Can't Boban Simply Be Mavs No. 3 Center?
DALLAS - Dwight Powell sure would come in handy right about now. And Willie Cauley-Stein would, too. But the Dallas Mavericks will go to the Bubble in Orlando with ...
*A star-caliber center in Kristaps Porzingis, who might be on the verge of of completing his best season ...
*A quietly-heralded backup in Maxi Kleber, who is experiencing his best season ...
*And ... What's so wrong with having Boban Marjanovic as the third-stringer?
The Mavs have been without Powell - who was their starting center to begin the season - since January 21, when he ruptured his right Achilles tendon. That season-ending injury to the versatile Powell created a chain reaction, as pretty much in unison the Mavs started using KP more at the 5 (where he has thrived) while also acquiring Cauley-Stein.
Cauley-Stein is opting out of Orlando for personal reasons, creating the impression (illusion?) that Dallas is suddenly wafer-thin at center. But as is the case at point guard (where the same argument is being made due to the injury absences of Jalen Brunson and Courtney Lee), there is no reason coach Rick Carlisle can't find answers within a 17-man roster.
In the case of replacing Brunson, Dallas could lean a bit on newcomer Trey Burke. But I'm betting a pinch of J.J. Barea (playing behind Luka Doncic) will work just fine. And Seth Curry could survive at the point, too.
And at center? There are 12 minutes a game to be absorbed in WCS's absence - assuming the third-string center was actually going to play that many minutes in a crunch-time of the season when rotations are usually tightened.
Porzingis and Kleber don't need to be on the floor together to be effective. (In fact, some numbers-crunching could establish that they are ineffective together.) Porzingis has been a better player at center, leaving room for somebody else to play the 4 ... and eating up minutes until it's Kleber's turn.
Kleber has some versatility, too, but almost all of his minutes this year have come at center.
So that's KP's best position. And it's Kleber's best position. There need be only a little overlap (with one playing some 4) ... and there need be only an occasional reliance on a third center in Boban.
We knew this about the 7-4, 290-pound Marjanovic when he become a Mav a year ago: He is best in small spurts, and even dominant in small spurts against the right foe.
And then, on occasion, he can do what he did on March 11, the night of the hiatus, when he helped the Mavs upset the Nuggets at the AAC with a boxscore of 31 points, 17 rebounds, two blocks and two steals.
Boban will surely never do that again. But he won't be asked to do so. He plays nine minutes per game; that may not change. He will give way, as he already has in his career, to the coach playing an "unusual lineup'' that omits him, a "SmallBall lineup'' of the sort Carlisle knows all about.
But shop-and-compare the Mavs' "lack of depth'' at center with the other West teams in the Bubble. None of the other clubs have a fourth center; few even have a third traditional center. The combination of Porzingis, Kleber and Boban should be seen as a strength - not to the point where it was with a healthy Powell, but not to the point at which Boban should be dismissed, either.