I'm sure you groaned as much reading that title as I did writing it. Possibly more, since you didn't have a choice. But with "the one that got away" playing "the ones we let get away or that went away because we looked too terrible because we let them get away" (I'm talking about Nets-Knicks, a game that ended with an OT Brooklyn win, to be clear), I had just a few more thoughts.
Don't let Mark Cuban fool you. The Mavericks were all in on Deron Williams. He wasn't only the most likely big name free agent to come to the Mavericks, by far, by that summer he was the last one standing, the only one who could have. He might have been the core of a future Dallas squad that could stay relevant. Who knows?
And yet, it may be true that the Mavs got a little lucky not picking him up. Because when I look at what the Mavericks need right now, what they will probably need next year, I don't see anything that Deron Williams does. He doesn't defend the rim and he doesn't rebound (3.2 for his career) , and that is where the Mavericks are seriously terrible. Despite his reputation, he hasn't provide much in the way of wing defense lately, either. Last year, according to mysynergysports.com, he allowed .93 points per play, or .04 more than J.J.Barea.
Yes, maybe, starting with Dirk and Deron the Mavericks could have gotten that help next year, or the next, and made something of it, but let's stick to facts here. Whatever you think about probabilities, the fact is that the Mavericks, since the 1980s more or less, have been successful in getting an impact rim defender and rebounder exactly one time, for exactly one year. Free agents might flock to a Dirk-Deron Dallas. But they don't grow on trees.
Which brings us to the unfortunate point that the Mavericks not only would have been much better off with bird-in-the-hand Tyson Chandler this year without Deron, they actually might have had a better team, again this year anyway, with Tyson instead of Deron. Unless you think Deron and Dirk are capable of surviving what is currently the league's 27th ranked defense in points allowed. Which uh... I don't.
Sometimes, unfortunately, you get the number one draft pick in Andrea Bargnani's year. Sometimes you sign an impact free agent to huge money, say Allan Houston, for old school purposes, and they get injured. And sometimes, sometimes, you get the cap space to spend, after years of planning to spend, for the one free agent whose skill set least fits what you need.
Not that a better distributor wouldn't help this offense considerably, but the Mavs are currently the NBA's 5th ranked offense, believe it or not. Massively inflated by a couple 120 point games, but the games where they've struggled to score have been fewer than the ones where they have, but haven't held off the other guys. Which Deron wouldn't help much with.
Maybe it's silly to suggest that we should do a little better job of thinking about whether what certain players DO is replaceable, regardless of some non-quantifiable level of all-starness. It certainly would be a lot better for THIS TEAM to have Deron than, say, Reggie Evans, monstrous boarder though he is, and almost certainly even a guy like David Lee who is great at rebounding, not so great at rim-protecting. And again, that's just for this team with its huge rebounding woes, not some abstract team in abstract universe where Deron is much better than David Lee.
But I remember a certain pundit, not on this website, and who no doubt would completely own up to it, but whose name I nevertheless will not reveal, who argued that as Lamar Odom was a better player on some abstract level than Tyson, the Mavs had actually improved last year.
Anyway. My point is, it seems the Mavericks have survived the absence of Deron Williams none too poorly, and the absence of Tyson Chandler somewhat more poorly, but at the end of the day they don't owe money to either, have a team with some interest value to watch, and will have more cap space next summer and even more the summer after to play with.
We are who we are, let's try to enjoy it.