The Mavericks gambled on a player the Nets paid $27 million to go away, and now it looks like a genius move

The Dallas Mavericks’ offseason was highlighted by being snubbed by DeAndre Jordan.

In the wake of losing Jordan to the Clippers, the Mavericks had to scramble to gather the remaining free agents.

While giving Wesley Matthews a $70 million deal was their biggest move of the summer, they made a quieter signing that seems to be paying off through the first half of the season.

One of the Mavs better gambles in free agency has been on Deron Williams. The Mavs needed a point guard after letting Rajon Rondo walk in free agency, and Deron Williams became available, only after the Nets agreed to buy him out of his contract for $27.5 million.

The buyout was a big deal. Williams had re-signed with the Nets in 2012 for five years, $98 million. This past offseason, he was still owed $43 million for two years and had become untradeable, due to both his poor performance and massive deal. He had been coming off the worst season of his career, averaging 13 points, 6.6 assists, and just 38% shooting. Furthermore, ankle issues had causes a serious decline in his career, as he managed just 68 and 64 games in 2014-15 and 2013-14, respectively, and lacked his usual burst on the court.

It was clear when Williams was bought out that he was going to the Mavericks — he was raised in Texas and was a target of theirs when he was a free agent in 2012. He ended up signing a two-year, $10 million deal, a low-risk financial move by Dallas, but nonetheless a gamble that Williams could rebound from two disappointing years.

Through 29 games, the Mavs look like winners for the gamble. Williams’ stats aren’t eye-popping, but he’s averaging a solid 14.8 points on 42.5% shooting, 36% from three, with three rebounds and 5.6 assists per game. Furthermore, he’s helmed the offence for a surprising 20-15 Mavs’ team that has the eighth best offence in the NBA.

On Tuesday night, Williams offered a glimpse of his old self in a thrilling double-overtime win over the Sacramento Kings. In the fourth quarter, he rekindled his former explosiveness in crossing up a defender and launching to the basket for a go-ahead layup.

Later, in double-overtime, Williams hit the game-winning three:

Williams finished with 25 points on 10-18 shooting, 3-6 from three-point range.

It’s a far cry from where Williams was just a year ago. In an interview with Yahoo’s Michael Lee earlier this season Williams said of his time with the Nets, “It took a lot out of me, man, those three years. … Made me question if I even wanted to play basketball when I was done with that contract.”

In Dallas, however, he’s thriving. Williams’ numbers have improved by month, averaging a combined 15.7 points, 45.8% shooting, and five assists per game through December and January.

Williams told Lee of playing in Dallas, “The team has been great. Being home in Dallas, it’s been great for myself and my family. I’m definitely enjoying it. I enjoy playing with these guys. It’s a great group. … It’s loose. It’s fun. I have the ball in my hands a lot more. I have a better rhythm here. Those things all contribute to better confidence out there.”

Williams isn’t on track to regain his All-Star status from his early years in the NBA, but the Mavericks gambled on a player largely considered washed up, and they hit. They locked up a legitimate starting point guard for two years at a bargain price, and they surprisingly find themselves right in the playoff hunt in the Western Conference.

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