If Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban had said his team was
better without Williams manning the point guard duties, than he would have been
Williams is the most complete point guard in the NBA, and no
combination of Darren Collison, Rodrigue Beaubois and Delonte West makes the
Mavericks a better team, right now, than they would be with Williams.
That is not what Cuban said, though.
What Cuban really said in a radio interview was that, from a
payroll flexibility standpoint, the Mavericks are "in a better
position" than they would have been had they signed Williams to a maximum
contract. In that context, the statement is mostly inarguable. It is amazing
how supposedly controversial statements sounds pretty rational once we read beyond
the 140-character limit, is it not?
"I don't want to pick on Deron Williams, because he's a
great, great, great, great player," Cuban said on ESPN Dallas, according
to a transcript on Sports Radio Interviews. "So it's not necessarily him per se. The conversation we had … was, OK,
once you take and add $17.1 million in salary to what we have … then what do
you do? That's your squad, and it's not just your squad for this year, it's
your squad for next year. … So that was the challenge that we had, because we
want to win, and everyone talks about [Dirk Nowitzki's] window. Not only would
it have been difficult to add players, it also would have been difficult to
The Mavericks have more than $42 million dedicated to Nowitzki
over the next two seasons and more than $17 million due to Shawn Marion,
excepting the unlikely event that Marion exercises his early termination option
at the end of this season. The team just rid itself of Brendan Haywood's $52
million mistake of a contract and has a bunch of interesting expiring deals at
the end of this season. The Mavericks are a perennial luxury taxpayer, so Cuban
knows a few things about not having payroll flexibility.
All Cuban was saying was that, with another max player on the
books, the Mavs' transaction options would have been limited. They would have
had two players, Nowitzki and Williams, who would have been untradeable (not
that the Mavs would ever have explored trading them). But they also would have
been hamstrung in any attempts to add more impact players around them, a
reality that every team with more than one max guy runs into.
The other parts of Cuban's interview were actually more
baffling, such as his insistence that the Mavericks' roster moves in the last
year have not been a series of ugly whiffs. Cuban sounded like a commercial
airline pilot whose 737 is in a full nosedive, trying to calmly reassure
passengers that they are only experiencing a little turbulence. This time last
year, the Mavericks looked like they would enter the summer of 2012 with a
chance to sign both Dwight Howard and Williams. They ended up with neither,
which means things are not A-OK.
That message does not translate as tidily into a blaring
headline as "CUBAN SAYS WILLIAMS WOULD HAVE MADE MAVS WORSE!!!!" but
at least, in context, it makes sense.