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Who'd you rather, Free Agent Edition

Let’s pretend, like in the days when Erick Dampier’s contract had Mavs fans dreaming their own dreams of a big three, that the Mavs are going to be able to pull off something really big when basketball once again graces us with actually being played on this side of the pond. There are, in that case, two names that get bandied around more than any other: Deron Williams and Dwight Howard.

So my question is, who’d you rather?

Williams is 27 years old, and last year averaged 20-10-4, with a PER of 21.19. Howard is 25, and averaged 23-14-2.4, with a PER of 26.13, and is the largest human on Earth.

Even without the stats, this one seems obvious. With all due respect to Mr. Williams, Dwight Howard blocks every shot and grabs every rebound. If Tyson Chandler was all the Mavs needed to win a championship, then Dwight Howard will make them capable of winning the super-mega-championship of the Universe. Or whatever.

A more thorough consideration of the matter, however, will reveal that things are not quite that simple. Mavs fans have now seen, across the court in their most recent series, the prime example of what can happen when the narratives about players gets bigger than the game. Dwight Howard, like his T-mobile compatriot Dwyane Wade, is both about aligning himself with a sure winner and being a celebrity. Deron Williams, as near as we can tell, is not.

By which I mean that while Howard has been the 1900th basketball player in the last two years to start talking publicly about where he’d like to play next well before his contract is up, Deron Williams has talked—publicly at least—about re-signing with the Nets, where he will be throwing outlet passes to---oh, Marshon Brooks, Travis Outlaw, Mr. Kardashian and so on.

So, if you get Howard and his contract extends beyond the usefulness of the Mavs’ aging veterans, you hope you can rebuild around him but in reality you might get him trying to head to Brooklyn or LA with everyone else. If you're looking for a superstar in the Dirk mold, Deron Williams is more likely your guy.

There’s also the matter of need. The first player the Mavs need to replace is Jason Kidd, since he’s 72 years old. I think there’s little question that Kidd can be as effective next year as he was this year—he’s not going to get slower, or be less open from three—but it can’t go on forever. The number of PGs in the league who can do the kind of game-management that Kidd does may be—well—non-existent. But you could do worse than a guy who’s averaged double-digit assists for the last five years and, unlike Kidd, consistently fills up the box score on offense too.

Obviously, Howard makes the bigger impact. Yet the Mavs currently have a stable of centers, provided they keep Chandler, which they'd love to do. They have a 38-year old PG, no obvious backup PG (unless they sign Barea, which they'd love to do but not enough to pay him what he'sg oing to get), and in the short term are more likely to need to replace the production of guys like Jason Terry and DeShawn Stevenson than Haywood-Chandler.

So who’d you rather, Mavs fans?