Mavs hope Nets' loss is their big gain

Perhaps for the first time during this strange, lockout-skewed season, the Dallas Mavericks are quite happy with the basketball gods, or the draft lottery gods as the case may be.

The Brooklyn Nets, needing to finish in the top three of Wednesday's NBA Draft Lottery to keep its first-round pick and add a key asset to a potential trade package for Dwight Howard, ended up No. 6.

It means the "top-three protected" pick transfers to the Portland Trail Blazers (who also have the No. 11 pick in the June 28 draft) as the completion of an in-season trade in which the former New Jersey Nets acquired veteran forward Gerald Wallace. Had the Nets finished with the first, second or third pick, they would have kept it. Had the Nets secured the No. 1 pick -- set to be Kentucky big man Anthony Davis -- and possibly even the No. 2 or No. 3 picks, it was speculated that it could be the icing on a deal that would entice Orlando to trade Howard to Brooklyn.

Such a scenario would then certainly have convinced Williams to re-sign long-term with the team he was dealt to by the Utah Jazz at the 2011 trade deadline.

Instead, the Brooklyn-bound Nets are now without a first-round pick and might have seen their chances of re-signing the perennial All-Star point guard, the apple of the Mavs' eye when free agency begins on July 1, take a significant hit.

Williams has provided no assurances to the Nets that he wants to re-sign. He plans to opt out of the final year of his contract to test free agency. Mavs owner Mark Cuban did not re-sign center Tyson Chandler, among others, from the 2011 title team specifically to be in position to create enough cap space to chase a maximum-contract free agent such as the Dallas-area native Williams.

One of the biggest hurdles to signing Williams is a Howard-Williams alliance in Brooklyn.

Rumors are all over the map regarding Williams' next move. He has responded to each report by saying that "sources" can't know where he will or won't play or with whom he wants or doesn't want to play because he has yet to make up his mind.

The Nets will still do everything in their power to make a trade for Howard happen and to retain Williams, but by not nabbing a top-three pick, it is possible that both tasks were made considerably more difficult.

And the Mavs (who pick 17th in the draft) are just fine with that.