Sasha Pavlovic’s introduction as a Maverick was met by more than a fair bit of skepticism from yours truly, for what I deemed — and would do so again, given what we knew at the time — legitimate reason. Pavlovic, on the surface, doesn’t have a hell of a lot to offer a Mavericks team sorely missing Caron Butler; he can defend a bit, but Pavlovic really hasn’t shown much basketball aptitude since 2007. He hadn’t aged into irrelevance, merely drifted there.
After 20 days and 10 games, I feel a bit differently.
The Mavericks opted to release Pavlovic following the conclusion of his second 10-day contract rather than sign him for the remainder of the season, and I’m not quite sure why. Peja Stojakovic isn’t ready to play, and even when he eventually does hit the court for Dallas, Stojakovic isn’t a player particularly deserving of major minutes. He hits threes and struggles to defend, and while such players can be useful situationally, teams in general would benefit from not getting in the habit of playing them for considerable minutes at a time. Having an open roster spot for “flexibility” isn’t the issue; even if the Mavs suddenly needed a roster spot to complete any kind of move, they could easily cut Pavlovic loose at low cost.
From a distance, the primary motivation for letting Pavlovic go seems to be financial. And it’s on that note that I’ll grow uncomfortably silent. I try to avoid telling anyone how to spend their money, Mark Cuban included. He may have seemingly endless riches, but between the Mavs’ massive pile of salary and the luxury tax payments on top of it, Cuban is dishing out quite a bit to field a competitive team. I can’t blame him for not wanting to add a bit more on, particularly for a player of Pavlovic’s caliber.
Does having Pavlovic around make the Mavs better? Not particularly. He’s a bit player in a much larger show, and isn’t asked to do a terrible amount. Yet he’s played well enough during his three weeks with the team to warrant a season’s consideration, if only as a last resort. Butler’s injury has been damaging enough, and Pavlovic has helped fill in minutes on the wing as a member of a compromised rotation. Should another injury befall the Mavs — and the rotation become further compromised — Pavlovic would seem a convenient guy to have around. I don’t blame Cuban for not wanting to foot the bill, but Pavlovic has performed fairly well for a 10-day player. He defends. He doesn’t stop the ball. He cuts on offense and has been terrific from three-point range (Pavlovic ranks second on the team, in fact, with a .438 from beyond the arc). I’m not sure what Dallas was hoping to see from Pavlovic when they signed him, but I’d be curious to know what reasonable benchmark he failed to meet.
But as I said, even Pavlovic’s minimal financial pull would have an impact on the bottom line. Hopefully this means that either Stojakovic or Rodrigue Beaubois is on the cusp of returning (and reports seem to indicate as such; both players seem likely to suit up before the trade deadline), and that Pavlovic’s release was more than just a footnote on the ledger. Regardless, the Mavs shed some decent rotation filler this weekend, and while Pavlovic (in presence or absence) doesn’t have the gravity to turn the tide, Dallas’ decision marks the departure of a useful player nonetheless.