Mavs, Cuban's history of 'Overpaying' centers

Mavs, Cuban's history of 'Overpaying' centers

Published Jun. 7, 2012 3:18 p.m. ET

We know the Mark Cuban Mavs will spend money for a center. We also know that Mavs centers, once paid, tend toward a lessened production even as they add up to 12 straight playoff seasons and two Finals berths. breaks the story on the Mavs' consideration of a summer bid on restricted free agent Roy Hibbert of Indiana and along with that, we've got A Brief History of 'Overpaying' Centers, the year the collecting trend because obvious, and what it means for Hibbert.    

When did we start noticing that the Cuban/Nelsons Dallas Mavericks valued the idea of collecting centers?

The 2004-2005 included newcomer Dampier, veteran Bradley, the developing Calvin Booth and rookies D.J. Mbenga and Pavel Podkolzin.)

That was kind of a sign, no?

"Dampier and Diop'' causes some chuckles, I know. But having two quality (OK, "decent'') big men is a centerpiece of winning 50 games a year. Some teams have one guy better than this. Few teams have two bodies of this caliber.

The same thing was certainly true of the Chandler/Haywood pairing. An even higher quality tandem, but as with the Damp/Diop duo, a similar result: the NBA Finals.

Sometimes, big men don't love basketball. They play because they're tall. Because when they are 10, they are urged to give up soccer or football or piano lessons and go stand near a basket.

But they are centers and they are valued and they are, in the last decade, coveted by Dallas.

In 2002, Dallas re-signed Raef LaFrentz to a seven-year, $69.9 million deal. In the following season his scoring average dipped by a bit and his rebounds went down by almost half, and a year later he was traded away.

Nellie loved the idea of a perimeter-shooting center, and the Mavs of this era were so focused on overcoming Shaq's Lakers in the playoffs that they made Raef a priority.

But Raef didn't work out. And heck, it took until 2011 before the Mavs even opposed the Lakers in the postseason.

The year before Erick Dampier signed his seven-year, $73-million contract in August 2004, he was a 12/12 guy at Golden State. The year after he did the deal he slipped to 9.2 points/8.5 rebounds. The year after that he settled into Damp reality at 5.7 points/7.8 rebounds.

He helped Dallas win. And because of the way Dallas cleverly designed his contract, he became The DUST Chip, magically transformed into the acquisition of Tyson Chandler, at a cost of nothing.

But during his playing days, the taciturn Damp served to frustrate many because of the things he didn't do. And that was a lot of money for a a guy who was lauded by coaches for being able to set effective picks.

In 2005, Shawn Bradley retired with three years and $14.5 million left on his contract after a season in which he scored 2.7 points per game.

No, the Mavs never quite learned their lesson on lovable Shawn, a beautiful person who had some freakishly adequate skills to go along with his 7-6 frame ... he was given chance after chance and his retirement (along with a buyout of that contractual remainder) was a relief, really, to the Mavs front office and locker room.

The year before DeSagana Diop signed his five-year, $38-million contract in 2008, he was at 3.5 points/5.2 rebounds. The year after he came back with a new deal he was 1.6 points/3.5 rebounds.

The Mavs kept giving Diop more go-arounds. The league does the same. But his numbers keep shrinking.

The year before Haywood signed his six-year contract worth as much as $55 million in 2010, he earned Dallas' trust with 8.1 points and 7.4 rebounds per following his February trade to the Mavs. The year after he got his money – and after being beaten out by Chandler at training camp – he spent part of the season as the Mavs' third-string center before popping back to life in the playoffs and doing fine work in helping to beat Portland, LA and OKC.

This past year, he served as the starting center in the wake of TY’s departure in free agency. Mavs coach Rick Carlisle praised Haywood's defensive work this season, but nevertheless, Haywood's salary and situation makes him a candidate for amnesty.

In short, the Mavs value center play and depth at the position. They take big swings to find answers. The DUST Chip for Chandler certainly qualifies here, and maybe represents the approach at its best (and riskiest): TY was viewed by some as an injury-plagued talent when in the summer of 2010 the Mavs took on his remaining one year and $12.75 million.

The answers have sometimes come, the results have often been there, but they've come with some headshaking and always they've come at a premium price.

Which brings us to Roy Hibbert.

The Mavs have decisions to make on existing roster members (from Brandan Wright to FA Ian Mahinmi) and they have their 3D Blueprint wishes for Dwight and Deron Williams to join Dirk Nowitzki and they have everything in between.

Including Roy Hibbert.