When I found out Deron Williams is staying with the Nets, I can’t say I was happy. My pillow will attest to that. As will my neighbors. I’ve been a staunch supporter of the Mavs adding him. Most of us have been. But it didn’t happen. That’s OK. That’s life.
Deron was supposed to be our savior, a new super-star, and the core of a new powerhouse, the Dallas Mavericks. He wasn’t ever going to be that. Deron Williams isn’t a superstar. He’s a perennial all-star, yes, But not a superstar. A star can lead a team single handedly to the playoffs. Dirk can do that. He’s the only player on his team who would start for the Thunder, yet we nearly beat them… 3 times. LeBron can do that. Kobe can do that. Steve Nash has been doing it for years (but can’t any more). Deron isn’t that type of player. He’s more like Russell Westbrook. Put him on a bad team, and they’ll be slightly better. But put him with another star, and he’ll excel. And truth be told, we never needed another star to win. We didn’t need one last year, and until Dirk can’t play that role, we wont. Jason Terry, however, isn’t cut out to be a second option on a team any more. And beyond that, no one on the Mavs can score with consistency, barring Vince Carter, who is by no means the Vince Carter from the Raptors. Terry isn’t a second option on a good team. Vince isn’t a third option on a good team. But Dirk is still a star.
In this vein, you could argue it is a good thing we didn’t get Deron. Deron is more than qualified to be the second leading scorer on a team. In fact, that could very well be WHY he didn’t come to Dallas. But the problem still remains, that you need more than a couple good players to win. And with Deron, the Mavs have exactly nothing left over for a third scorer. Nothing left over for a starting caliber center. Nothing left to pay a starting SG, or a back up to Shawn Marion. This isn’t a team one peace away from a championship, unless that one piece is LeBron James. This is a team that still has the slightly damaged parts to an amazing machine. Replace a screw here, a cog there, and you can get it running. But replacing any one part, even with a shiny new piece isn’t going to start it up again.
Looking at this current Mavs team, we have potential. I am a firm believer in Rodrigue Beaubois, and our draft class could end up shining. Brendan Wright looks more promising than he has since draft day years ago. More so than that, however, we have cap space. $20 million is a lot of money. Which is good, since we need quite a few players. We also have our amnesty clause, a trade exception, and nowhere to go but up.
We have several needs at this point, and several question marks as well. The only position we are set at, in fact, is PF, where we have Dirk, Wright, and options in Marion and James. This is a buyers market for PGs, as not only is (was) Deron Williams a free agent, but so are Goran Dragic, Steve Nash, Jeremy Lin, and Jason Kidd. So is Delonte West, who I would love to have back. The lure of playing with Dirk Nowitzki, and for Mark Cuban on a winning team should allow us to get one of these players with money to spare. Getting a center is our other priority, as having Wright and James, both of whom could end up at PF at times, splitting center duty is a chilling concept. The depth, however, is reassuring. Our third priority with the money saved is a back up SF. Last year, Vince Carter backed up Shawn Marion. That isn’t cutting it, and although we drafted a defensive stopper from Marquette, we need another player to fill that hole.
What about SG, you may ask? We don’t have Jason Terry any more, a staple at the position for years. Although his asking price this year isn’t astounding (I’d pay him a full MLE this year in a heartbeat), it’s the third year that scares me. Jason seems to be declining already, and despite still being a top-notch jump shooter, he’s hardly going to be worth it down the line. The Mavericks have been, however, crafty at manipulating contract language to get a partially guaranteed last year as trade bait (in fact, the only reason we got Tyson Chandler is because of a partially guaranteed final year for Eric Dampier). The idea of trading away the JET is hard to bear, however. Instead, we seem to be in the market for a new SG. We did pick up Vince Carter’s option, however, and unless we trade him, he will end up on the team. And although we need an upgrade, I doubt it will happen through free agency. As it is, we have several shooting guards on the roster. Beaubois and Cunningham both could end up blooming into starting caliber players, although the former is running out of time. More importantly however, is our craftiness in the trade markets. Teams looking to part with guards are more common than you’d expect, and armed with a trade exception and several lesser guards on the roster, I’d expect to find a trade for a decent, starting caliber SG before the season begins, because, as you know, that always has been the Mavericks way of operation, be it successful (Jason Kidd) or not so successful (Lamar Odom).
The Mavericks are a flawed team in their current state. They would have been a flawed team with Deron Williams as well, although slightly less flawed. The money we saved from losing the Deron Williams chase could end up being exactly what we needed to contend, and contention is all you really can ask for. The best team rarely wins a title. One of the best teams always does, however. Beyond that, statistically, it all comes down to chance. With all the variables that go on through a season, the best team when the year starts may or may not be the best team when the year ends. The best team when the year ends may not be crowned as such. To be in contention is all you can ask for, and to be in contention is what we could end up being. Some teams obviously don’t have all the pieces to the puzzle. Some seem to, but in the end, when put together, are missing a piece. Only one ends up, in any given year, complete. Deron was never the be all and end all option. He is a great player, no doubt, but Mavericks fans more than anyone should know that it doesn’t take a team of great players to win a championship. It certainly seems that way, sometimes, but remember, when we picked up Tyson Chandler, the Bobcats didn’t want him. We put together a team of rejects and players who had always been told they couldn’t do it, and did it anyways. That team is gone. That blueprint is gone too. But the belief; the belief that we can do it again; remains.