The Mavericks' revolving door at the center position continues this season as they embark on another attempt to find Tyson Chandler’s replacement. This year, the Mavericks brought in Andrew Bogut in an opportunistic move helping facilitate the Kevin Durant deal. They also have second year center Salah Mejri and spent their 2nd-round pick on A.J Hammons out of Purdue.
My colleague Doyle Rader has broken down what Andrew Bogut can provide in this article and Dirk Nowitzki has come out in recent days with effusive praise for the big man, already calling him one of the smartest teammate he’s ever had. That speaks volumes, seeing as Dirk has played with Jason Kidd and Steve Nash in Dallas. Bogut has established himself as a top defensive-minded center. As always, the key with Bogut remains health, as he has proven he can be a real presence in the paint when he's not injured.
Second year center Salah Mejri proved last season that he belonged in this league and should only get better this season. Mejri made a name for himself by swatting some of the biggest names in the NBA last season including Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and James Harden. His athleticism and energy provided the Mavericks with a spark last season and the hope is he can provide the Mavericks with a solid 20 minutes off the bench in relief of Bogut. In order to do that, he will need to stay out of foul trouble. Mejri is entering his second year in the league, but at 30, he's not exactly a developmental goldmine. Mejri is currently sidelined as he recovers from minor knee surgery over the summer but should be ready to go come opening day.
The wildcard in the Mavericks’ center rotation will be rookie A.J Hammons. Hammons was considered a draft day steal by many around the NBA with questions about his motor and attitude causing him to slide down draft boards but it’s hard finding big men in the NBA and Hammons has skills that you just can’t teach. During the second preseason game the big man flashed a nice jump shot and cleaned up the glass nicely grabbing nine rebounds in his 20 minutes of work. Hammons also provided some really nice screens to free up Mavericks shooters. There’s a lot to like here and with the right coaching and the culture the Mavericks have cultivated around Dirk and Coach Rick Carlisle, Hammons has all the tools to be a successful Mavericks draft pick. That’s refreshing to type, maybe the Mavericks are finally taking the draft seriously in order to get ready for life after Dirk.
Andrew Bogut, Salah Mejri and A.J Hammons should get the bulk of minutes at the center position for the Mavericks this season but Dwight Powell will see minutes there and even Quincy Acy may do so in a pinch if the Mavericks decide to go really small. Acy is a real physical presence off the bench and should provide the Mavericks with toughness and defensive prowess. The team also hopes to see Dwight Powell take a step forward after inking him to a four year, $37 million deal this summer. Powell has bulked up this season, putting on 15 pounds of muscle and checking in at 245 pounds this season which should help deal with the physicality of the center position as he was continuously overpowered when he was moved over to center last season.
The Mavericks were somehow able to squeeze the best season of Zaza’s life last season (he was thiiiis close to being voted an All-Star!) and got a much needed surprise with Mejri’s contributions. They go into 2016 in much better shape. Bogut is better in nearly every facet of the game than Zaza and asked to be traded to Dallas in large part due to Dirk being here. The Mavericks’ defense should be in the top half of the league this season and this center rotation will have a lot to do with that. It may not be pretty to watch but this center rotation has a lot of promise to start the season for the first time in years and that should get Mavs fans excited.
For more Salah Mejri insights, follow Maurice London on Twitter at @therealsprite.