The limitations of post-deadline roster moves require teams to telegraph their intent, to some extent; there could be no surer sign of a signing to come than when the Dallas Mavericks — a team with a full roster — requested waivers on Sean Williams on Thursday. There would be no need for roster flexibility without an immediate candidate in mind, and per Marc Stein of ESPN.com, Dallas will soon sign Kelenna Azubuike — a player the Mavs have coveted ever since his D-League days — to a minimum contract for the remainder of this season with a team option for next year.
Azubuike flies well under the radar for some reason, but brings a rather complete package to the table for a role player: he defends well, has put up some stunning percentages from the outside (he’s a career 41-percent shooter from beyond the arc), and taps into his natural athleticism by being an active cutter. He’s not all that much of a shot creator, but could be a great, low-cost option on the wing if everything goes according to plan.
Of course, there’s a very real possibility that it might not; the red flag with Azubuike is a nagging knee injury that kept him completely out of action for the Knicks last season (and out of 73 games the season prior in Golden State), and though Stein reports that the Mavs are pleased with his rehabilitation progress, ‘Buike could come out of his recovery as a slightly different player. His shooting touch should go relatively untampered (though rust would seem a possible issue), but the fact that Azubuike’s athleticism was the natural conduit for his defense gives some reason for concern. If he’s even a half-step slower, both due to age (he’s now 28 years old) and that bum knee, that could have a significant, tangible effect on his defensive performance.
But we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. In the meantime, the Mavs have taken a shot with a proven NBA player who just happened to slip out of the frame, and will send him down to the D-League to get him up to speed. With all do respect to Williams, this is an extremely low-cost move; Dallas has swapped out a non-essential big for a forgotten player with rotation potential, all without adding any guaranteed salary beyond this season. It’s no home run, but this was a smooth get for the Mavs.