Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Dallas finally got the guy they wanted in 2012.Sure, it may be generous to call Deron Williams a consolation-prize for Mark Cuban and Co. since their marriage is ultimately a match of convenience. The Mavs—even with Zaza Pachulia and perhaps JaVale McGee—are probably fatally-flawed defenders and fringe playoff contenders in the West.
But the 31-year-old Dallas native Williams sure couldn't ask for a better situation: city, roster, owner and coach included. He goes back home without any burden of expectation, without the worry of daily media crucifixion; or Paul Pierce belittling his non-superstar-ness; or being misquoted for belittling New Yorkers and their city.
Instead, Williams gets a solid start on a second chance, even if it comes on the heels of a double-ankle surgery, and even if it's too late to again assume his place among the NBA's elite point guards. Still, he remains an above-average and industrious, albeit, injury-plagued player. And Dallas could be damn fun offensively if Don't Call Me De-ron occasionally summons his former self's nightly 20-and-10 Utah Jazz numbers, which now seem like a distant memory.Even this past season—where he shot a career-worst 38.7 percent from the field—came with at least a few glimmers. The Nets won nine of their last 14 to sneak into the playoffs, and Williams produced his best month in April, posting a 15-8-5 line and shooting 42.9 percent from deep. And hey, he's still got enough sizzle for a Top 10-worthy dribble-reel. Just ask Brandon Bass.And even his much-maligned postseason play, lowlighted by a scoreless 0-for-9 shooting game in Game 2 against Miami in 2014, and three games scoring five points or less in the first round versus Atlanta this year, was bookended by a season-high 35-point and seven assist performance where he knocked down seven threes. Not for nothing.But mostly for nothing in Brooklyn, where pretty much everything went wrong: Williams was dismantled by injuries, saw his PER decline every year, was surrounded by perhaps the most disjointed and bizarre collection of fading All NBAers in the "Big Insert Number" era, and sparred with coaches, apparently literally (though Hollins did frequently come to his "star" player's defense). He was, in the end, the inaugural prize-acquisition of a star-hungry billionaire owner, who had a fledgling at-best understanding of five-year plans, and basketball.
In Dallas, Williams gets welcomed upgrades across the board.For starters, the roster's fit is far better. Instead of Brook Lopez's heavy-footed post-ups and Joe Johnson's ball-stopping scoring tendencies, Williams gets Dirk Nowitzki and the more selfless, spot-up shooting capabilities of Chandler Parsons and Wes Matthews. Considering a steady diet of Carlos Boozer pick-and-rolls helped turn Williams into one of the NBA's best, such a supporting cast—and the prospect to replicate that rinse-and-repeat offense with Dirk—bodes extremely well.So too does Rick Carlisle's enduring success of maximizing play out of his backcourt. From Monta Ellis, Devin Harris and Jameer Nelson, to Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, J.J. Barea, O.J. Mayo and Darren Collison, seemingly every point not named Rajon Rondo has flourished in one area or another under Carlisle's wise hand. Kidd even did the unthinkable at 37 and won a title.And in Cuban, Williams gets an equally star-hungry billionaire owner, only with title-credentials to match spending might. The DeAndre Jordan absurdity—and to a lesser-degree, the fail-fast Rondo trade—prove Cuban's willingness to do anything and everything to elevate the Mavs back into title contention for Dirk's swan song. And with Williams, the Mavs are now arguably a strong defensive center away from relevance. So you know Cuban will exhaust every option—be it kicking the tires on McGee, or Larry Sanders, or mortgaging CyberDust and 50 first-round picks for DeMarcus Cousins.As for Williams, his shooting woes are overblown. He shot 44 and 45 percent from the field in 2012-13, 2013-14, respectively, while his playmaking and solid rebounding-rates remain. Should he stay healthy in Dallas' innovative-health environs, he well could enjoy some sort of a revival as Dirk's running-mate before the aging German's sun sets.Will Williams' own star ever shine bright again? Only time, and father time, will tell.