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Pre-2010 the last Maverick force in the paint, James Donaldson
I've often reflected on the irony of this team's history with centers. Managing to go for over two decades with nary a decent center and even be a contender for the last 10 years, then finally nab TWO (Brendan Haywood and Tyson Chandler) only to let Chandler go after winning the championship is really something. Haywood is a workable center for the right price if you have some other mobility and offense down low, but when Chandler left the Mavericks so did all of that, as well as defense.
In 2011-2012, the Mavs were mauled inside by Brook Lopez, Marc Gasol, Andrew Bynum and others. Popular claims that the Mavs defense actually improved last year because the average points allowed dropped didn't change the reality that no one was effectively stopping opposing centers from scoring, nor that the other teams had a much easier time driving the lane.
Haywood's cost/benefit ratio with his existing contract is too high, and the Mavs have apparently lost interest in Ian Mahimi, which is understandable because while has upside offensively, he is foul-prone, so he can't be your only option. Brandan Wright has an incredibly bright future, he doesn't have the size to guard NBA centers and needs to spend more time at power forward. Drafting tough, defensive-minded 6'10" C/F Bernard James from Florida State was a step in the right direction, but it wouldn't hurt to shore up the inside even further, particularly if you get a solid offensive player as well.
There are a handful of good free agents that can offer not only defensive improvement but offense as well, which is why the Mavericks should stay away from looking at one-sided options such as Brook Lopez, who won't likely leave New Jersey anyway.
Chris Kaman seems to stand out as a big man with an all-around solid game and a reputation for good defense and toughness as well as the added benefit of having played with Dirk on the German team. If Kaman can stay healthy, he would help on both ends of the floor.
Marcus Camby would be a workable short-term option, and of course, there has been much discussion about taking a chance on Greg Oden, who, if healthy, could be a force. There are also a couple of lower-profile up-and-comers such as Jordan Hill and Mareese Speights, who could contribute without breaking the bank. Any of these options would be an improvement, and there are a number of other workable centers still available starting with Spencer Hawes.
If no upgrade at the 5 can be worked out, perhaps a solid double-double power forward such as Kris Humprhies or Brandon Bass might suffice. With any of these options, the Mavs would likely make strides on the boards and defensively, especially if Shawn Marion and Delonte West hang around with new additions James and Jared Cunningham.