The Mystery of Erick Dampier

Many teams could use an extra big man right now. There's obviously us. There's Houston who got dominated by the interior play of the Washington Wizards. There's Miami who, yeah. 

Here are Erick Dampier's numbers the last four years:

Games Played: 76, 72, 80, 55
PER: 14.9, 15.3, 15.7, 14.0
eFG%: 63%, 65%, 66%, 64%
Offensive Rebounding: 14%, 14%, 14%, 12%
Defensive Rebounding: 22%, 21%, 22%, 24%
Offensive Efficiency: 118, 123, 129, 118

As much flack as Dampier has caught in the last decade, those are really solid numbers. The rebounding figures are terrific. His efficiency from the field is stellar. His overall offensive efficiency and PER figures are, again, great. And it really prompts the question: what's going on here?

Miami negotiated with him earlier in the year before Pat Riley decided to stick with Joel Anthony and Jamaal Magloire. They're said to be negotiating with Dampier again, but nothing seems imminent. Houston had a deal in place for Dampier before backing away because they "didn't want to cut anyone." Really? A 1-6 team that just lost handily to the Wizards and lost Yao to injury again didn't want to cut someone? 

It makes you wonder what underlying problems teams are seeing. Dampier's now 35 years old so that could be a red flag. But, again, Magloire's 32, Mbenga's on the wrong side of 30, and the Lakers recently picked up the 37 year old Theo Ratliff. Teams are clearly willing to employ older bigs. Dampier's advanced age hasn't exactly diminished his production.

Maybe his defense is so abysmal that nobody wants to risk it. This is a real possibility, but Basketball Prospectus indicates he's held opponents to about their average production the last two years. He's not good, but he's not exactly giving points away left and right, either.

Then there are the questions of Dampier's drive, his motivation, his willingness to only play in contract years. But the numbers don't back this up; Damp's been one of the league's most consistently average players since 2004.

Dampier obviously wants to play too; he's worked out for teams for a couple months now. This all seems a little strange.

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