Debate: Deron Williams’ Best Title Shot?
Deron Williams is unquestionable the biggest name in NBA free agency, and as the hour of his decision approaches, HOOPSWORLD asks which of his desired destinations – Dallas or Brooklyn – offers the best shot at a championship.
HOOPSWORLD’s Derek Page writes:
The NBA is a star-driven league. Teams that feature the biggest and brightest stars win and compete for championships more often than those that are built around a solid group of players.
Look no farther than the most recent NBA Finals that pitted the big three’s of the Miami HEAT and Oklahoma City Thunder against one another for NBA supremacy. Each of these teams feature not only talented trios, but two players apiece that are legitimately special – Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant in OKC and LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in Miami.
This is why the Dallas Mavericks’ offseason pursuit of hometown kid Deron Williams is imperative to both the present and long-term health of the franchise.
While some, like Bill Ingram on the other side of this debate, may argue that the price is simply too steep for Williams and the proverbial talent cupboard would be left bare in Dallas, I disagree. Pairing a legitimate All Star point guard in Williams with the most un-guardable player in the league in Dirk Nowitzki creates a superstar infrastructure that few NBA teams could compete with.
Let’s not forget that Nowitzki, both a former league Most Valuable Player (MVP) and the NBA Finals MVP just a season ago, is still one of the best players in basketball.
Even at 34-years old, Nowitzki’s game suggests not only another few years of play at an elite level but also a graceful fade between then and the end of his career. With a game that’s predicated on marksman-level shooting, veteran savvy/smarts and toughness; Nowitzki has the possibility of being a solid contributor on a contending squad until he’s 40.
We’re talking about a player in Nowitzki that’s been the Mavs’ lone All-Star representative in each of the past five seasons, including eight out of the last nine years overall. Keep in mind the Mavericks have STILL made the playoffs every season while competing in two NBA Finals and winning one along the way.
Imagine if Nowitzki had the luxury of some justifiable help in the form of another likely perennial All Star. On top of that, Williams would feasibly be the greatest teammate Nowitzki has ever played with over the course of his 14-year NBA career. The same goes for Williams – which is also a significant reason why he may decide to join Nowitzki in Dallas rather than continue a rebuilding project in Brooklyn.
On the court, the pick-and-roll between Williams and Nowitzki on the offensive end would be a nightmare for opposing defenses. This is true especially during crunch time, with either possessing the ability to torch one-on-one defense or dish it out of the double team to the open man.
Also, in terms of the talent surrounding that base, the pieces that form around this duo aren’t going to be as important simply because of how dominant they are going to be. A player of Williams’ caliber, especially at the point guard position, makes his living by making those around him better.
Every time Williams blows by a defender and draws the double team, he opens up one of his teammates for an open shot or easy bucket at the basket.
The resourcefulness and ability to retool that Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson have shown should not be discounted either. In the 12 years since Cuban officially became owner of this team, Dallas has yet to miss the postseason.
Not to mention the possible scenario around Mavs HQ of a sign-and-trade from the Brooklyn Nets to Dallas (first brokered and then expanded on thoroughly by the guys at DallasBasketball.com) should Williams decide he wants to come play in front of his home town fans.
If Brooklyn knows they’re going to lose Williams anyway, the opportunity to not lose the franchise point guard for nothing would also benefit the Mavericks in terms of loosening the cap. This would allow Dallas enough cash flow to conceivably lure another talented player or two to Big D.
Keep in mind that other veteran free agents, wanting to set aside pride to compete for a championship, could join the Mavs on the cheap hoping to get a ring.
Put it all together and you’re looking at a reinvented and rejuvenated Mavericks team primed to be a contender – even in a loaded Western Conference – next season.
Signing Williams, the most coveted player in free agency this offseason, would serve notice to the rest of the NBA that the 2011 Champions are back and the future is bright again for the Mavericks.
HOOPSWORLD’s Bill Ingram writes:
Dallas Mavericks All-Star forward Dirk Nowitzki is a special player; there’s no doubt about that. His best years are certainly behind him, but there are still good years ahead, as well, especially if he doesn’t have to carry the team by himself. The Mavs have won 50 games during seasons where Dirk didn’t have enough of the right kind of help, but those years are almost certainly behind him. The Western Conference is tougher than it has been during Dirk’s time in the league, and with the stakes being raised across the West, it’s easy to see why Dallas is targeting Deron Williams to pair with Nowitzki.
Adding Williams to the mix would be a great first step, no question about it. Nowitzki may not be “the most unguardable player in the NBA,” as my esteemed colleague Derek Page suggests, but he is one of the best, most clutch players in the league, to be certain. A pick-and-roll gameplan designed around Williams and Nowitzki would be something to see, but adding Williams alone doesn’t make Dallas an instant contender.
As the roster stands today, rookies aside, the Mavericks have Brendan Haywood, Shawn Marion, Vince Carter, Roddy Beaubois, Dominique Jones, and Brandan Wright, with Carter and Wright on non-guaranteed deals. The trade that unloaded Lamar Odom helped some, but even with that the Mavs don’t have much money to offer free agents if they wind up giving Deron Williams a max deal. In fact, they would likely have to amnesty someone – at least Vince Carter, whose contract became guaranteed for 2012-12 on June 30th – just to sign Williams.
Of course, in order for Williams to make the most of his $100 million opportunity, he would need to work a sign-and-trade from Brooklyn to Dallas, meaning the Nets would have to want Brendan Haywood’s bad contract, Shawn Marion – redundant, given Gerald Wallace – and/or maybe someone like Jason Kidd or Jason Terry that Dallas could re-sign and send to Brooklyn.
In short, there is no clear path to contention for Williams in Dallas; there’s not even a clear path to Dallas.
On the flip side, the Nets are going all in to make sure Deron knows his best shot at a title is right there in Brooklyn. As of this writing, the Nets have agreed to terms with Gerald Wallace, are close to a deal that will bring Joe Johnson to town, and will plans for Brook Lopez, as well. Without even looking at the rest of the supporting cast, that lineup is likely one of the top three teams in the East, perhaps second with Derrick Rose on the shelf.
There’s no question that Dallas would be an attractive destination for Deron Williams. Not only is he from the area, he understands that the Mavericks have been among the league’s elite teams throughout Dirk Nowitzki’s tenure with the team. Mark Cuban has shown time and time again that he can find ways to field an elite team, and there’s no doubt that he would find a way to do it again. But is there any way Dallas can compete with the team the Nets are close to fielding?
That doesn’t mean Williams absolutely won’t choose Dallas, but it does mean he will have a very hard time walking away from the opportunity that’s being presented in Brookyn.
What do you think? Is Deron Williams closer to a championship in Dallas with Dirk Nowitzki, or with the collection of All-Stars seemingly headed to Brooklyn? Drop your thoughts in the comments section below!