O'Neal, Okafor top Mavs' backup big candidates

The departure of high-flying, high-efficiency backup center Brandan Wright in the Rajon Rondo deal created a significant hole in the Dallas Mavericks rotation.

Greg Smith, has played 68 minutes all season, gets to audition for a significant role while the Mavs explore their options for a soon-to-come roster addition. The most intriguing big men available in free agency on the Mavs’ radar:

Jermaine O’Neal: The 36-year-old O’Neal told ESPN.com’s Marc Stein this week that he would make a “clear-cut decision after the holidays” about whether he wanted to continue his NBA career and which contender he’d join.

Front-office sources told Stein that the Cleveland Cavaliers, Los Angeles Clippers, Dallas Mavericks and the Golden State Warriors are among the teams interested in O’Neal. He was a quality 20-minute-per-game contributor in Golden State last season, averaging 7.9 points and 5.5 rebounds.

The Mavs, who can only offer the minimum, have a homecourt advantage of sorts with O’Neal. He lives in the Dallas suburb of Southlake with his wife and two children.

The trade for Rondo, sources told Stein on Friday, has given the Mavs the edge in the competition for O'Neal's services.

O’Neal also has personal history with two prominent figures in the Mavs organization. He was an All-Star during each of Carlisle’s four seasons as the Indiana Pacers head coach, and Carlisle was a Portland Trail Blazers assistant when O’Neal was an 18-year-old rookie first-round pick. O’Neal also played two recent seasons with Rondo in Boston.

Emeka Okafor: The Mavs are among the teams that have kept tabs on Okafor, who last played in 2012-13, as he recovered from a herniated disk in his neck. He plans a midseason return, and Stein reported this summer that nearly half the league had registered interest.

Okafor, once traded for Tyson Chandler, averaged 9.7 points and 8.8 rebounds as a starter for the Washington Wizards in his last season.