According to various sources around the league, it is a foregone conclusion that Deron Williams will be headed on down to Dallas via free agency this summer. Deron Williams himself hasn’t done much to quell the speculation. After a recent victory, he was counting down the days till this underwhelming season was over. This sparked a lot of panic amongst the Nets faithful followers. I personally have lost six pounds since reading that quote. Yes, I’ve been a nervous wreck all year. We must not forget about another recent Deron quote that is far less cryptic though. The one where he said he would make the best “Basketball decision” for himself in the longterm.
So let’s assume that D-Will is a man of his word (By all accounts I feel that he is.) and he will sign where his future is brightest and he can compete and win in the NBA. I don’t think there is any point in looking at any team other than The Mavs and The Nets. Let’s face it, if he’s going to leave New Jersey it is going to be for Dallas and nowhere else. I don’t think this choice is as simple as basketball writers around the country would have you believe. So let’s take a closer look at both situations. I will do my best not to be biased but I make no promises. I’ll start with Dallas. Whew…here goes nothing…
The Dallas Mavericks are one year removed from winning their first NBA Championship, but you would never know it judging from the current roster. Mark Cuban basically gutted the team the following offseason in what many feel was a move designed to amass cap space so he could make a run at both Deron Williams and Dwight Howard. Acquiring both stars was never a realistic possibility for Dallas, but the team will certainly have the room to sign one player to a max contract, presumably Williams. The Mavericks currently sit in 7th place in the Western Conference. They have the same record as the 8th seeded Denver Nuggets. If they can hang on to make the playoffs they will likely be bounced out in the opening round, possibly even swept.
The obvious advantage The Mavs have is the fact that Williams is a Dallas native. No matter what he says you can’t overlook this factor. I don’t think it is as important as folks in Dallas will tell you, but if he just could not decide between the two then I think this puts Dallas over the top.
Things get a little murky for Dallas when you look at their roster. Everyone immediately thinks of Dirk when they think about The Dallas Mavericks, and rightfully so, but how valuable a selling tool is he when you’re thinking long term? He’s going to be turning 34 years old and at the end of his prime. His numbers are declining but his salary is moving in the opposite direction. Next season he is due to earn $20,570,000 and then $22,355,000 for the 2013-2014 season. If Dallas was built to win now then this might be something to overlook and just go all in on, but they are far from being contenders.
Dallas is expected to use their amnesty provision on Brendan Haywood this offseason to free up some salary cap space. So their roster next season currently consists of Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, Rodrigue Beaubois, Dominique Jones, Kelenna Azubuike, and Brandan Wright. If that’s not a rebuilding team then I don’t know what is. Is Deron Williams as good as Jason Kidd was when The Mavs acquired him in a trade? It’s debatable since Kidd was already up there in age, but I think Kidd was still better at that stage of his career, not by much though. Kidd was also joining a much deeper, more talented Mavericks team that featured a younger Dirk Nowitzki. It still took Dallas quite a few years to put together a championship team. To think Deron would make this Mavericks roster anything more than a 6th seed in the talented Western Conference is not fair.
It is unclear how Dallas could improve their roster beyond signing Deron Williams. The Free Agent class is very underwhelming this year. There are some decent Restricted free agents but all signs point to them remaining with their current teams. Dallas has no other trade assets to help them either so it looks like we know what we can expect to see when the 2012-13 season opens up.
Any Maverick fan will tell you that Mark Cuban can attract any free agent to Dallas because every player wants to play for an owner like him. Having an owner with deep pockets that places winning ahead of money is never a bad thing for a professional sports franchise, but it is no longer as valuable a weapon as it used to be under the new collective bargaining agreement. Cuban himself said that the new CBA limits the way he and the rest of the owners have to approach building a championship caliber team. That really is unfortunate, seeing as how The Nets finally got an owner with that same mindset and even deeper pockets. I don’t see an advantage either way. Deron has said he doesn’t know either owner enough to really factor them into his decision. He is not lying either because Mark Cuban recently mispronounced his name in an interview. It’s “Deron”, Mark, not “Duh-Ron”.
So what about The Nets? This has been a very rough season for them and you can’t really blame Deron for being frustrated. You can not overstate how big of an effect injuries have had on them this season though. The team never got to play together at full strength all year. They lost Brook Lopez for all but five games this season. One of those being against The Dallas Mavericks. That night in February was memorable, as Lopez put the team on his back and carried them to an impressive victory in which he dropped 38 points on The Mavs and reminded everyone why he’s one of the best offensive centers in the game. The Nets have wisely shut Brook down for the remainder of the season to ensure he’s at 100% for the 2012-13 campaign.
The Nets have found not one, but two diamonds in the rough this season. General Manager Billy King moved up to draft Marshon Brooks 25th overall in what many saw as a weak draft class. Brooks is currently ranked 3rd among rookies in scoring and the 9th most effective isolation player in the NBA. The other gem is the much talked about D-League call up, Gerald Green. Green has been electrifying and has provided The Nets with a big boost that has translated into wins. He led all NJ scorers the other night with 32 points to lead them to an exciting victory over Cleveland in OT.
The oft-criticized trade that brought Gerald Wallace to The Nets is beginning to look more and more like good move. Wallace has been crucial in helping The Nets win 6 of their last 9 games. He has spoken highly of his new team and possible future with this organization. Suddenly, the position that has held the Nets back all year has become one of the teams biggest strengths. Few teams have as much depth at Small Forward than The Nets do with Wallace and Green.
We all know The Nets 2012 lottery pick is protected through the top three picks. If it falls outside that threshold then it becomes Portland’s pick. If The Nets somehow land in the top 3 then this trade suddenly becomes a genius maneuver by Billy King. If you read my last article on the draft lottery then you know I feel as though The Nets are in good position to land that top pick, which they would presumably use to select Anthony Davis. Williams has already said he would welcome to chance to play with the coveted Kentucky Power Forward.
It is a bit premature to anticipate what sort of roster The Nets will roll out at The Barclay’s Center next season due to all the variables in play. We will have to make a few assumptions first. It is safe to assume that the team will be able to resign Gerald Green next season based on comments made by both the Nets front office and Green himself. He seems very loyal to the team that gave him another chance, a team that he has called a “blessing”. It would appear as though he is Brooklyn’s to lose. I would guess Gerald Wallace doesn’t exercise his $9.5 million player option and remains a Net because at 29 years old, I don’t see many teams offering a higher salary under this new CBA. The Nets should open Brooklyn with a roster built upon the core of Brook Lopez, Gerald Wallace, Gerald Green, Marshon Brooks, Anthony Morrow, and either Kris Humphries or Anthony Davis/Thomas Robinson. That roster is far and away superior to The Dallas Mavericks and would only get better with age. I feel confident in saying that, when healthy, that team should compete for the 3rd seed in The Eastern Conference. The Atlantic division should be owned by them every year, much like the way it has belonged to Boston the last several seasons.
The allure of Brooklyn is a big factor as well. Williams helped design the team locker room for the new arena and has called it a “Ballers paradise”. Being the face of a franchise moving into the biggest market in the league is a big deal. It will be hard to walk away from a once in a lifetime opportunity such as this. It is also worth mentioning that Deron’s little brother will be attending prep school in New Jersey next season. He said Deron wants him to be close to him so he can actually attend some games and see him play basketball. Why doesn’t that get the same media attention as some of these quotes that get blown out of proportion? That’s very telling if you ask me.
It seems obvious that Brooklyn is the best basketball decision for Deron Williams and his family. They love the organization and love living in New York City. The only thing Dallas really has going for it is the hometown factor. How important is that to D-Will? I guess we will find out in a few months. This will go down as the single most crucial event in franchise history, as it will determine whether they open Brooklyn as potential contenders or as the laughingstock of the NBA. Let’s hope Deron makes the right decision.