Brendan Wright took flight in 2011-2012
For a decade in Dallas it's been Dirk Nowitzki and then whatever else at the 4. However, with budding prospects who can contribute and a need for both offense and defense in the low post, it may be time for others to be giving an opportunity.
In addition, Dirk is pushing 35 and although he's still playing at a level comparable to his prime, that won't last forever. Dirk has been amazingly durable and cheated the hangman in many ways but it's time to add to the arsenal.
Last year former lottery pick Brandan Wright once again showed signs of the promise that made him a lottery pick in 2007. Having battled injuries much of his career, last season was the best for Wright since his second year in Golden State and in the limited playing time he had, mostly at center, he managed to cut into Ian Mahinmi's time even though Mahinmi started out the year with a bang.
Wright is a superior athlete around the rim and last year shot a personal best and team-high 62 percent from the field. Unfortunately he is not physically well-suited to play bulky NBA centers so his best chance to excel on both ends of the floor will likely be at the 4 position.
With some new offensive firepower on the front line coming with Chris Kaman and Jae Crowder it may be a good time to increase Wright's minutes. In addition, it's worth experimenting with Dirk playing more at center.
Yi Jianlian showed he could put up decent numbers in New Jersey but hasn't been given much of a chance since. Historically he has shown a fairly polished and decently rounded offensive game, not unlike a poor man's Dirk or Pau Gasol.
Defensively he needs a little more work and he's not physical enough for his size but with some targeted coaching, he most surely has potential and he's still very young. As his game is more like Dirk's in contrast to Wright, they offer alternative approaches to getting the ball in the basket which is better than having a one-dimensional roster.
Finally, it makes sense that rookie Bernard James may see some time at power forward as well. At 6' 10" James is a touch physical player who won't get pushed around by taller guys but as a defensive specialist the Mavs may need time to determine where he is best suited to play and again, minutes at the 4 are Dirk's to lose.
There is discussion that the Mavericks will put in a bid on the recently amnestied Elton Brand; however, unless he can be obtained at a bargain price, I am not in favor of that move. At his age and declining ability, there is not enough immediate impact or upside to justify having him as opposed to developing the young guns mentioned above. I like the idea of Luis Scola a little bit better but with the same concerns. Brand only has a one year contract; Scola's is three so Brand might be the safer choice although I think he has more to offer. Either way, I favor giving the young guys more time.
UPDATE, FRIDAY JULY 13: Mavericks claim Elton Brand off waivers and remain interested in Luis Scola