February 24, 2012; Orlando FL, USA; Eastern Conference guard Deron Williams of the New Jersey Nets during the East all-stars press conference at the Hilton Orlando. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE
A look at how accurate is the rumor mill this time of year, the role Dwight Howard is playing and why any Plan B may have to wait until 2013.
With rumors flying everywhere, we've brought in Christopher Reina, the executive editor of the biggest independent news site in basketball, to break it all down.
1) What's the latest you've heard about the Deron Williams sweepstakes? Who would you say is the front-runner right now?
The situation remains as wide open with several plausible scenarios as it did in March. Because Williams needs to see how things play out over the next few days, he can't become too invested emotionally with any specific team. I believe the Nets remain the frontrunner, but if he were fully committed to staying regardless of what happens with other players, he would have given that indication and he certainly hasn't.
2) How attractive has Mark Cuban made Dallas as an NBA destination? Is it really on the level of a Brooklyn or Miami?
Dirk Nowitzki is what makes Dallas an attractive NBA destination in the present. He has already proven himself capable of winning a title and should have remarkable longevity.
In the past, Cuban could make Dallas more attractive to NBA players than it otherwise would be due to his willingness to spend on payroll. He was already becoming more fiscally conservative over the past few seasons and the new CBA has locked him into being closer to the mean. Cuban will always spend more than most owners and also get the little things right, but he has lost some of that competitive advantage. The winning tradition he built does carry weight, especially in comparison to the Nets.
Dallas is a cosmopolitan city with no state income tax and relatively good winter weather, which are all big positives for NBA players, but most would rank it behind Los Angeles, New York, Miami and Phoenix.
3) What's the best way for fans to try to discern what information that gets leaked there is actually accurate?
The best way is to look at as much solid, trustworthy reporting as possible and evaluate what it says in aggregate. There are always competing agendas that get pushed to the public via reporters and that's why we often get conflicting accounts.
Stephen A. Smith was all alone in reporting that LeBron James would end up with the Heat, and that seemed like the least likely outcome to all of us who had read every single story about his impending free agency decision for three-plus years.
4) What role, if any, is the fate of Dwight Howard playing in Williams' decision?
Howard is playing a huge role in Williams' decision, probably almost as much as his family. If Howard hadn't opted into his contract, he probably would already be on the Nets. Trading for him this offseason will prove extremely difficult for Brooklyn because they lack the assets to trump a deal that a rival team could pull together even without an extension promise. Williams and Howard don't have as close of a relationship as LeBron, Wade and Bosh, but they realize they need each other if they will maximize their title chances.
If they are desperate to play together, it will have to come with the Nets in 2013 after wasting another season of their prime playing on non-contenders in 12-13, or by having the Lakers successfully complete two huge trades this offseason.
5) If Williams doesn't sign with the Mavericks, what would be the team's plan B? And is there one?
There is no Plan B for 2012 that matches the simplicity of signing an All-Star point guard like Williams. The Mavericks will need to make a series of solid incremental moves, similar to how they slowly built the 2011 title team in the years following their 2007 first round exit. Nowitzki has five strong seasons remaining and this is an arduous process in today's NBA of superstar pairings, so this is actually Plan c.
Plan B would be for Dallas to preserve their cap space for 2013 with the hopes of making a run at Chris Paul and Howard.