DeJuan Blair is banging bargain for Mavs

The Mavericks envision DeJuan Blair as a better-fitting version of Elton Brand.

Like Brand last season, the Mavs will count on the 6-foot-7, 265-pound Blair to provide a healthy dose of toughness as a vertically-challenged, wide-bodied banger who will play the vast majority of his minutes at center. They believe Blair, who averaged 7.8 points and 5.8 rebounds in 18.9 minutes per game during his four seasons in San Antonio, addresses a glaring need for some nastiness on the roster.

They also think the 24-year-old Blair, who is on the verge of signing with Dallas, fits better with the Mavs’ personnel on the offensive end than the 34-year-old Brand did. The reasoning: Blair is a roller; Brand is a popper.

That’s particularly important when playing with Dirk Nowitzki, the premier jump-shooting power forward in NBA history. The threat of Nowitzki knocking down midrange jumpers creates a lot of opportunities to score with hard rolls to the basket, and some easy buckets off those rolls help give Dirk a little more room to work.

See the Mavs’ success with Brandan Wright and Nowitzki on the floor together as evidence. Dallas averaged 108.8 points per 48 minutes with that pair last season.

The Mavs also think Blair can be compatible with Wright, who would be the power forward in that pairing, and even in certain situations as a power forward with Samuel Dalembert playing center or as a center with Shawn Marion as a power forward.

Blair isn’t nearly as good of a shot-blocker as the long-armed Brand. However, Blair is a savvy defender who takes a lot of charges and is willing to throw his weight around on the block.

Blair is also an upgrade as a rebounder. He has a career average of 11.1 rebounds per 36 minutes, which is better than Brand’s best season on the boards.

Brand was a bargain addition for Dallas last season, when the Mavs paid him $2.1 million after acquiring him via amnesty waivers. With a veteran-minimum salary, Blair would be even better value.