The last time Mo Williams signed an NBA contract, he had the look of a rising star amid a second-round success story for the ages. He parlayed an all-around performance of 17.3 points, 6.1 assists and 4.8 rebounds a game into a $51.263MM contract that stretched out over six years, a length that wouldn't be allowed under the current collective bargaining agreement. Just one season into the arrangement, Milwaukee traded him to the Cavs, who thought he could be a much-needed second scoring option next to LeBron James. Williams never really became that kind of player in Cleveland, and two more trades later, his value on the open market isn't what it used to be.
His replacements struggled when Williams missed two and a half months with a severely sprained right thumb this season, but the Jazz had a better record when he was out (21-15) than when he played (22-24). The 30-year-old averaged 12.9 PPG this year, his fewest since 2005/06, and he did so on an amount of shot attempts that's held steady the past four seasons. His assists were up over last season, when he primarily played shooting guard next to Chris Paul with the Clippers, but his turnovers jumped as well, and he finished with an assists-to-turnover ratio of 2.28.
Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey praised Williams' performance prior to the injury this season, and indicated the team was open to bringing him back as the team's point guard. When Williams returned, his assists went down by one a game and his shooting percentage dropped from .441 to .418. More importantly, the Jazz failed to make the playoffs, and that may weigh most heavily on Lindsey's mind.
Lindsey and executive vice president of basketball operations Kevin O'Connor are notoriously tight-lipped, so it's hard to say what their opinion of Williams is now. The Jazz only have seven players under contract for next season, meaning the front office has plenty to consider. Negotiating with Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap or their replacements is likely the team's first priority, so what happens in the early days of free agency could have a significant effect on Williams' next contract.
The Alabama product's declining play figures to bring about a commensurate decline in salary. The question is how much less Williams will have to take after making $8.5MM this season. He's helped by a class of free agent point guards that's fairly weak after Paul, who's likely to re-sign with the Clippers, and restricted free agents Brandon Jennings and Jeff Teague. Teams will likely be choosing between Williams, Jose Calderon and Jarrett Jack. Calderon will probably be the top pick among them, particularly for teams looking for pure, pass-first point guards. Our Luke Adams estimated that Calderon could command three years and more than $20MM on his next deal.
Jack and Williams wound up with precisely the same scoring average this season, though Jack probably played a greater role in his team's offense down the stretch. A team could give Jack an inflated offer to try to scare off the financially inflexible Warriors, and that may mean a similar offer for Williams.
It's more likely Williams winds up with the full mid-level exception, which would be a four-year deal with a starting salary of $5.15MM. Taking the mid-level would allow Williams to sign with teams that are over the cap. He's been with plenty of winning squads of late, but Williams has only once been as far as the conference finals, so winning may be a priority. Williams will be even more likely to sign with a contender if he and agent Mark Bartelstein let teams know he's open to coming off the bench, as he did last season with the Clippers.
Brandon Roy returned to Portland for the first time as a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday. Although he did not play, he did address the media. Here's what else is going on in the Northwest Division:
Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey spoke to reporters on Monday, and while he didn't comment on specific trade talks or targets with next week's deadline approaching, he addressed a few topics of interest in more general terms. Jody Genessy of the Deseret News has the notable quotes from Lindsey, so let's round them up right here:
On what sort of moves the Jazz are exploring:
"We have the foundation in place and a lot of flexibility to allow us to make decisions in going in whatever direction we want. If this team catches a great rhythm and advances in the playoffs, we can invest in that. If the team doesn't meet expectations, our internal expectations, we can readjust the team in a lot of different ways."
On whether the team is involved in more trade talks than usual:
"Normal course of business. I wouldn’t characterize it as saying any more or any less busy. We have a job to do. We can't hide from that. Kevin [O'Connor] and I have to listen and survey. Our overriding point is we want to be very disciplined to the threshold that's been built, the flexibility that's been built.... We want to be very strategic (about) who we add. Is there a value add? This is now, draft, free agency. Do they fit the character of our playing group and our organization?"
"We understand the public - as we are - is excited about the young guys, but we've got to bring them a long at the appropriate pace. I think we're adhering to the history of the organization when we're doing that.... What is Derrick averaging minute-wise, 21-22 minutes? What's the greater good, giving him 28 or 30? Does he develop better? Or is the greater good giving him a real sense of appreciation that he earned the additional bump in minutes eventually whenever that is? I don't know."
On whether Mo Williams, a free agent at season's end, could be Utah's point guard past this season:
"Yes, he could. We'll see how the rest of the season goes. I'll say this, he's acquitted himself well here. He's been very professional and we really appreciate what he's done so far."
On whether the Jazz will look to land a star or build a team-first roster of solid players:
"I think there's a lot of different ways to team-build. You can look at different models, whether it's heavily star-driven, a true franchise player that is an all-time great, or you have a Detroit model, for lack of better description, where they do it with five good starters and good depth.... I think with how we're positioned, we have the ability to react to a lot of different scenarios and team-build in a lot of different ways. I don't mean to harp on flexibility. I think that's a strength of ours is to react to markets."
You could make a convincing case that the biggest NBA news out of the Western Conference so far today has been Kobe Bryant's arrival on Twitter. With just a single tweet to his name, Kobe has already racked up over 200,000 followers, a figure that continues to grow exponentially. There's plenty going on around the rest of the conference too though, so let's check out a few links....
The latest news and notes from around the NBA on Wednesday evening:
After a busy Christmas Day in the NBA, there's no let-up on Boxing Day, with all but six teams in action later tonight -- the Bulls and the Pacers will be two of the teams with today off, after Indiana announced that tonight's game would be postponed due to poor weather conditions. As we look forward to a full evening slate, we'll check in on a few updates from around the NBA:
Chuck Myron contributed to this post.
In addtion to Steve Nash's Lakers debut tonight, another major talking point in the Pacific Division involves the Kings' suspension of DeMarcus Cousins. According to Jeff Zillgitt and Sam Amick of USA Today, a source close the team's plans says that the former Kentucky big man isn't untouchable. Jarrod Rudolph of RealGM feels that Sacramento and the Magic would benefit by exploring trade talks, as both have pieces that could help the other side (Twitter link). Chris Sheridan of Sheridan Hoops also weighed in, offering four different scenarios in which the Kings could deal the fourth-year player. With that aside, here are some of the other notable stories we're hearing from the NBA this evening:
The latest news and notes from the Northwest Division on Tuesday night:
Let's round up the latest notes out of the Pacific Division, where the preseason standings, which feature the Warriors at the top and the Lakers at the bottom, are nearly an inverse of last year's regular-season standings....