NEW YORK -- Is Deron Williams done in Brooklyn?
Coming off the worst season of his career, you have to wonder.
The Nets tried to trade Williams from December until the trade deadline, but were ultimately unsuccessful. They had discussions with the Kings about a package that would've sent Williams to Sacramento in exchange for Darren Collison and others, but the deal fell apart because Brooklyn would not part with Mason Plumlee. And given what George Karl said about Williams when the Kings' coach was working for ESPN, it would be surprising if talks between the two teams restart again over the summer.
Nevertheless, the Nets will likely continue trying to move the 30-year-old point guard. The problem is that Williams is still owed $21 million next season and $22.3 million in 2016-17 if he doesn't opt out of the final year of his contract. Not exactly desirable contract numbers for possible suitors.
And that’s where a potential buyout could come into play.
While Grantland’s Zach Lowe wrote Tuesday about the possibility of the Nets using the stretch provision to shed Williams -- and it would be unwise to dismiss any possibility at this point -- multiple NBA sources have suggested a buyout is more plausible. That way, the two sides would be able to negotiate terms of a buyout agreement -- Williams would presumably have to leave some money on the table -- that would enable both sides to get a fresh start.
Coming into the season, it appeared Williams was healthy and ready to have a bounce-back year after he underwent surgery on both of his ankles. But shortly thereafter, he suffered injuries to his calf and rib. During the playoffs, Joe Johnson revealed that Williams had also been dealing with severe tendinitis, presumably in his knee.
Williams shot a career-worst 38.7 percent during the regular season (39.1 percent during the playoffs). While he’s still been able to knock down 3-pointers with consistency, he doesn't elevate the way he once did. As a result, Williams converted just 44.5 percent of his layups and finished with no dunks for the first time in his career.
Williams does have good chemistry with Brook Lopez on the pick-and-roll, and the Nets were a much better team offensively with Williams on the court, but it seems it could be time to move on.
The Nets invested a lot in Williams in terms of money (five years, $98 million) and surrounding talent (Johnson, Gerald Wallace, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce to name a few). The team just never got the hoped-for return.
In 2010, NBA GMs voted Williams the best point guard in the entire league. Now, five years later, his coach, Lionel Hollins, recently admitted that Williams is no longer a franchise player. Injuries and inconsistency have been mostly to blame for that.
Williams also hasn't been thought of as a leader, something Pierce pointed to when he said his former teammate never wanted to be an MVP candidate and succumbed to the pressure of playing in New York.
Former coaches of Williams have always wondered which player will show up: the three-time All-Star capable of scoring 35 points in a playoff game, or the moody player who gets easily frustrated and lets his poor body language show on the court.
Williams also chose not to talk to reporters on the day the Nets had their exit interviews, which was disappointing to fans who wanted to hear what he had to say. All of this makes you wonder how his teammates feel about him and whether he still wants to be here.
It seems that both sides could benefit from a fresh start -- whether it’s via trade, stretch provision or buyout. And it seems that now is the time to make that happen.
King for several more years?
Lowe, in his Tuesday column, also notes that there have been serious rumblings that the Nets and GM Billy King are on the verge of a contract extension. I heard similar things around the end of the regular season but wasn't able to confirm them. King, who is entering the final year of his deal in 2015-16, has made some ill-fated big moves during his tenure with the Nets, but ownership has repeatedly praised him.
It is possible that King may end up making some changes in the front office, however. Assistant GM Bobby Marks, who specializes in cap management, did not have his May 1 option picked up. He’s still working with the team, and could still be extended. The Nets will make a decision on Marks and other members of the front office at a future date. Marks has been with the Nets for the past 20 seasons.
Interesting thought on Brook
The prevailing feeling is that Lopez is almost certain to opt out so he can get a multiyear deal. There was some thought that he could opt in to the final year of his contract and then test the free-agent market in the summer of 2016, when the cap will increase greatly thanks to the new national TV deal.
But one source recently had an outside-the-box idea: He suggested Lopez could sign a two-year max contract with a third-year player option. That way, the 27-year-old center would be eligible to opt out and become a free agent in 2017-18. As ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reported, the NBA is projecting the cap to be $108 million that season and the luxury tax to be $127 million.
In 2018-19, those numbers go down to $100 million and $121 million. So Lopez would be a free agent at the cap’s projected high point. The multiyear deal would also enable Lopez to protect against further injury. The Nets have made it clear that they want to re-sign Lopez and frontcourt mate Thaddeus Young.