Better off without Deron Williams? Time will tell

After his half-hearted, long-distance recruiting pitch failed to woo Deron Williams, Mark Cuban claimed the Mavericks were “in better position” without the three-time All-Star point guard anyway.

“I don’t want to pick on Deron Williams because he’s a great, great, great, great player, so it’s not necessarily him per se,” Cuban said this summer. “Obviously the decision was to go for him. But the conversation was, ‘OK, once you take $17.1 million in salary to what we have with Dirk and (Shawn Marion), 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, other than the $3.3 million mini mid-level (exception).

“So, that was a challenge that we had because we want to win. Everybody talks about Dirk’s window, but not only would it have been difficult to add players, it also would have been difficult to trade players. In reality, that was the same problem that Deron had. Because he looked and saw the same thing and said, ‘Now what are you going to do?’”

Without Williams, the Mavs are going to miss the playoffs for the first time in a dozen years. They’re seven games under .500 entering their meeting with Williams’ Nets in Brooklyn.

Better off without Williams? This season couldn’t get much worse for a franchise that considers winning 50 games to be a minimum standard. (All the Mavs have to do to get to 50 wins is finish the regular season with a 25-game winning streak.)

You certainly can’t convince Dirk Nowitzki that the Mavs are better off without Williams. Nowitzki has often bemoaned the Mavs’ lack of basketball IQ after close losses this season. That wouldn’t have been a problem with Williams and Jason Kidd – who definitely would have returned to Dallas if his golf buddy signed with the Mavs – on the floor during crunch time.

If you want to see Nowitzki sneer, just mention “Shark Tank,” the reality show Cuban filmed instead of meeting face to face with Williams.

But would the Mavs have been a playoff team with Williams? That’s far from a sure thing.

First of all, as Cuban mentioned, the Mavs would have been handcuffed while trying to fill out their roster. Would O.J. Mayo have signed for the mini mid-level ($700,000 less than he ended up getting)? Who would have played center with Brendan Haywood being amnestied and no Chris Kaman or Elton Brand?

And it isn’t like Williams has been worth the max money this season. He’s struggled while dealing with injuries, most notably ankle problems, putting up numbers (17.3 ppg, 7.7 apg, .417 FG%) that are far below his standards and failing to be selected to the All-Star Game for first time since 2009.

Combine the declining numbers with the 28-year-old Williams’ moodiness – how would he have dealt with Dirk’s 27-game absence? – and it’s fair to wonder whether he’s a player who can be the foundation of a contender.

Of course, it’s also fair to wonder whether the Mavs can land that caliber of player. If they fail to do so this summer, Cuban can’t claim that they’re better off without Williams.