate their rebuilding project.

First, the free agents available that make sense at center are Jordan and, perhaps more intriguingly, DeMarcus Cousins.

Jordan is the better rebounder and defender. But Cousins can score, rebound and pass the ball and, most important, is two years younger than Jordan.

Why is that important? Because when you are retooling the franchise around a 20-year-old point guard like Dennis Smith, younger stars are preferable to older stars.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that either Cousins or Jordan would give the Mavericks the time of day in free agency. They’ve been down that road before.

And as for a trade? The Clippers, if they sense Jordan might move on at season’s end, could opt to get something in return before the February trade deadline. But the Mavericks would not be interested in parting with any meaningful assets if they were only getting a rental player for a couple months who would leave in the summer.

The other options at center?

What they have now are Nerlens Noel, Salah Mejri and Dwight Powell. Of those, Noel and Mejri will be free agents this summer. Noel isn’t playing right now, but that could change.

“Nerlens has been working hard,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “He’s ready to go. He just has to stay ready.”

After the Mavericks failed to rebound two missed free throws Wednesday, Carlisle said he didn’t have the right people in the game to grab the rebounds. It was unclear whom he thought he should have inserted, but Noel was an option.

It’s been obvious that Noel is the last man on the bench right now. Getting back into the rotation will require him proving to Carlisle that he deserves playing time with his drive, grit, focus and passion.

The fourth option for center could be the most sensible and definitely the cheapest. The 2018 draft is loaded with high-quality big men who are expected to enter the draft, such as Duke’s Marvin Bagley, Arizona’s DeAndre Ayton, Missouri’s Michael Porter, Texas’ Mohamed Bamba and Michigan State’s Jaren Jackson Jr. Also, swingman Luka Doncic of Slovenia is expected to be a top-five pick.

The others are all centers or power forwards, and while it often takes a couple seasons for big men to impact the NBA, some of those no doubt will blossom into stars.

If the Mavericks can stick to their youth movement and build around Smith and Harrison Barnes, then drafting a big man would be their most prudent path.

But there’s no doubt that they have options they can pursue.

Briefly: A reminder to fans that Saturday’s game is at 1 p.m. with the Stars playing at American Airlines Center at 8 p.m. … Mejri was limited at practice on Friday by a sore left ankle, Carlisle said. He said the backup center “hopefully” will be able to play against the Clippers.

Twitter: @ESefko

Who ya got?

The Mavericks will be searching for a big man who can be their interior anchor for years to come. Collegians like Marvin Bagley and DeAndre Ayton are intriguing, but if they decide to pursue a free-agent big man next summer, there really are only two options (listed with their statistics this season):

Player

Age

Pts.

Rebs.

Asts.

FG%

DeMarcus Cousins

27

25.1

12.5

5.4

.462

Comment: His 3-point capability is a big plus with Mavs.

DeAndre Jordan

29

9.9

13.8

1.0

.659

Comment: Would Mavs be once bitten, twice shy with him?

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