The Mavs waived Williams on Thursday, handing the starting point guard job to rookie Yogi Ferrell, who has far exceeded expectations since coming to Dallas in late January on a 10-day contract. Bogut was sent to the Philadelphia 76ers in a deal for Nerlens Noel the same day and would have received a buyout from the Mavs if they didn’t find a team willing to accept him in a trade.
Cuban said the decision was made to move forward without the two veterans — both of whom were in the final seasons of their contracts and didn’t factor into the Mavs’ future plans — after Dallas lost its last two games before the All-Star break to make their odds to make the playoffs even longer.
Point guard Deron Williams has cleared waivers and has informed the Cleveland Cavaliers that he will sign with them, sources told ESPN on Saturday.
“The goal always is to get to be a championship contender and get another ring,” Cuban said Sunday on ESPN Radio’s NBA Insiders show, his first extended public comments on the Mavs’ latest personnel decisions. “As well as Deron was playing and even Andrew, defensively … we had to match up to our criteria of trying to position ourselves to get a lot better. Then you combine that with the fact that I’ve always said, when a lot of teams are tanking, you don’t want to tank. And when there aren’t many teams tanking and everybody’s trying to compete, that’s the best time to consider trying to go for a draft pick. You can try to play as well as you can and still be in competition for a great pick.
“We obviously haven’t played well enough to be in the playoffs right now, but we’re playing a lot better. One loss here and there, we’re all the sudden in the top five for draft contention, but we’re also playing to get better and trying to win, which I think is a good thing.”
The Mavs are now 23-35 and 2½ games out of the West’s final playoff spot. Dallas is headed toward its first losing season since 1999-2000, when Cuban bought the team in midseason.
“It’s painful, but I’m also realistic,” Cuban said. “Look, if I wasn’t realistic about the value of a draft pick, we would have kept D-Will, we would have kept Andrew. We would be playing an older lineup, but now we’re playing our young guys.
“That supposedly is the definition of tanking: You play your youngest players to give them experience without the expectation you’re going to win. In our case, we’re playing our youngest players, but we’re playing them with the expectation that they’re going to win. I think that’s the best type of experience. And if that means we get the eighth pick or the 10th pick instead of the fourth pick, I’ll live with the consequences.”
Cuban noted that the Mavs’ best stretch this season came when injuries forced Dallas to rely more on young players. Bogut missed 13 games due to a hamstring strain during the Mavs’ recent 11-5 run. Williams missed seven games during that stretch, with the Mavs going 5-2 while Ferrell was in the starting lineup.
“As things progressed and we had more and more injuries, we realized we were playing better with our young, energetic guys out there than we were trying to go back to some of our old guys,” Cuban said. “It wasn’t a knock on those guys. It’s just that we played better with energy, particularly around Dirk [Nowitzki]. All those pieces came together, and then adding Nerlens, it just turned a rough season into a far more positive scenario. I think we’ve got a great foundation for the future.”