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Whither Deron?: Trade Roundup, Mavericks Breakdown

Obviously, we'll have much more about this as time goes on, but I wanted to briefly breakdown the events of the day.

We'll never know exactly why Dwight Howard did what he did--which, to those of you who didn't spend as much of the morning as you could spare refreshing twitter, was waive the early termination option on his contract, so he'll be a Magic not just this year, but next--but my guess is that, with how he mismanaged this business, he found himself staring into the howling void of LeBron-anti-fan-dom and at the last minute, couldn't do it.

The more important question is what does it mean?

The first thing it means, obviously, is that the Mavs are now the frontrunners for Deron Williams. That is true even though the Mavericks can only offer four years to the Nets' five years. Not only do the Nets NOT have a team to offer Deron that would remotely rival what would have happened had Dwight gone there, they did something hilarious by immediately panicking and sending a top-3 protected first round pick to Portland for Gerald Wallace (as well as Mehmet Okur and Sean Williams).

Why this is hilarious is that Gerald Wallace is an all-around energy player who does a lot of good things, but he is nearly 30, he is not an all-star, he is injury prone, and he is certainly not enough to give Deron Williams pause if he's set on leaving the Nets because they're not good enough. Deron Williams is not sitting there saying, well Brooke Lopez and me wasn't enough, but Brooke Lopez AND one more year of Gerald Wallace?

Moreover, given that A) this is a stacked draft and B) the Nets are in line for an excellent pick but not a top 3 pick, which the Bobcats, Hornets and Wizards are doing their best (or worst to wrap up), in all likelihood, it's pretty likely that that draft pick is more valuable to the Nets than Gerald Wallace could be. Now, could it still happen that the Nets get super lucky with the lottery, get a top 3 pick, now have Gerald Wallace and a top 3 pick, and an extra year to offer Deron? Yes, it could. Is that enough? Ask Deron. And don't ask him now, but in the offseason.

Unfortunately, if the Mavs do get Dwight Howard, it will not be now but next summer. Remember Mark Cuban, last week, talking about how cap space will REALLY be king the summer after this because of new, highly punitive rules about the luxury tax? What that means to us, and I would bet money on this, is that while Shawn Marion may now get the chance to play out his contract, and Hay will not be waived next year, if you think the Mavs are going to sign Deron Williams AND re-up Jason Terry, they are not.

This is a man who blew up half of a championship team to get cap space to build the fourth Triumvirate (Caesar, Crassus, Pompey; Augustus, Marc Anthony, Lepidus; Dwayne, LeBron, Bosh; Dirk, Dwight Deron). He is not going to say, oh, well one of those two is good, let's fill in our cap space for the next few years then. It won't be happening.

But let's focus on the good news parts of today, and the way I see them, there are three

1) The Deron Williams thing. Had Howard gone to New York, it would have been game over. It not only isn't, but Deron isn't going to wait till Howard gets there. And not only is that true, but Mark Cuban can tell Deron that we'll leave a Dwight-sized hole in our cap space for next summer just in case.

2) Since the Portland Trailblazers fired everybody, they will not be competing with the Mavs for a playoff spot, should the Mavs need that kind of luck, which they might. This is especially good news, since the Trailblazers were the Mavs' most difficult matchup problem in the playoffs last year. This is also true for Minnesota, which will have trouble competing without Rubio, and might even be true for Denver, who have, and good for them, gone younger, but I would rather face Javale than Nene any day.

3) The Lakers got Ramon Sessions, but they didn't get Dwight or Deron. The Rockets got Marcus Camby and Derek Fisher, but they didn't get Pau Gasol. Are both those teams improved from what they were yesterday? Yes. Is anything DRAMATICALLY different in the West? It is not.

For those of you hoping for a big or little Mavs trade today, as I wrote for Dallas sbnation and J0shi wrote over here, I'm sorry, it wasn't in the cards. Many of us may still not agree with Mark Cuban's vision for the future, and the fact that Dwight changing his mind at the last minute meant it didn't all go up in smoke at once doesn't mean it's definitely a winning strategy. But a guy who tosses square pegs out of square holes because he's decided to play a new game altogether isn't going to start hammering in oval pieces just because, and he didn't.

Still, the Mavs will get Delonte West back soon, have a winnable game tonight, the West is the same as it was yesterday (except for the Blazers), and now get to speculate about Deron 24/7 until well into the summer.

Not a bad day, all told.

My last note is this: The major message of this trade deadline, and maybe of the last two or three years in general, is that teams do not seem to believe there's a point in being good if you can't win a championship. Mark Cuban may think cap space is king in two years, but it has been for the last three years, since before LeBron and Wade. Really, since Kevin Ainge got Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen at the same time.

I'm not sure I like it--the structural reality of today's NBA is that only a few teams can compete, and if they can't, they should spend as little money as possible--but it is what it is. And to his credit, Mark Cuban knew that sooner than anyone.