Story going online now: ESPN sources say Deron Williams seeking release from Brooklyn Nets so he can sign with his hometown Dallas Mavericks— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) July 10, 2015
Williams is still owed $43.3 million over the final two years of his contract, but hasn't lived up to his lofty salary for the past several years. He is coming off his worst season since he was a rookie in 2005-06, having averaged 13.0 points on 38.7 percent shooting to go along with 6.6 assists.
Brooklyn has shown a desire to move the massive contracts of Williams and fellow falling star Joe Johnson in order to reduce their luxury tax bill. The Nets payroll will creep over the $94 million mark once new contracts for Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young become official, putting them well beyond the tax line that has risen to $84.74 million for the upcoming season. Despite their eagerness to cut salary from a roster desperately in need of a rebuild, the Nets aren't content to simply waive Williams, preferring to reach a buyout agreement that could allow them to recoup some of the money still owed to him in exchange for giving him the right to choose his next destination.
"A buyout, if Williams' representatives and the Nets can come to terms, would be Brooklyn's preference compared to outright waiving the 31-year old," writes Stein. "The Nets have been adamant since the end of the season that they do not want to simply release Williams via the stretch provision, even though it would allow them to pay out his remaining salary over the next five seasons and reduce their luxury tax bill, as long as such a measure is executed before the Aug.31 deadline."
The Nets have been unsuccessful in their attempts to trade Williams due to his hefty price tag and declining performance, but Dallas has mutual interest in signing him at a reduced rate if he reaches free agency. The Mavs are motivated to make a move in the aftermath of being spurned by DeAndre Jordan and now have some money to spend.
A potential move from Brooklyn to Dallas for Williams would be of interest to the Boston Celtics, considering they own first-round draft picks from both teams.
Would seemingly be good for C's: Mavs not tanking; Nets potentially worse. Boston owns both 2016 1st round picks. https://t.co/b78Feuab2n— Chris Forsberg (@ESPNForsberg) July 10, 2015
Williams is a big name, but no longer a big star. He can help improve the Mavericks, but adding him isn't enough to push Dallas into contender territory. They would still struggle to make the playoffs in a loaded Western Conference, but his addition would signal that the Mavs aren't tanking. This is key for Boston because the draft pick Dallas owes them from the ill-fated Rajon Rondo trade is top-7 protected. Dallas owner Mark Cuban had previously made comments suggesting that if they struck out in free agent negotiations with Jordan that they would enter a rebuilding phase that could see the team tank in order to keep the draft pick away from Boston for at least another year. If Williams does wind up in Dallas it improves the chances of that draft pick falling in the coveted 8-14 range.
While Williams could help Dallas improve slightly, subtracting him from Brooklyn's roster makes the team significantly worse since they don't have another point guard of that caliber on the roster, or the cap space to sign one, to replace him with. Nor do they have any assets to trade for one because they traded all their draft picks.
If they move forward with a salary dump of Johnson's contract that would presumably bring back lesser talent in return for saving a few bucks, Brooklyn's roster could become one of the most barren of talent in the league. The draft pick they owe the Celtics is completely unprotected, so Boston could end up with a high lottery pick out of this.
The downside is that if the Nets manage to clear Williams' salary off the books for the 2016-17 season, it could potentially set them up to have about $50 million in cap space next summer when the salary cap is expected to rise toward $90 million. While there wouldn't be much left on the roster to attract free agents, the ability to potentially sign two max-level contracts would make them an appealing destination. Brooklyn's rebuild may not last long, which would effect the pick swap the Celtics have with them in 2017 and the unprotected 2018 pick the Nets owe them.
On the flip side, we saw big market teams like the Lakers and Knicks strike out on all the big name free agents this summer. The league is changing to where glamour markets and cap space aren't enough to lure top talent. A strong organization matters, from ownership and the general manager, down to the coach and leaders on the roster. The Celtics have that. The Nets? Not so much.
It's far too soon to tell what the Nets might be able to do in the future, but in the short term it would seem that parting ways with Williams would be a step back, which is great news for Celtics fans.