Dallas Mavericks: 5 Free Agent Center Targets

The Dallas Mavericks had finally found the center they were looking for in 2011. Tyson Chandler was everything the Mavericks could have hoped for in a center, but his stay in Dallas war far too brief. There have been enough articles written about why Chandler now dons a Knicks uniform, but the bottom line is the Mavericks are right back where they were for so many years, desperately searching for a quality center.

The Mavericks tried to fill the gap last year by signing free agent Chris Kaman to a one-year deal. Kaman had enjoyed a respectable career and the Mavericks thought he would be a serviceable option while they waited on the 2013 offseason. It may have been age catching up with Kaman or it may have been health, but he was unable to provide Dallas with a solid option in the paint.

Kaman displayed his ability to score at times, but he was a liability on defense and rebounded the ball miserably for a 7-footer. Kaman averaged 10.5 points and only 5.6 rebounds per game for the Mavericks. Kaman mentioned to the media in the Mavericks locker room that he was waking up in the middle of the night to ice his ankles at the beginning of the season so it is possible he was never playing at 100 percent.

The Mavericks approach the 2013 off-season with enough to cap room to sign an impact player at the center position. Let’s take a look at what their options will be.

Nikola Pekovic

Nikola Pekovic is coming off a career season and would immediately upgrade the Mavericks frontcourt. (Photo Credit/Keith Allison/Flickr.com)

5) Nikola Pekovic

Nikola Pekovic is a restricted free agent, meaning the Minnesota Timberwolves have the option to match any contract offer he receives. Mark Cuban has come out and stated the Mavericks will not be offering any restricted free agents contract offers and the Timberwolves have expressed their desire to keep Pekovic in Minnesota. Despite the information that has come out during the last week, Pekovic is worth mentioning. The news that comes out before free agency begins is far from reliable. Teams have nothing to gain by purposely informing the rest of the NBA of their true intentions.

Pekovic is a physical presence who really came into his own during the 2012-13 season. Pekovic is a tough, hard-nosed player who doesn’t back down from anyone in the post. Pekovic had the best season of his career in 2012-13 as he averaged 16.3 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. Teams typically have to overpay in free agency to lure a restricted free agent away from their current teams, but Pekovic is a quality center that would immediately upgrade the Mavericks front court.

Andrew Bynum

Andrew Bynum is an injury risk but remains a talented center who is only 25 years old. (Photo Credit/Guitarzero/Flickr.com)

4) Andrew Bynum

While it may be difficult to get excited about a free-agent center that missed the entire the 2012-13 season with a knee injury, Bynum does merit a spot on this list due to the limited number of free-agent centers. Bynum has only played 82 games once during his career, his second season in the league when he was 19 years old.

Bynum’s history of injuries is obviously a cause for concern but he did average 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds during the 2011-12 season. Bynum is only 25 years old and the Mavericks may find themselves with available cap room and a need for starting center. If Bynum would take an incentive-laced contract with a team option for the following year, he may be worth the risk. Wouldn’t Mavericks fans prefer the possibility of 60 games from Bynum to 70 games of Chris Kaman?

3) Tiago Splitter

Splitter was the No. 27 pick of the San Antonio Spurs in the 2007 draft. Splitter didn’t do much his first two seasons in the NBA, but he developed into a solid big man in 2012-13. Playing limited minutes, he averaged 10.3 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. If you look closer at his per-36-minute averages, the numbers become more impressive, (15.1 points and 9.3 rebounds).

Splitter is a restricted free agent, but the Spurs may not be able to match a substantial offer for the Brazilian native. In a market void of quality centers, there may be more than one team willing to offer Splitter a contract this off-season.

Al Jefferson

Al Jefferson has been a consistent scorer and rebounder throughout his career. (Photo Credit/Saltcityhoops/Flickr.com)

2) Al Jefferson

Al Jefferson may not be a true center at only 6’10”, but putting up 17.8 points and 9.2 rebounds per game as Jefferson did during the 2012-13 season puts him high on the list of available big men. Jefferson is 28 years old and is an unrestricted free agent.

Jefferson will likely find a number teams willing to bid on his services. The Mavericks would have a small front line with Jefferson at center but his scoring and rebounding ability would offer Dallas an immediate upgrade in the paint.

Dwight Howard

Dwight Howard is the top free agent target for any team in need of a center with cap room. (Photo Credit/Bridget Samuels/Flickr.com)

1) Dwight Howard

The free-agent gem at the center position is Dwight Howard. It’s rare that a center of Howard’s caliber hits the open market and when he does, any team with cap room becomes interested. The Lakers can offer Howard an extra year on his contract and thus more money, but his return to Los Angeles is far from certain.

Howard’s first season with Los Angeles did not go according to plan as the Lakers had to endure a coaching change and a number of key injuries. The Lakers did made the playoffs, but it was as the No. 8 seed and they were quickly eliminated by the San Antonio Spurs in the first round. Howard was recovering from back surgery to begin the season and was then forced to play through a torn labrum during a large portion of the second half of the season. Despite his injuries and the turmoil in Los Angeles he still averaged 17.1 points and 12.5 rebounds per game.

The Rockets, Lakers and Hawks are the teams contending with the Mavericks for Howard’s services.

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