February 24, 2012; Orlando FL, USA; Eastern Conference guard Deron Williams of the New Jersey Nets watches the BBVA rising stars challenge at the Amway Center in Orlando. Team Chuck defeated Team Shaq 146-133. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE
The top free agent in the market should leave the Eastern Conference, return home to Dallas and team up with Dirk Nowitzki (and possibly Dwight Howard).
The latest-breaking news on the Deron Williams front last night revealed the all-world point guard and Dallas native would choose between Jay-Z's team and the hometown Mavericks sometime in the next 24-48 hours. For the sake of both he and the Mavs, let's hope Williams comes home.
"Source" guys across the basketball reporting world have opined that the Nets are the 60-40 favorite to land the market's top free agent. How that could be the case I have no idea. Even without the emotional ties to his hometown, the choice should be clear. Let's look at the various basketball reasons the Mavericks are the obvious choice.
1. The Mavericks know what they're doing
Prior to Lamar Odom turning the franchise into a Khloe and Lamar storyline last season, Dallas had 10 straight 50-win seasons. They have been a model of consistency -- and with vastly different rosters. During the Cuban era, the Mavericks have undergone several complete makeovers of the roster.
Much has been made about Mark Cuban's willingness to do what it takes to win, but it's not just that. It's that he and the front office know what it takes to actually do it. They have made the hard decisions when they needed to be made, and they made the deals they needed to make in order to bring a championship to Dallas.
2. The Nets do not know what they're doing
The Nets gave up their #6 draft pick for a 6'7" free-agent to be swing forward on the back end of his career. Then they gave him $10 million a year for 4 years. For an encore, they essentially eliminated themselves from the Dwight Howard sweepstakes by trading for the highest-paid player in the league in Joe Johnson. The Nets handcuffed for the foreseeable future by throwing money at two aging vets.
To be clear, a team featuring Williams, Wallace, Johnson and a hopefully-healthy Brook Lopez will be a significant improvement. Unlike last year's team, they wouldn't have to worry about their losses doubling their wins. Unlike last year's team, they should make the playoffs. But just like last year's team, they're not a championship contender out of the East.
In a league climate where talent is becoming increasingly concentrated, the name of the game is to get as many superstars on one team as possible. The Heat aren't going anywhere. The Thunder will only get better. To put it bluntly, the Nets mortgaged their future for mediocrity. And they did it in three days.
3. Deron + Dwight = an opportunity to win
Williams joining forces with Dwight Howard has long been thrown out as both stars' ticket to consistently competing for championships. Now that won't happen with Brooklyn. The Mavs, on the other hand, have the cap room to make it happen. Don't underestimate the importance and value of being able to afford them both.
All along, the smart money has been on both guys going to the same place. Their other option is to remain apart, surrounded by middling to good players on teams that may occasionally steal a playoff game or two from the powerhouses in Miami or Oklahoma City. Williams won't be making this decision with an eye toward perpetual mediocrity.
4. The Mavericks' roster is a great fit with Williams' skills
While many continue to ride the hype train that is Chris Paul and call him the best point guard in the world, Deron Williams plays the pick and roll about as well as anyone on the planet. As it happens, the Mavericks have the best possible pick and roll partner of all time in Dirk Nowitzki. Throw in Williams' good friend Jason Kidd as a back-up and the situation seems even rosier.
Finally, if the Mavericks can add Howard down low to compensate for Dirk's shaky defense, the team has 3 of the best players in the game in roles perfectly tailored to their skill sets. Even Miami doesn't have that.
Of course, all of this hinges on the underlying presumption that Williams' chief concern is winning. If, however, it's endorsements, living in beautiful Brooklyn, New York, or finding safe haven in a land without Big Gulps that interests him, the Nets make perfect sense.
In all seriousness, the bottom line is that the Mavs give Williams the best real chance of winning championships because they can afford both he and Dwight Howard. Accordingly, the Mavs' best course during yesterday's formal recruiting trip was to sell Williams on a two-year plan that includes Dwight Howard. The Mavs can be very good with Dirk and Williams next year. They could even give the Thunder a run for their money. But with Howard, they're an odds-on favorite for the next 2-3 years. And as championships play an increasingly significant role in determining players' legacies, that is what Williams is looking for.