Deron Williams has decided to opt-out of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent. The last time Deron Williams was an unrestricted free agent he was pursued from coast to coast with all sentences beginning with 100 million. Those days are long past for the Dallas point guard who has not played a 70 game season in 3 years. Williams is not improving with age, even as he is a capable point guard in the league. His career year was 4 years ago and the truth is Williams carries baggage with him. His good year in Dallas this season doesn’t negate the whispers about what happens when you give Deron Williams a lot of money: he falls apart.
Williams sports hernia limited what he was able to do in the playoffs for Dallas so judging him is based on the 65 regular season games in which his production of 14.1 points and 5.8 assists and a PER of 14.6 was a nice showing. But as far as the Deron Williams history?
It was the the third fewest points in his career. It was the second fewest assists. Only his rookie year did Williams post a lower PER than 14.6.
Whoever buys the services of Williams is getting a player far different from the All-Star of 2012. Since we are talking about a lot of money here, the question has to be raised. Against the elite point guard talent in the Western Conference, Steph Curry, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, can Williams affect the game in a positive way?
Against the Warriors, he shot 9-26 (34.6%) and wasn’t much better from three, 27.3%. His defensive rating was the worst for any NBA team. His plus-minus was a lowly -22.6. His point total was suppressed, 11.5.
When facing the Thunder, he was more efficient and more Deron Williams like. He drained 51.3% of his shots and 42.9% of his threes. His defensive rating though was the third worst of any NBA team he faced in 2015-16. His plus-minus was +3.1. He scored higher than his season average, 18.5 points.
Chris Paul, the player drafted above Williams in 2005, was a mixed bag of success when Deron Williams matched up against him. Williams was an efficient two point shooter (44.8%) but a miserable three point scorer (12.5%). His defense was okay and he registered a plus-minus of -5.4. He scored 12.3 points.
(Williams best defense was against the Bulls. His best plus-minus was against Philadelphia. His highest point total was against Portland).
The Mavs have a decision to make. Williams was set to haul in $5,626,026. He wants more money and a longer deal, perhaps the last contract of his career. His injury history puts financial security at the top of the list. But that’s not the Mavs problem. What they are concerned about is getting out of the first round of the playoffs, something that hasn’t happened since they won the title in 2011.
The Mavs need some youth and explosiveness. Should they say farewell to the Deron Williams experiment and chase Mike Conley, the number one free agent point guard on the market? Conley has his own injury issues but he is 28 years old and a defensive point guard that can run an offense ala Chris Paul. He will never be the offensive player Williams was when Williams was 28 but he makes up for it with toughness and sheer grit.
Or, should the Mavs make a higher than market price offer for Jordan Clarkson, floating a number the Lakers won’t match. Clarkson, a restricted free agent, is more athletic than anyone on the Mavs. His 15.5 points is higher than anyone on the Mavs except Dirk Nowitzki. His PER is nearly identical to Williams. The San Antonio raised Clarkson, a combo guard, is only 23 years old and reports are he is already in his off-season training regimen of putting up shots and improving his defense.
Deron Williams, in search of security, may find himself somewhere else other than Dallas in 2016-17. Dallas is his first choice, he had a great year. But Dallas may veer in another direction. It’s the gamble Williams is taking by opting out and watching the chips randomly fall.
Like all gambles and uncertainty, sometimes you lose. But sometimes you win.
photo via llananba