With the NBA’s restart fast approaching, it’s time to catch up on where Mavericks’ players stand after what will be more than four months between basketball games. With that in mind, Mavs.com will supply a series on each player on the roster, what they did before the break, and what they must do if the Mavericks are to make a deep run in the playoffs. Next up is Maxi Kleber.
The facts: When he first arrived to the Mavericks from Germany, some people thought Maxi Kleber’s signing was nothing more than a nod to Dirk Nowitzki’s final seasons with the Mavericks since both he and Kleber were born in Wurzburg, Germany. We know now, of course, that the 6-10 Kleber’s signing was very much a matter of scooping up a talented, available big man before somebody else in the NBA did. He’s grown into a high-quality center-forward, raising his scoring, rebounding, playing time and 3-point shooting in each of his three seasons. This year before the stoppage, he averaged 9.2 points, 5.4 rebounds and shot 37.4 percent from 3-point range while logging 25.7 minutes per game.
Contract status: He signed a four-year, $34-millioni deal last summer as the Mavericks exercised their early Bird right to re-sign him. The 2022-23 season is not guaranteed, but he has $25-million guaranteed for the first three seasons of the deal.
Pre-hiatus highlights: Kleber split time as a starter and coming off the bench, but his best night came in Orlando when he hit 10-of-13 shots, including all seven that he took from inside the arc, on his way to a career-best 26 points in a 16-point win against Orlando. Kleber also had a strong 10-game stretch in January when he averaged 12 points and shot better than 41 percent from 3-point range.
How he can help the Mavericks make a deep playoff run: The front line is going to be challenging for the Mavericks. They are without Dwight Powell (Achilles) and Willie Cauley-Stein (birth of a child). That’s two rotation players that aren’t available at center and power forward. We know Kristaps Porzingis and Dorian Finney Smith are starters, so the backup positions are going to be divvied up among Kleber, Boban Marjanovic and perhaps Justin Jackson and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Marjanovic is strictly a center and Jackson is more of a small-forward. Kidd-Gilchrist’s showings after he came over from Charlotte were lukewarm. Essentially, Kleber is going to have to be the Mavericks main big man off the bench – or starting in certain situations. He was in the lineup for the jump ball about one-third of the time this year. His ability to hit a 3-point shot makes him a perfect backup for Porzingis. But against bigger teams, the Mavericks may want Kleber at center and Porzingis roaming the perimeter as the stretch-four. Kleber has been a good rebounder, a terrific shooter and a dependable teammate this season. And there’s no reason to think he won’t be on the floor for many critical situations as the season resumes.