Mark Cuban's Dallas Mavericks are on to something.
It started with the trade that brought Tyson Chandler (and Raymond Felton) from the New York Knicks, solidifying a front line in a way it hadn't been since the last time the 31-year-old center wore a Mavs uniform.
The next big step was signing forward Chandler Parsons away from the Houston Rockets. President of basketball operations Donnie Nelson swung for the fences and landed a piece who will immediately put Dallas into the title conversation.
Per SportsDayDFW.com, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey was impressed by the effort, telling KBME-AM 790 in Houston, "The Mavericks are a smart organization; they obviously wanted to get him...that structure of that (contract) is literally one of the most untradeable structures I've ever seen."
That's saying something coming from a man who himself once landed Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik on account of "poison-pill" contracts neither of their former teams would match.
But Nelson still has some work to do, and it may require similar creativity to get it done. By now, Dallas has little money to spend, but it can still make a pretty strong sales pitch to one free agent who'd make a difference.
The 31-year-old spark plug is coming off a strong season with the Portland Trail Blazers in which he averaged 9.7 points and 4.3 assists per game. An 11-year veteran with five different teams, Williams would immediately challenge Raymond Felton and Devin Harris for minutes, perhaps even laying claim to the starting job.
Dallas' point guard spot has seen better days. Felton is coming off a forgettable season, and his fortunes will depend largely on a change of scenery paying off.
The Mavericks announced on Thursday that they'd also re-signed Harris, a strong postseason performer who added depth to the position last season. According to Bryan Gutierrez (in a special to ESPN Dallas), "The four-year deal is worth $16.55 million, with the fourth season partially guaranteed, sources told ESPN.com's Marc Stein. The guaranteed figure for the fourth year is $1.3 million."
But even with Felton and Harris on board, there's almost certainly room for Williams.
The question is whether Williams will give Dallas—where he has a home—a much-needed discount.
Per SportsDayDFW.com, Nelson outlined the situation:
Yeah we’ve been trying to figure out a way to get Mo in a Maverick uniform for years now. He’s a Dallas guy, from Memphis but lives in Dallas with his family, so we’re hopeful that we can work something out but again our hands are tied right now because of the Parsons thing of what we can do financially. All these guys, whether it’s Mo, whether it’s ‘Trix [Shawn Marion], in all reality they’re going to have to take a pay cut to come here. It’s just how much of a pay cut are guys willing to look at, and we’re understanding and respectful of the market place, and there’s other places that may have more playing time and more financial flexibility than we do, but we would love for both of those guys to continue to consider us.
SportsDayDFW.com's Eddie Sefko adds, "The Mavericks have a $2.7 million salary cap exception, which they are believed to be willing to offer Williams."
The market for Williams probably isn't robust after much of the heavy free-agent spending has already taken place, but he could certainly find more then $2.7 million lying around somewhere. Veteran point guards who can hit the three at a high clip (36.9 percent last season) are valuable commodities, and Williams could probably persuade a team to offer him something in the $5 million range.
So Dallas has its foot in the door.
And it has a few things to offer Williams.
Though he wouldn't be guaranteed the lion's share of minutes at the point, he's in good position to win many of those minutes. So long as he shoots the ball better than Felton, head coach Rick Carlisle would probably keep him on the floor more often than not.
In the wake of signing Parsons, Dallas can also offer Williams a chance to win. This team took the San Antonio Spurs to a seventh game in last season's first round, and that was without Parsons or Chandler. Always a dark-horse option, the Mavericks may be more of a conventional contender this season.
Nowitzki is aging gracefully, Carlisle is a top-five coach and this roster has impressive depth with guys like Jae Crowder and Richard Jefferson coming off the bench.
Dallas' formula for success was enough to win it all in 2011, and this squad bears a number of similarities to that team.
It would be an overstatement to suggest that Williams will be the difference this time around, but he would certainly be a step in the right direction. Optimistic as the team may be about a platoon consisting of Felton and Harris, it's not a duo with optimum title pedigree.
Williams is no All-Star, but he's reminiscent of Jason Terry—a vital ingredient to that 2011 run.
While Jefferson and recently acquired Rashard Lewis will replace Vince Carter at the 3, Williams would be an ideal candidate to replace his production as a sixth man. It's a role Williams has come to accept, and it's one in which he's found success.
The interest seems to be mutual, but much may depend on what Williams can find on the open market. As Nelson suggested, coming to Dallas would be a financial sacrifice. The franchise can put on a pretty compelling sales pitch, but it probably can't pay Williams more than that $2.7 million.
The Mavericks need Williams to follow Nowitzki's lead, accepting a pay cut in pursuit of a championship.
A championship that increasingly appears to be within reach.
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