Ike Diogu has spent five years in a bottle. During four of those years he was a natural force waiting to be unleashed; Diogu played limited minutes for multiple Warriors iterations, landed in Indiana, was sent to Portland, and wound up in Sacramento, all without regular playing time or a role worthy of his talent. He’s been around, and yet in spite of impressive per-minute production, Diogu has yet to find a proper gig. He wasn’t a starter. He wasn’t a sixth man. He wasn’t even a utility big, really. He has filled in minutes here and there, but his career hasn’t been more than a series of sublets.
Now, despite being linked to the Mavs as a training camp prospect, it’s seems Diogu will have no lease in Dallas, either.
In some ways, it’s hard to blame the Mavericks’ brass for passing on a chance to sign Diogu. He is, after all, coming off a season lost in its entirety. The dreaded microfracture surgery saw to that, and it’s on such a note that I hope the Mavericks hesitated. When healthy, Diogu was a contributor. In better days, he was everything that Mavs fans found so endearing in Brandon Bass, but with sharper interior scoring and superior rebounding. He was capable of having that type of impact, on good teams or bad, on fast teams or slow. Ike Diogu was a player, and yet because of a few bad hands, this post reads like an obituary.
If Ike’s injury really has grounded him, Dallas was right to pass. However, should Diogu show for another team in another camp? I won’t quite understand the Mavs’ logic. Brian Cardinal and Steve Novak (among others) will be joining the Mavs on unguaranteed deals, but both are niche players. Each has a role and fills it well, but if Dallas is looking for a candidate to play consistent frontcourt minutes, I fail to see Diogu’s (non-injury) downside.
He obviously has weaknesses in his game (Defense and court sense, ay, caramba!), but Diogu can hit the boards and create on the offensive end, even if he often does so with blinders on. That’s something otherwise lacking among the Maverick reserves. His game offers more than a neat little trick, or token court balance; Diogu is a certifiable low-post option, particularly against second-string bigs. He’s capable of being something the Mavericks need, whether they acknowledge that to the public or not.
Or at least he was capable of being something the Mavericks need, last we saw him. Back then, Diogu was dropping big-time double-doubles in meaningless games, a plea for observers to raise his projected ceiling. The proper headroom does give the Diogu estate the appropriate character, but now, right or wrong, that very ceiling’s structural integrity has come into question. Diogu’s career marks of 17.7 points and 8.9 rebounds per 36 minutes should speak for themselves, and I hope they do. More importantly, I hope that the Mavericks listened. I hope they honestly and truly considered Diogu, only to find him slowed to the point of ineffectiveness by his injury, unfortunate though that may be. I hope that there is something going on here aside from a determination that “Ike Diogu is no Brian Cardinal.”
There has to be.
It’s nearing that time, kids. The time when regrettable mid-level deals are forged and signed with blood, when fits-like-a-glove veterans are snatched up for pennies on the dollar, and when the yearly projects (Oh, hi Gerald.) find their new temporary home in which to fail to make the jump. Late summer is truly a magical time for basketball fans.
The Gortat Incident seems years in the past, and while that episode may have trampled some hope for the upcoming season, there are still some serviceable free agents out there. Most of them can be had on the relative cheap and still provide meaningful production. Some of them can even do so in ways that would maximize a Mavs’ investment.
The biggest questions should be centered around how these potential Mavericks could change the team’s outlook towards the free agent Mavs in limbo: Ryan Hollins, Gerald Green, and James Singleton. It’s no secret that the Mavs have some, shall we say, “issues” in the middle. There’s Erick Dampier and a whole lot of nothing. Will Dirk shift over? Are any of the relative unknowns on the roster ready to body up in the paint? Hard to say. But the lack of “real” centers (whatever that means anymore) on the roster is a definite point of concern. Ryan Hollins isn’t quite the remedy we had in mind when the off-season started, but locking him up for next season should be viewed as a necessity. Brandon Bass won’t be around to log minutes at the five and muscle up on the inside, so a combination of Hollins and makeshift 5s will likely have to do the job.
That is, unless the Mavs are particularly enamored with one of the centers still swimming around in the free agent pool.
It seems like the Mavs have seen just about all they need to see from Gerald Green. If circumstances were different, like if the Mavs were desperately trying to fill their roster rather than trim it, I could see everyone’s favorite/least favorite slammajamma prospect stick around for another year. But there’s really no incentive to make an obligation to G-Money. He wasn’t dynamic or even singularly effective enough last season to warrant special consideration, and given what the Mavs already have to work with, committing additional dollars and a roster spot to the Green dream seems pretty foolish.
Singleton’s place with the team is even more ambiguous. James hustled his way into Maverick hearts last season and proved to be a rebounding machine. It’s questionable how much floor time would be available to Singleton with Shawn Marion being worked into the mix, but James is an ideal guy to fill out a roster and bring energy off the bench. But again, with the roster crunch the Mavs are in at the moment, it could be tough to bring Singleton back. Doing so would likely require a trade or a waiver, which may be more trouble than a 10th man is worth, especially if another free agent option is deemed superior.
With that in mind, let’s take to the list of the remaining free agents that should interest the Mavs:
1. Lamar Odom, F (unrestricted) – Lamar is the big fish. He’s plump from chomping on that Championship gold, and is a long shot (at best) to land with the Mavs; Even if Odom isn’t feeling the love from the Lakers, the Heat would likely one-up the Mavs in terms of both fit and personal preference. Oh, bother.
You also may notice that Odom is about as bad of a fit as you can get given the current core. LO can is a forward, and both of his natural positions are waist-deep in talent. Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, and Josh Howard form one mean forward rotation, and finding room for Lamar Odom in that mix would definitely be tricky. But Odom is unique and talented enough that those concerns come later. If you can grab Lamar Odom as a free agent, you do it. Period. He’s as versatile as players get in this league and now championship-validated, which is a rather powerful thing to add to a resume.
2. Rasho Nesterovic, C (unrestricted) – I know what you’re thinking. Yes, Rasho is big, he’s white, and he’s lumbering, but this guy is definitely better than you think he is. I can’t think of a single facet of Rasho’s game that would warrant calling him a beast, but supposing the Mavs are truly looking to fill minutes at the 5 with free agent imports, I see them doing no better than Nesterovic. Offensively, he won’t provide much. Strictly a garbage buckets, open dunks and layups kinda guy. But on the defensive end, that’s where Rasho is valuable. Having two serviceable centers who can play D is a luxury few teams have in today’s NBA, and though Erick Dampier and Rasho Nesterovic are neither big names nor offensive juggernauts, together they could go a long way towards slowing down the league’s back-to-the-basket types.
3. Carlos Delfino, SG (restricted) -Delfino is a baller. His game is smooth and he’s a fine shooter (.490 eFG on jumpers), but unfortunately one who is decidedly average from behind the arc (.356 for his career from three). Delfino offers a prototypical look that would allow the Mavs to run slightly more conventional lineups from the bench. He slashes, he hits his midrange looks, and he’s a solid defender; Carlos Delfino is a player just waiting for the right opportunity, and I feel like the Mavs could be a great fit. Delfino would blossom with some offensive talent around him, and with all the loaded guns the Mavs are packing, he should have no problem getting open looks. The two-way shooting guard that the Mavs have craved may be a vagabond Argentine…or at worst, he slides in as a rotation wing with a diverse game.
4. Von Wafer, SG (unrestricted) – Von Wafer is a ruthless scorer. He’d cut the throat of a kitten for a bucket, but that same drive makes him a bit of a black hole. For what it’s worth, he also had trouble getting along with Rockets’ coach Rick Adelman, perhaps the most players’ coachy of players’ coaches.
Wafer may never tighten the screws that keep his head on his shoulders, and that’s likely the red flag that has kept the Mavs away. If Wafer can’t learn to play nice with his coach and his teammates, he’ll never be able to thrive in the shot-in-the-arm role that best suits his game. I don’t think Wafer has the talent or potential to pan out as a top-level scorer, but he would rock it as a punch off the bench. The Mavs already have that covered with a cat named Jason Terry. You may have heard of him. But if Von has trouble finding a home and re-enters the market for bargain value, the Mavs would be stupid to pass up the depth…unless Wafer’s even more troublesome to a locker room than I give him credit for.
5. Ike Diogu, PF (unrestricted) – Diogu may not seem like a fit at first glance, but he could be incredibly useful as a post threat on the second unit. Ike would slide into Brandon Bass’ role as an undersized PF/C, though his game is more drop steps and less money jumpers.
Diogu’s counting stats won’t wow you, but he’s never really had an ample opportunity to strut his stuff. His career high in minutes is just a shade under 15, and as such his career averages are decidedly pedestrian. But when you scope out Diogu’s efficiency numbers and per-minute numbers, they’re truly stellar. Behold, Ike’s stats per 36 (via Basketball-Reference.com. Click here to see a larger version.):
That’s typically not the level of production you pick up late in free agency. And more often than not, you don’t find these players pining away on the wrong end of a rotation for the first four years of their career.
6. Leon Powe, PF (unrestricted) – Leon Powe could turn out to be a great investment, but the returns will be delayed. He’s currently rehabbing from a torn ACL, which is injury-speak for no bueno. Logic and precedent tell you not to offer a guaranteed contract to a man with jelly knees, but logic and precedent aren’t staring down a short frontcourt rotation that could use a quality big. Sheesh, the nerve of those two.
Hinging the frontcourt rotation on Powe’s knee could be a gamble, but if the Mavs aren’t satisfied with what they’ve got (Ahmad Nivins included. He looked like a player in summer league, but you never know what to expect from a team with a full roster.), then they could opt for a low-salary, option-based deal with Powe.
7. Rashad McCants, SG (unrestricted) – He’s young, he’s available, and he’s a scorer. Unfortunately, he’s not much else. McCants is a mouth with a jumpshot, but enough of both that he could inject some swagger and balance the court with his range. As long as the deal is within reason, McCants could be the extra gun arm needed to shoot the lights out. He also just so happened to work out with the team a few weeks back, so he’s got that on his side.
8. Keith Bogans, SG (unrestricted) – Bogans is one of those defensive-stopper types who grabbed the label through lack of alternatives. Bogans doesn’t have much going for him offensively, but he’s a good option as a spot-up shooter on the perimeter. Luckily for the Mavs, that’s pretty much what they’re looking for in a shooting guard. With the offensive talent the Mavs have, sometimes optimizing the offensive flow is as simple as spacing the floor and going to work. When the double teams come, shooters are in position, and if they don’t, you’re looking at a high-quality shot for one of the Mavs’ offensive weapons. It’s hard to say exactly where such a player would fit in minutes-wise, but if the Mavs are looking for back-up plans in case playing Howard at the 2 goes South, they could do worse than Bogans. Itty bitty problems: Bogans is no spring chicken, so what you see is pretty much what you get, and there are definite redundancies in the games of Keith Bogans and the newly-signed Quinton Ross.