Mark Cuban doesn't like losing, and that includes losing in free agency.
As much as that first-round ouster to the Oklahoma City Thunder must have hurt, getting rejected by Deron Williams this summer certainly didn't ease any pain. The free-agent point guard would have addressed a gaping hole in Dallas' lineup and given the Mavs a star who could team with—and eventually replace—Dirk Nowitzki as the face of the franchise.
Things didn't exactly go as planned.
"You know, (it was) on the advice of our basketball people," Cuban said. “No disrespect to Deron, but sometimes from a team perspective, the best deals are the ones you don’t get done.
"We would have made it work with Deron. But I think it’s better for our team the way it turned out."
Of course, you have every right to doubt Cuban's veracity. He could be lying to himself in a bout of denial, or he could be lying to his constituency in order to inspire optimism and escape the optics of defeat.
Tabling idle speculation for now, though, is Cuban even right?
Are the Mavs better off without Williams?
He's right about this much—the Mavericks may very well be a better team this season with the acquisitions they did make. Had Dallas landed Williams, they probably would have made some additional moves, but you have to like this team's current depth.
Additionally, Williams isn't in the same category as Chris Paul, LeBron James, or Kevin Durant. He's an exceptional player, but he's prone to turnovers and defensive lapses. It's also hard to know what to make of his inconsistent shooting with the Nets.
Perhaps last season was a fluke, and maybe Brooklyn's improved roster will improve his shooting efficiency. Williams won't be bailing the Nets out with desperate shots every time the offense turns to mush.
Nevertheless, the Mavs would have gotten a 28-year-old superstar who has some flaws. He's also the kind of guy who has a superstar mindset, the kind who clashed with Jerry Sloan and wanted out of his small-market franchise.
It's not that he would have disliked playing for his hometown Mavericks—it's just that he might not have been the kind of guy who fits in with Rick Carlisle's ensemble approach to offense and team-first mentality.
Maybe Cuban is right that what happened was "better for [the] team" in that respect.
In the long-term, however, he's fooling himself.
Williams would have ensured the Mavericks had at least one go-to scorer going into the post-Dirk era. It would have ensured an elite facilitator who could make his teammates better. There's no questioning what Williams would have meant to the Mavs on the floor.
There's even less question about what he would have meant to the organization's attempts to transform the roster.
Dirk may very well have another four or five good years in him, but just how good they'll be is anyone's guess.
That's enough of a draw to sell a desperate O.J. Mayo and an indifferent Chris Kaman, but the "come play with Dirk" line won't hook a guy like Chris Paul or Dwight Howard.
Williams' real value to Dallas would have been his ability to recruit additional assets to join him as he played out his prime and pursued a title. He would have been the anchor star in the same way Dwyane Wade drew LeBron James and Chris Bosh to Miami.
Cuban said it was the advice of "basketball people" that convinced him to make a push for Williams, but you'd think the business people were even more enthralled by the idea. Talent magnets make teams better, and they make headlines better, too.
The Mavs as we now know them will send Dirk into the sunset with dignity. They'll win games, and maybe, just maybe, Dirk will even get his second ring.
They won't get the attention they deserve without a guy like Williams around, and that post-Dirk era will begin with far greater uncertainty.
That much Cuban probably believes, whether he admits it or not.
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