Just for a minute, let's all jump in Blake Griffin's time-traveling Kia Optima and flash back to the summer of 2012. It was a confusing time in Mavs fandom. Coming off the most glorious year in basketball in history, the WORLD CHAMPION DALLAS MAVERICKS suffered through a mostly average lockout season after letting go of many of the pieces that made them champs in the first place. Despite a depressing sweep in the first round against OKC, many of us were still optimistic about "plan powder," in large part because we had felt good about the odds that all that cap space would result in the signing of Dallas-native point guard, Deron Williams.
Aaaaaand we all remember what happened next.
D-Will checked out his hometown team, then heard that Prohkorov was going to spend all the moneyz, luxury tax be damned, and said, "yeah, I think I'll be staying with the spend-happy Russian." Deron Williams was arguably the best shot Cuban had at making "plan powder"work, since he had far more connection to Dallas than, say, Chris Paul or Dwight Howard, and yet all it took was a trade for Joe Johnson to send him elsewhere.
A lot of Mavs fans were angry, bitter, and eager to criticize Williams for what we all knew was a terrible decision. We attacked him for being a child who jumped at shiny objects instead of using his brain to pick the Mavs, who had a better co-star (Dirk over Joe Johnson) and coach (Carlisle over *giggle* Avery Johnson). Mavs fans also got angry at Cuban, who was criticized for caring more about his TV show than sealing the deal with potentially the Mavs' best free agent signing ever. A year of Darren Collison and Mike James certainly didn't alleviate the feeling that the Cuban-Donnie braintrust really screwed the pooch in missing out on Deron.
But in hindsight, I think we should all send Mr. Prokhorov a thank you note.
First of all, let's consider the production that the Nets have received in return for shelling out max money for Williams. Deron played 78 games in 2012-13, averaging 18.9 points, 7.7 assists, and 3 rebounds a game. Deron led the Nets to their first playoff series in years, where they were (mildly) upset in a seven-game first-round series against the Rose-less Bulls.
Deron's 2013-14 season has been much more of a mixed bag. He missed a bunch of games due to injury, came off the bench for a while when he finally returned, and so far is averaging 14.8 points, 6.3 assists, and 2.6 rebounds a game.
These are honestly pretty decent numbers, but certainly not ideal for a guy you're committing a huge chunk of your cap space to in the hopes that he's the focal point of your offense. For the money you're paying him, you really want Deron Williams to be putting up superstar numbers. And he just isn't.
This past offseason, the Mavs swung and missed again on getting a big name co-star for Dirk in Dwight Howard. And instead, they ended up with a whopper of a consolation prize.
The signing of Monta "Have It All" Ellis was met with a lot of skepticism by Mavs fans, many of whom (myself included) saw him as a ball-hogging, inefficient gunner with absolutely no defense and very little interest in playing team basketball. And while we were mostly right about the defense, we were sooo wrong about the rest of it. Monta has been so much fun to watch this season, while also being a fantastic facilitator and teammate. Monta is averaging 19 points, 5.7 assists, and 3.6 rebounds a game -- while making more than $5 million less than Deron.
What's more, Monta is only getting more comfortable working in this offense under Carlisle's tutelage. While no one doubts that Dirk is the cornerstone of this franchise, it's been Monta who has carried these team in the fourth quarter in several of the team's most recent games. No one is more happy to admit they were wrong about Monta than me.
A couple of years ago, most of us were distraught that we missed out on finally getting the Robin to Dirk's Batman. Today, most of us now realize that we just had to wait another year. Sure, there have been ups and downs with Monta's tenure as Dirk's sidekick, but I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that Monta is the most exciting offensive player I've seen in a (non-41) Mavs uniform.
It turns out the guy the fans all wanted wasn't the one we needed, and the one we were so skeptical of was exactly what the doctor ordered. Fandom is funny that way.