Due to some creativity on the trade front, the Dallas Mavericks have an open roster spot. Their two-for-one trade of Kris Humphries and Shawne Williams to the New Jersey Nets created a spot, and then the Josh Howard-Drew Gooden-James Singleton-Quinton Ross for Caron-Butler-Brendan Haywood-DeShawn Stevenson trade gave them a total of 13 players.
This allows the Mavericks to pick a role-player or a specialist to come in and help them in an area that they're lacking in.
They filled one of those spots with swingman Von Wafer, who can score at will, but has questionable defensive skill. He also, oh, how can I pull this delicately.....might be bat-sh$t insane.
But there is still an open roster spot, and the Mavericks have some needs. Clearly, a player signed in mid-March won't be the missing piece that puts the Mavs over the Lakers (unless LeBron James is bought out soon), but there's no reason why the Mavs can't pick up a player to soak up some minutes, and fill in the gaps in the second or even third unit.
Like any team, they could use a shooter off the bench. It was that mindset that allowed them to pick up Tim Thomas this summer, and it was that mindset that put the ink on Von Wafer's 10-day contract.
They could also use a big man, because with Drew Gooden stuck in the seventh circle of hell, a.k.a. the L.A. Clippers, the Mavericks suddenly find themselves frightfully thin at center.
With Dampier recovering from an open dislocation of his finger, Brendan Haywood is the only seven-footer (not named Dirk, of course) on the roster. Dirk can't be bothered with playing center, and the Mavericks have only the 6-7 Eduardo Najera left to take up some center minutes.
While Najera's grit can be commended, he is helpless against true centers, and the Mavs figure to see those in spades come the playoffs.
The Mavs gave a workout to D-League rebounding machine Dwayne Jones (averaging 15 per game), but were not impressed enough to make an offer. The fact that they worked him out shows that the Mavs are interested in adding another big body to their lineup.
Which brings us to today, Monday, March 1. Any player who is waived, bought out or released before midnight tonight is eligible to come to a team and play in the playoffs.
Several teams have done this recently, to varying degrees of success. The Boston Celtics did it in 2008, when they picked up Sam Cassell for a stretch run that included them winning a title.
They also did it last year with Stephon Marbury, which turned out less successful, though no to any specific fault of Marbury's.
So who is available to help fill the Mavs' open roster spot, and how can they help the Mavs make it deep into the playoffs?
Let's take a look.
While it's probably not going to happen, it's at least a remote enough possibility to warrant mentioning, if not to just make me hope, for just one day, that Ilgauskas could help the Mavs out.
I've always been a big fan of his, and while he's battled injury problems, and isn't particularly athletic, he brings a very valuable and specific skill set to the table.
For a big guy, Z has a fantastic touch on his shot, he can knock it down from the baseline, from the elbow, and from even beyond the arc once every blue moon.
Many teams are used to giving the center space outside of about 10 feet (they certainly do, rightfully so, with Haywood and Dampier), and Ilgauskas is a center that can make you pay for it.
He wouldn't be a perfect fir however, because if he's on the floor the same time as Dirk, that's your two "low-post" players, each of whom might be outside the paint when shots go up.
The Cavaliers made it work because of Anderson Varejao, who is a versatile player with a knack for rebounds (especially offensive) and can make up for Z being outside the paint.
But if Big Z is planted firmly behind Dampier and Haywood on the depth chart, he could come in for spare minutes alongside someone like Najera (a similar player to Varejao) and give Dirk and Dampier/Haywood a rest without sacrificing too much.
It could also allow Marion to get some time in at the power forward, where he can roam the paint on both ends of the floor, getting tip-ins, putbacks, blocks, and rebounds to his heart's content.
The only way the Mavericks have a shot at Big Z is if it comes down to dollars and cents. The Mavericks could offer him the bi-annual exception of about $1.99 million (assuming they don't tack on any years), and the Cavaliers could offer him about $1.3 million.
The Nuggets could also offer the same as the Mavericks, and the Hawks, who have their mid-level exception, could offer him a bit more.
Big Z doesn't strike me as the one to chase the dollars, particularly since he's spent the last 12 years in Cleveland, but the Mavericks owe it to themselves to chase this one down to the end.
Michael Finley has a special place in Mavs' fans hearts, as he was part of a trio that showed that the Mavericks weren't destined to be cellar-dwellers forever.
Finley was let go by Cuban in 2005 to save the Mavs $51.8 million in luxury tax dollars (remember when Cuban didn't pay the luxury tax? Seems like decades ago.) only to win his first ring wearing the dreaded black and silver.
Since that time, his crotch has been on the business end of a Jason Terry fist, but Mark Cuban has also publicly expressed his desire to see Finley in Big D again.
Cuban told ESPNDallas' Jeff Caplan during the 2007 Finals that, "I would hope that after his contract is over in San Antone, he would consider the Mavs as an option. I don't know that he would, but our entire organization has that much respect for him."
These innocuous comments were dangerous enough for the league to investigate Cuban on tampering charges, because, you know, you can't just have owners praising other team's players like that.
The investigations didn't yield anything, but it's clear that there is a place on the Mavericks for Finley. A veteran presence who can still play, he could bring back a familiar face to the Mavs, and he's a pretty good spot up shooter and defensive presence to boot.
His release is due more to his being stuck behind George Hill, Manu Ginobili, and Richard Jefferson in the Spurs' rotation than his lack of game.
Adding a vet like Finley certainly wouldn't make the Mavericks any younger or more explosive, but he would be a nice option off the bench, as well as present another player for opposing teams to gameplan.
He's got a different game than both Shawn Marion and Caron Butler, so he could also present some interesting mis-matches against teams.
I've always liked Mikki Moore. A true 7-footer, he's got pretty good hands, good ups, and long arms that have done pretty well in protecting the rim.
He had surgery on a bone spur in his ankle in December, and was waived by the Golden State Warriors in January, leaving him free to sign with any team. He is expected to be game-ready by mid-March.
He is yet another center for the Mavs to shore the frontcourt with, and in terms of availability and skills, he might be the best fit for the Mavericks.
I like his game a lot. He doesn't have the size to body up with the Bynums and Howards of the world, but he is athletic enough to give them fits, and in short stretches, he could do well for himself on the Dallas Mavericks.
Moore has impressed enough people with his past body of work that teams perenially in search of another big man, like Denver, are allegedly inquiring about him, and his agent said just last week that there were several teams vying for him.
Again, the Mavs couldn't pay him much, and maybe Denver has a better shot at the title, which could swing Moore their way, but the Mavericks should be examining any and all opportunities, and Moore definitely fits a need.
While center is certainly the most pressing need for the Mavericks, another shooter would certainly come in handy creating offense off the bench. These are a few players who could fill the Mavericks' final roster spot, and also help them win that championship that has eluded them for so long.
Not a world-beater by any stretch of the imagination, but the 7-footer recently released by the T-Wolves could help the Mavs conserve Brendan Haywood while Dampier recovers, and play 5-10 minutes off the bench in case of foul trouble or other issues.
He's a legit 7-footer, that alone would allow him to be more of a shot-blocker at the rim than someone like Najera.
He also possesses the ability to finish at the rim, a must for any center on Jason Kidd's floor.
The Mavs have experimented with waived centers before, getting Jamaal Magloire from the New Jersey Nets at the end of the 2007-08 season.
Magloire made almost no impact, in fact, I'm not certain that I just didn't dream about his sting with the Mavs.
It's hard to imagine Blount making any more of a difference, but this Mavs team is one tweaked Brendan Haywood ankle away from having to go to war with Najera as the starting center, so it's an option they have to at least look at.
There are only two things I hate in this world:
1) people who ignorantly hate professional athletes because of flaws in their playing style without knowing them as people, and
2) Larry Hughes.
Larry Hughes proved himself incapable of being the Batman to a young LeBron's Robin, despite the $70 million that Cleveland threw at him, and he's bounced around quite a bit since then.
He has been waived by the Sacramento Kings, and several teams are interested.
Along with DeShawn Stevenson (who also wears the colors of my beloved Mavs), Hughes is one of my least favorite players ever, but if he's sitting at the far end of the bench to come in and create some offense once and a while, I can't complain.
Now, I can't promise that I won't pluck my eyes out if I see DeShawn and Hughes wearing Mavs jerseys at the same time, but as far as warm bodies to fill out a bench go, you could do worse.
Speaking of worse, does anyone have Adam Morrison's number? You know, just in case.
Released by the Nets on Jan. 11, Sean Williams is a very athletic center/forward who is an exceptional shot-blocker.
His college days were interrupted by some recreational marijuana use among other things, and he hasn't made much of an impact on his NBA career.
But the Mavs are set when it comes to impact players. As a big body to control the paint, Williams' defensive presence could fill in for Haywood nicely during stretches, and once Damp comes back in, it's not like he'll be sorely missed sitting next to Matt Carroll on the bench.
Hell, with Josh Howard out, who is going to roll the joints after the Mavs win in the Finals?
Hughes made a name for himself as a shotblocker extraordinaire, once recording 75 (!!) block in just 15 games.
He's still young enough (23) to have some of that athleticism, and the combination of Carlisle and Kidd has previously calmed down some other problem children, like Gerald Green, Tim Thomas and DeShawn Stevenson.
Williams might not contribute much come April, May and June, but he's better than an empty bench spot. Well, sort of.