Deron Williams

Five Notable Veteran Free Agents Still Available

While most noteworthy free agents came off the board in July, September brought with it a wave of pre-camp signings that saw the last few restricted free agents locked up, along with veteran unrestricted free agents like Tony Allen, Dante Cunningham, Aaron Brooks, and Shabazz Muhammad.

That wave of pre-camp signings created a scarcity of viable options on the list of 2017 free agents, but the shrinking group of available options still features a handful of intriguing vets. Here’s a breakdown of five names worth keeping an eye on:Deron Williams vertical

  1. Deron Williams, PG: While the former third overall pick is obviously no longer the player he was seven years ago – when he averaged 20+ PPG and 10+ APG – it was just last summer that he received $9MM from the Mavericks to be the club’s starting point guard. For the season, Williams averaged a respectable 11.0 PPG and 5.6 APG, with a .363 3PT% in 64 games for the Mavs and Cavs, but a disastrous showing in the NBA Finals against Golden State diminished his value heading into 2017/18. Still, he’s only 33 years old, and it would be surprising if he didn’t get an opportunity with an NBA team as a backup point guard this year.
  2. Monta Ellis, SG: Ellis is facing a five-game suspension to start the 2017/18 season and is coming off his worst year (8.5 PPG) since his rookie season. He’s not far removed from a 2014/15 campaign in which he averaged 18.9 PPG though, and while he’ll likely never match that figure again, this is only his age-32 season. He should still have something in the tank and could appeal to a team seeking a scorer off the bench.
  3. David Lee, PF: Like Ellis, Lee posted his worst scoring average since his rookie year last season, recording just 7.3 PPG. But Lee’s declining numbers were mostly a result of his new role in San Antonio — his .590 FG% was his best mark in a decade, and his per-minute averages weren’t far off from his career rates. Given how the value of offensive-minded, low-post bigs around the NBA has declined in recent years, however, it’s not a huge surprise that Lee has had trouble finding work.
  4. Derrick Williams, PF: Williams, of course, hasn’t lived up to the hype that surrounded him when he was selected second overall in the 2011 draft. But he was a part of the Cavaliers team that went to the NBA Finals last season, and was solid when he saw action for the team, scoring 6.2 PPG on 50.5% shooting in 25 regular season contests. If former No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett can get a training camp invite from an NBA team, it seems like Williams should be on a roster too.
  5. Spencer Hawes, C: Hawes’ contract made him an expendable piece in 2017, first in Charlotte and then in Milwaukee. After acquiring him at the trade deadline, the Bucks waived and stretched him in August to avoid the luxury-tax threshold. Like most of the other players on this list, Hawes’ best days are probably behind him, but his ability to knock down the occasional three-point shot (.350 career 3PT%) and to help out on the glass (9.0 career rebounds per 36 minutes) could make him a target for teams in need of frontcourt help.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Billy King Looks Back On Tenure With Nets

Former Nets GM Billy King, who is widely blamed for turning the organization into a perennial loser with no lottery picks, tells his side of the story in an interview with The Glue Guys, a Nets-themed podcast.

King touches on several controversial issues in the 45-minute session, including an effort to acquire Chris Paul, the failure to get Dwight Howard when he wanted to join the Nets and the ill-fated trade that sent three unprotected first-rounders to Boston for a package centered around veterans Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.

The highlights:

  • King tried to get Paul from New Orleans before dealing with Utah for Deron Williams. King believed he was making progress, but the deal went cold after Jeff Bowers was replaced as GM by Dell Demps. “At that time, I don’t think Dell wanted his first thing to be trading Chris Paul,” King said.
  • The Nets believed they were close to acquiring Howard from Orlando just before the 2012 trade deadline. “We went to bed as a staff — we left the office pretty late — we went to bed pretty much knowing that tomorrow we’re going to get Dwight,” King said. Magic GM Otis Smith had planned to finalize the deal the next morning, but King woke up to a text saying that Howard had elected to opt in for the following season. King reached out to Howard’s agent, who responded, “I don’t think he did,” and even Smith hadn’t heard the news when King called him. However, Smith returned the call an hour later and confirmed the news.
  • The Nets responded by trading their 2012 first-round pick to Portland in exchange for Gerald Wallace in an attempt to appease Williams and discourage him from opting out over the summer. The Blazers used that pick to draft Damian Lillard.
  • King reached out to the Celtics in 2013 because he thought he had a talented nucleus that needed veteran leadership and was interested in acquiring Pierce. Negotiations led to Garnett and Jason Terry being included and the package of picks going to Boston.
  • King made an offer to Pierce in the summer of 2014, but he got a better deal from Washington and the Nets decided not to match it. “Once that decision was made, I think it changed our thought process,” King said. “I think some of the players even thought, ‘What’s going on here? We were committed and now we’re not.” King added that he wouldn’t have made the deal with Boston if he knew he couldn’t keep Pierce longer than one season.

Central Notes: Kennard, D. Williams, Antetokounmpo

The Pistons are more optimistic than ever about rookie Luke Kennard after watching his summer league performance, writes Keith Langlois of NBA.com. The 12th pick in this year’s draft, Kennard averaged 17.2 points per game as Detroit’s team advanced to the finals in Orlando. He made 11 of 23 shots from 3-point range during the 10-day competition and eased any fears the Pistons may have harbored about his defense.

“Pretty much what we thought offensively, maybe even did a better job passing the ball than I thought,” said coach/executive Stan Van Gundy. “He’s able to make plays off the dribble , that nice change of pace, and things I hadn’t seen a lot of. He really has a great feel for the game and how to play in addition to clearly his ability to shoot the ball.”

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Richard Jefferson offered some insight on his Road Trippin’ podcast about why Deron Williams is unlikely to return to the Cavaliers, relays Daniel Rappaport of Sports Illustrated. Jefferson said the veteran guard’s “eyes did not light up” about coming off the bench in Cleveland, but joked that the Warriors’ “eyes lit up” whenever Williams checked into the Finals. Williams didn’t turn out to be a good fit for the Cavs after joining the team in late February in the wake of buyout with the Mavericks. He was particularly bad in the Finals, shooting 2 of 16 for the series and averaging 1.0 points and 1.2 assists per game. Williams’ contract with Cleveland expired after the season, and he remains a free agent.
  • Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo, whose $100MM extension begins with the start of the season, has another big payday ahead, writes Nick DePaula of ESPN. He will be a free agent in the shoe market at the end of September after making just $25K from Nike last year and expects to top that figure several times over. Antetokounmpo is hoping to exceed the nearly $5MM-per-year deal that Kristaps Porzingis received from Adidas, with one industry specialist speculating that he could receive $7MM to $10MM annually.
  • The Bucks won’t be the only team playing at their new arena, according to the Associated Press. The NBA team has reached a seven-year agreement allowing Marquette to use the facility, which is expected to open ahead of the 2018/19 season.

Central Notes: Korver, Williams, Workouts

There’s a better chance that the Cavaliers bring mid-season trade acquisition Kyle Korver back for 2017/18 than buyout season bargain Deron Williams, Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com writes. In response to a reader’s question, Vardon broke down the circumstances of their respective pending free agencies.

Because they gave up a first-round pick to acquire him, the Cavaliers hold Korver’s Bird Rights. That means, of course, that they can go above the salary cap to retain him, something outright inevitable given that they’re operating with the league’s highest payroll. Bringing Korver – who led the league in 3-point percentage at age 36 – back is a cost effective way of keeping offensive weapons on board for next season.

Williams, in contrast, will be limited in the size of contract he can land with the Cavaliers, a figure certainly less than what he drew on the open market with the Mavs last offseason. Despite his having been waived by Dallas in February, his eventual playoff struggles with Cleveland and the staggering fact that he’ll make $5.5MM for the next three years thanks to a stretch provision dating back to his time with the Nets, Vardon says he’s “unlikely” to sign with the Cavaliers for just their $5.1 exception.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • The Bucks worked out a handful of guards Friday, including Donovan Mitchell (projected to be drafted at No. 14 by NBADraft.net) and Justin Jackson (No. 19). A report on Milwaukee’s official website has the details.
  • The Pistons spent time Friday working out a number of deep sleepers, Keith Langlois of Pistons.com tweets. The scribe notes facetiously that the names aren’t likely candidates to go 12th overall. With no second-round pick, Detroit could be auditioning eventual free agent options.
  • The Pacers will bring John Collins (projected to be drafted at No. 13 by NBADraft.net) and Harry Giles (No. 22) in for a workout Saturday, the team writes on its official site, as well as several others.
  • A combination of age and limited financial flexibility could make it difficult for the Cavaliers to improve this offseason, Bobby Marks of The Vertical writes. Marks notes that even if the club looked elsewhere than Kyle Korver and Deron Williams, they’d only have minimum contracts and the mid-level exception at their disposal.

Finals Notes: West, Pachulia, Williams, Coaches

The Warriors would like to extend the contract of executive board member Jerry West, relays Tim Kawakami of The San Jose Mercury News. Golden State owner Joe Lacob said there have been contract talks with the Hall of Famer, whose current deal runs out in July. Nothing has been finalized, and negotiations are on hold until the playoffs are complete. “We have met; we have discussed the future,” Lacob said. “And it’s really something that I’m sure at the end of the season we will return to and figure out what Jerry wants to do. We want him back. We love him. He’s been a great contributor to the organization, someone I consider a personal friend as well.” West indicated several months ago that he might be interested in rejoining the Lakers in an advisory role, but the team’s recent front office shakeup may have eliminated that as an option.

There’s more tonight as we count down to the start of the Finals:

  • Warriors center Zaza Pachulia has fully recovered from the heel problem that kept him out of Games 3 and 4 of the conference finals, relays Anthony Slater of The San Jose Mercury News. Pachulia has been medically cleared and was a full participant in Golden State’s last three practices.
  • The Cavaliers’ bench had a productive game in the clincher of the Eastern Conference finals, which offers hope for the series against Golden State, writes Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. Deron Williams, who signed with Cleveland in late February after being waived by Dallas, is excited about reaching the NBA Finals for the first time. “Twelve years in the league,” he said. “It’s one of those things where you don’t know if it’s ever going to happen and don’t know if it’s going to happen again so for me I just want to make the most of this opportunity, enjoy it, soak it in and try to win a ring.” 
  • Warriors acting head coach Mike Brown claims Cavs coach Tyronn Lue still owes him $100 from a bet they made in 1998, Fedor notes in a separate piece. Lue claims he has tried several times to pay off the wager, which was related to a shooting contest, but Brown won’t take the money. The stakes will be much higher starting Thursday when they oppose each other for an NBA title.

Poll: Best Unrestricted Free Agent Point Guard

Among unrestricted free agents this offseason, point guard is easily the deepest position. Stephen Curry, Kyle Lowry, George Hill, Jeff Teague, Jrue Holiday, and Derrick Rose headline this group. Deron Williams, Darren Collison, and Patty Mills are also unrestricted free agents. In all, there are 28 unrestricted free agent point guards this offseason.

Two-time MVP Curry has scarcely been mentioned as an unrestricted free agent because most take for granted that he will return to the Warriors to dominate the NBA with the likes of Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green for years to come.

Probably the second best player in this group, Lowry, will be coming off a breakout season, but he is 31 years old, has a long history of playoff struggles, and the Raptors would need to offer him a 5-year max contract. Still, Lowry and DeMar DeRozan combine for one of the most lethal backcourts in the league, and it is difficult to imagine Toronto not laying out the red carpet for its star point guard’s return.

After seven seasons with the Hawks, Teague played in all 82 games for the Pacers, averaging 15.3 PPG, 7.8 APG, and 1.2 SPG.

Although limited to 49 games due to injury in his first campaign with the Jazz, Hill averaged a career-high 16.9 PPG to go with an impressive slash line of .477/.403/.801.

Holiday shot a career-high 45.4% from the floor for the Pelicans, posting 15.4 PPG, 7.3 APG, and 1.5 SPG.

Rose, a former MVP, averaged 18.0 PPG and 4.4 APG, while shooting a stellar 47.1% in 64 games in his first season with the Knicks.

Without further ado, here’s today’s poll question: Beyond Curry and Lowry, who among this group would be most helpful for a team to sign and suit up as their starting point guard next season? Don’t limit yourself to a click of a button. Do you believe someone in the group is better than each of the available options? Are we underrating someone’s potential? Let us know in the comment section below. We look forward to your insight!

 

Cavaliers Notes: James, Korver, Williams, Love

While returning to the NBA Finals is a thrill for LeBron James, the Cavaliers superstar is thrilled Kyle Korver and Deron Williams will get to experience the big stage for the first time, Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com writes.

The Cavaliers wrapped up the Eastern Conference Finals with a 135-102 blowout win over the Celtics on Thursday, setting the stage for a third consecutive Cavaliers vs. Warriors NBA Finals matchup. This third installment will feature new faces as Warriors’ All-Star Kevin Durant tries to secure his first title. However, it’s the decade-plus veterans in Cleveland who are getting their first crack at the gold — which excites James.

“I think the first thing for me was seeing the excitement on Kyle [Korver’s] and Deron [Williams’] face,” James, who will appear in his seventh consecutive NBA Finals, said. “You’ve got one guy with 12 years, first Finals appearance, and another guy 14 [years]. So that’s the first thing I picked. And just to see the excitement around my teammates — I do it for them, and they give it back to me as well.”

The Cavaliers struggled after acquiring Korver in January and issues with their backup point guards forced the team to acquire Williams. Now, the team and its reinforcements are four wins from bringing a second consecutive NBA title to Cleveland.

Here are some additional tidbits surrounding the Cavaliers:

  • In a separate piece, Cleveland.com’s Chris Fedor reveals that Cavaliers forward Kevin Love refused to join James for a dual media session after the team’s Game 5. Despite the duo appearing simultaneously after previous contests, Love explained that James deserved to have the spotlight on just him after the team secured its third straight Finals appearance.”I just told [communications director] Tad [Carper] I wouldn’t share a podium with him because tonight is a night where he deserves to be on his own,” Love said.
  • Former NBA champion and Pistons legend Bill Laimbeer appeared on The Rematch Podcast with Etan Thomas recently and explained why he prefers James over Michael Jordan. While Laimbeer and the Pistons engaged in several wars with the Jordan-led Bulls decades ago, he feels James’ skills supersede the Chicago legend. “LeBron can do anything. Michael couldn’t get all the rebounds. He couldn’t be the assist man like LeBron James can,” Laimbeer said (via USA Today). “He was very focused on scoring, a deadly assassin, but the rest of the part of his game, LeBron James is better than Michael Jordan.”

And-Ones: Free Agents, D-League, Bennett, Oden

Several under-the-radar players who will be free agents this summer are improving their bargaining position with their performance in the playoffs, writes Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype. He identifies six players, starting with Golden State big man JaVale McGee, who is averaging 8.2 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.0 blocks through five games despite playing just 11.8 minutes per night. McGee signed a non-guaranteed deal with the Warriors for the veteran’s minimum and could be in line for a huge pay raise in July. The others that Kennedy singles out are Serge Ibaka of the Raptors, Joe Ingles of the Jazz, Nene of the Rockets, Andre Roberson of the Thunder and Deron Williams of the Cavaliers.

There’s more news from around the basketball world:

  • The Texas Legends, the Mavericks‘ affiliate in the D-League, have given coach Bob MacKinnon a two-year extension, tweets D-League Digest. The D-League veteran is in his first season with the Legends.
  • Invitations have been issued for the D-League’s Elite Mini Camp, which will be held May 8-9 in Chicago, relays Chris Reichert of FanSided. Many players have used this showcase to earn spots on summer league rosters, with alumni such as Jonathon Simmons, Hollis Thompson and DeAndre Liggins. Among the best-known names at this year’s camp will be Russ Smith, JaKarr Sampson, Ray McCallum and Cliff Alexander.
  • Former No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett, who played 23 games for the Nets this season, has been replaced on his Fenerbahce team in Turkey, according to Bugra Uzar of Eurohoops. Taking his spot on the roster is Pero Antic, who played for the Hawks from 2013 to 2015. Bennett will remain with the club and is expected to be part of the upcoming EuroLeague Final Four.
  • Greg Oden, another former No. 1 pick, is hoping to be part of The Basketball Tournament this summer on ESPN, relays Alysha Tsuji of USA Today. Oden’s team is called Scarlet and Gray and is made up of Ohio State alumni. “We think we’re a team that can win it,” he said. “We look at the talent we’ve had here in the last 10 years or so, and we can match up with anybody. We want the state of Ohio supporting us. We’re called Scarlet and Gray, but this team is a representation of the whole state.”

Cavaliers Notes: Griffin, Gilbert, Korver, Williams

The Magic and Suns could both make a run at Cavaliers GM David Griffin after the playoffs end, writes Sam Amico of Amicohoops.com. Orlando, which fired GM Rob Hennigan earlier this month, would consider doubling Griffin’s salary to bring him on board. Phoenix is a legitimate threat because Griffin is from that area and started his career with the Suns. GM Ryan McDonough is safe in Phoenix, according to Amico, but the team could offer Griffin a president’s role, similar to what Phil Jackson has in New York, where he would have the final say on all basketball decisions.

Griffin’s first choice is to stay in Cleveland, and owner Dan Gilbert would like to keep him, but that’s not a guarantee that things will work out. Griffin took over GM’s post in 2014 with the expectation of building a young team, but that changed quickly when LeBron James announced his intention to return. Griffin’s goals quickly changed to building a championship team, and his performance in doing that ensures he will get a big payoff this summer. The only question is whether it comes from the Cavs or someone else.

There’s more today out of Cleveland:

  • Kyle Korver took an instant liking to the organization after being acquired in a January 7th trade with the Hawks, relays Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com. The Cavaliers have Bird rights on the free agent swingman and can go over the cap for his new contract. Vardon indicates that Korver seems likely to re-sign, but there haven’t been any serious internal discussions about his future because of the uncertainty surrounding Griffin.
  • The same situation affects point guard Deron Williams, Vardon adds in the same piece. The significant different for Williams is that because he signed as a free agent after agreeing to a buyout with the Mavericks in February, the Cavs don’t own his Bird rights. They will be limited to the veteran’s minimum, which was $1.55MM this season, and Williams can probably find better offers elsewhere.
  • Chemistry concerns that haunted the Cavaliers this season seem like less of an issue after the first-round sweep of the Pacers, writes Marla Ridenour of The Akron Beacon Journal. “A lot of egos can get in the way, a lot of things could get in the way of a team being successful as a team,” said Kyrie Irving. “Us putting our individual sacrifices to the side and the only thing that matters is us winning and advancing, as long as that’s first, we’ll always be in a good place.”

Central Notes: D-Will, Teague, Pacers, Pistons

After LeBron James called for the Cavaliers to add a playmaker back in January, the team didn’t make a major move for the next several weeks, as the trade deadline came and went without that so-called “playmaker” joining the team. The Cavs lucked out in the buyout market though, landing veteran point guard Deron Williams after he was cut by the Mavericks, and according to Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today, Williams is getting increasingly comfortable in Cleveland and is looking like that playmaker the club sought.

Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com conveys a similar sentiment in his latest piece, noting that Williams is receiving praise from the players whose assessment of the Cavaliers roster matters most: LeBron. “Every day he’s getting more and more comfortable with what we want to do,” James said of the veteran point guard. “We needed him. We’re happy we got him.”

As LeBron, D-Will, and the Cavs look ahead to the second round of the playoffs, let’s round up a few more notes from around the Central division…

  • Within a piece examining the Pacers‘ upcoming offseason decisions, Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders cites league sources who believe that free-agent-to-be Jeff Teague could be in line for a contract worth $15-17MM annually, or even more than that if other top point guards quickly re-sign with their own teams.
  • With the Pacers facing an uncertain future, Gregg Doyel of The Indianapolis Star argues that team president Larry Bird deserves some criticism for a handful of questionable decisions and roster moves.
  • Following a disappointing season for the Pistons, Rod Beard of The Detroit News makes five suggestions for ways the team could potentially improve this summer.
  • Boban Marjanovic didn’t play much for the Pistons in the first season of his three-year deal with the team, but his audition will give Stan Van Gundy plenty to consider as the club weighs how to use Marjanovic going forward, writes Keith Langlois of Pistons.com. Boban could become a more crucial piece of Detroit’s rotation in 2017/18 if Aron Baynes departs in free agency.
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