The Annual NBA League Pass Rankings, Part 2 - Bill Simmons and Zach Lowe conclude their semi-scientific formula of what NBA teams you should be watching this season and why.
Bernard James preview: How much longer will Sarge be around? - In his third season, Sarge may have hit his NBA ceiling as an emergency big. Is his time in Dallas up?
Even before the Mavs signed Charlie Villenueva, Bernard James was (at best) the Mavs' fourth center, behind Tyson Chandler, Brandan Wright, and Greg Smith. And there are probably some who would rather have Ivan Johnson than Sarge.
Personally, I don't get that. Sarge is perfect for what he is. A cheap, popular emergency big, who hopefully never has to play, but gives you energy and grit when he does. Unfortunately, because the Mavs seem dead set on getting a stretch 4 on the roster (signing Charlie V to replace the previously signed, but lost to injury, Rashard Lewis), Sarge's days are numbered. He can't be traded until December, but the rumors are already starting up. But let's say Sarge is still here in January and beyond; what will his role be?
Looking at Last Year
In 2013-2014, Sarge played in just 30 games and averaged just under 5 minutes per game. 0.9 ppg, 1.4 rpg, and 0.3 bpg are not exactly eye-popping numbers, but no one expected eye-popping from a second round pick who was already 27 years old when he was drafted. His per 36 numbers from last year are really pretty decent, especially for a 3rd center. Per 36 minutes, Sarge averaged 6.9 points and 10.4 blocks per game.
Still, Sarge's contributions to the team aren't really measured by stats. He served the same role he served his rookie year, filling in only if someone was injured or deep in Carlisle's doghouse. Unlike 2012-2013, last year's Mavs big men stayed mostly healthy, so Sarge wasn't needed as much. He did have one memorable night in Frisco, playing 37 minutes for the Legends while shooting 90%, scoring 38 points, nabbing 18 rebounds, and blocking 4 shots.
Best Case Scenario
Assuming Sarge sticks around, you can think about this two ways: best case for Sarge and best case for the Mavs. Best case for Sarge might be that one or more of the bigs in front of him on the depth chart get injured, and Sarge thus gets an opportunity to play in the rotation. He then proves that he has figured out the NBA game since last season, and proves he has the potential to be a legitimate backup center while playing something like 10 minutes a game.
Best case scenario for the Mavs is obviously that no one gets injured and everyone plays up to their ability. In this scenario, Sarge rides the pine the entire season and is never needed to step on the court. They always say that the best insurance plans are the ones you never have to use, right?
Worst Case Scenario
I think the worst case for Sarge and the Mavs is aligned. The worst possible outcome is that, due to a rash of injuries, Sarge is required to play big minutes and simply can't handle it. This would be particularly terrible if the injury was to starter Tyson Chandler. If the Mavs need to rely on Sarge for any significant stretch of time, and he can't provide something close to league-average center play, you can probably kiss the playoffs goodbye.
If Sarge is forced to play 10 minutes a game or more this season, for whatever reason, it will likely be a make or break year for him. If a larger role proves too much for him, it is unlikely any team is going to take a flyer on a 30-year-old emergency center who has never really done anything in the NBA.
One of the reasons that I'd like to see Sarge stick around for at least another season is that he is such a worthwhile presence in the DFW and Mavs community. And he has such a great story. By all reports he is a good guy and a good teammate. And because Sarge is making the minimum, he is an overall positive value for his role (both insurance plan and great guy) from a business perspective.
If Sarge does end up getting traded, I wish him nothing but the best. His time in the NBA may be limited, but I'm sure he'll continue to do great things in the future.
NBA Depth Chart Projections for All 30 Teams Going into 2014-15 Season - PG: Jameer Nelson, Devin Harris, Raymond Felton, Gal Mekel, Yuki Togashi
SG: Monta Ellis, Ricky Ledo, Doron Lamb
SF: Chandler Parsons, Richard Jefferson, Jae Crowder, Al-Farouq Aminu, Eric Griffin
PF: Dirk Nowitzki, Brandan Wright, Charlie Villanueva, Ivan Johnson
C: Tyson Chandler, Greg Smith, Bernard James
Key Additions: Chandler Parsons, Tyson Chandler, Jameer Nelson, Raymond Felton, Richard Jefferson, Al-Farouq Aminu
The Mavericks' starting lineup should be replete with new (old) faces in 2014-15. Parsons has been strutting his jack-of-all-trades stuff this preseason, Chandler (i.e. Tyson Chandler) is re-establishing his rightful place in the middle of Rick Carlisle's defense and Nelson has crept ahead of the Mavs' morass at point guard.
Mild injuries to the two incumbent starters (Nowitzki and Ellis) have opened up opportunities for Jefferson and Aminu to play. Jefferson scored 13 points apiece against the Thunder and the Pacers, with the latter coming as a starter. Aminu, an athletic scrapper by trade, went for 14 points of his own opposite OKC while Dirk rested.
Position to Watch: Point guard
Nelson's starting spot in Dallas would hardly seem set in stone.
Not that Harris and Felton are such stellar competition, but Nelson, at 32, isn't exactly an overwhelming option himself.
The real intrigue here—for the time being, anyway—is supplied by Yuki Togashi. The 5'7 waterbug out of Japan is in camp with the Mavs for now, but is expected to join the D-League's Texas Legends once the regular season starts.
"I’d say it’s a long shot at best for him to make [an NBA] roster right now," Mavs general manager Donnie Nelson told The Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Dwain Price. "But it’s an opportunity for him to make his dream come true in reality to play for the Legends and, like so many guys before him, to use this as a springboard to get in the league."
ABOUT TO LAND IN DALLAS WITH THE BROS.!! @ju_smith4 galmekel @chandlerparsons #DHARRIS #MAVSNATION http://t.co/PR16kW95qN - None
Great, great cut by Jae Crowder. Resulted in open bucket for Greg Smith. - None
RT @EarlKSneed: .@dallasmavs starters: Gal Mekel, Richard Jefferson, Jae Crowder, Ivan Johnson and Greg Smith. #DALatIND - None
Take advantage of what's in front of you, may be your only chance to make your dream come true!!! - None
RT @EarlKSneed: I think Monta Ellis is done for the night. Head athletic trainer Casey Smith tapped him on the shoulder on the bench. He's … - None
Game day!!! Always ready for a battle. #gs4 #donthateonthebrodie #mavsnation #blessed - None
Game day!!! Always ready for a battle. #gs4 #donthateonthebrodie #mavsnation #blessed http://t.co/N6obCInvlU - None
Dallas Mavericks reportedly looking to trade Gal Mekel and Bernard James - The Mavs are looking for roster flexibility and that could cost Mekel and James their jobs.
The Mavericks are looking to free up one or two spot by and are shopping Gal Mekel and Bernard James, Yahoo's Marc J. Spears reports. Mekel and James are two of the 15 players with guaranteed contracts with the Mavericks.
Freeing up a roster spot would likely open room for Charlie Villanueva, who signed an unguaranteed contract before training camp and has played well in the preseason. Before Villanueva, the team signed Rashard Lewis before waiving his contract to do an undisclosed injury, so clearly the team is on the hunt for a backup four who can stretch the floor.
Alternatively, the Mavericks could just leave a roster spot open, something they're interested in doing according to the Spears report. No trade is imminent and, as Kurt Helin points out, James cannot be traded until December 15.
Mekel is widely rumored to be the most expendable player on the Mavericks. He still has two years left on his contract but at a minimum salary. There is also a log jam at point, with Jameer Nelson, Devin Harris, and Raymond Felton all looking to see minutes at point guard. If Mekel takes the floor it will be due to catastrophic injuries or junk time.
James is the more interesting of the two players. He spent the last two seasons with the team before becoming a free agent this summer. Dallas brought him in to play for their Summer League team but released him before it was over. He then resigned with the Mavs in September to a one-year minimum deal.
Retaining James would give the Mavericks a safety net at center. Tyson Chandler will see the majority of minutes with Brandan Wright and Greg Smith backing him up. However, both Wright and Smith are more situational players with Wright being an offensive threat and Smith working on defensive end. With Chandler's recent health concerns and the team not wanting to burn him out over the long season, there could be a role for James as he enters his third season.
It's worth noting that Mark Cuban said the preseason roster is fluid. Guaranteed contracts don't mean a player will make the final cut. Instead, Cuban is looking to put the best team on the court this season and is willing to buy out contracts to free up room for other players.
Mekel and James have everything to prove now if they don't want to be chopped...like cats.
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Dallas Mavericks reportedly looking to trade Gal Mekel and Bernard James - Dallas Mavericks reportedly looking to trade Gal Mekel and Bernard James
The Palm Beach Post