It was just this weekend when free-agent Deron Williams' future destination felt like a coin flip between the Brooklyn Nets and the Dallas Mavericks. However, over the last 72 hours, a flood of press reports have indicated that Williams is leaning heavily toward the Brooklyn Nets.
On Tuesday, several executives told www.cbssports.com that the Mavericks are increasingly concerned that Williams will sign with the Nets.
It is true that Williams opted out of his player option this morning, as reported by Stefan Bondy of the Daily News. However, Williams did so in order to sign a long-term contract when the free-agency period begins on July 1st.
In the meantime, Deron Williams is beginning to treat the Brooklyn Nets like his new home.
According to Chris Broussard at ESPN, on Tuesday night, Williams celebrated his 28th birthday at an intimate party in New York City to which Nets head coach Avery Johnson was invited. Williams just turned 28-years old.
Mark Stein at ESPN has tweeted that on Wednesday morning at a Nets presser, Williams dropped in briefly and flashed a quick smile to the press. For Williams—a soft-spoken and sincere individual—this gesture is a meaningful sign that he may feel at home in Brooklyn.
More evidence that Williams is leaning toward the Nets is that he has regularly practiced at the Nets practice facilities this summer.
On a strategic level, the Mavericks worries are even more well-founded. It's unlikely the Mavericks will create the salary cap space to sign both Williams and his desired teammate—Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard—to $80 million, four year contracts.
As it stands, the Mavericks will be only around $10 million under the 2012 NBA salary cap (projected to be around $60 million). Two Mavericks players—Shawn Marion and the overvalued Brendon Haywood—clog up the Mavericks cap space by $16 million in guaranteed contracts next year.
Even worse for the Mavericks, the NBA's new luxury tax penalty system is set to begin in 2013-'14. The system is merciless. For instance, if a team is $20 million over the cap, they will have to pay a tax at $2.50 to $1.
This new system makes the Mavericks' acquisition of a "Big Three" seem far less likely.
While a Williams-clinching Howard acquisition is not set in stone for the Nets, the road to Howard is by far easier than it is for Dallas. The Nets can sign center Brook Lopez (20ppg in 2010-11) for a $14 million a year contract, and then trade him to the Magic for Howard.
Even if the Nets don't sign Howard, Williams may be starting to warm up to the Nets front court prospects. The Nets Daily reported yesterday that a leading Spanish basketball blog has discovered that the Nets have signed a multi-year contract to scintillating European big man Mirza Teletovic.
A front court of Brook Lopez, free-agent Gerald Wallace and either Teletovic or Kris Humphries may actually be more promising to Williams than playing alongside an aging Dirk Nowitzki in Dallas.