The Deron Williams conundrum

November, 29, 2011
11/29/11
12:02
AM ET
Right now, here’s what we know:

1. The Nets are going to have a ton of cap space this offseason.
2. They can have more if they amnesty Travis Outlaw to wipe the final four years and $28 million remaining on his contract off their books.
3. Per the rules of the new CBA, which has not been ratified just yet, the Nets must spend 85 percent of whatever the salary cap is.
4. Deron Williams can opt out of his contract at the end of the season and become a free agent.
5. The Nets can offer Williams much more money than any other team.

And here’s what we don’t know:

1. If Williams is going to stay.
2. If the Nets are willing to commit to long-term contracts or stay with short-term ones.

One of those could be tied to the other.

The logical move would be to stay away from long-term contracts in what is considered a pretty mediocre free-agent class and hold out until the summer of 2012 when the Nets move to Brooklyn.

But here’s the flaw with that logic: Can you convince Williams to stay following another 25- to 30-win season?

The Nets obviously have some quality pieces on their roster. Brook Lopez and Anthony Morrow immediately come to mind. Marshon Brooks has the potential to be another.

Otherwise, there’s not much else that stands out.

Jordan Farmar can be a pretty good backup point guard when he's not forcing shots. Sundiata Gaines was a nice story at the end of the season. Damion James showed promise and should be part of the rotation. Jordan Williams was a strong rebounder at Maryland. Stephen Graham is a quality wing defender who gives you nothing offensively. And then there’s Johan Petro and his propensity to jack up and miss 15- to 18-footers from the top of the key. Oh, and who could forget about Outlaw and his 37.5 field-goal percentage, if the Nets decide to keep him.

It’s clear the Nets need a starting power forward and small forward, plus some scoring help. At the 4, they could pursuit the likes of Nene and Tyson Chandler -- or even bring back Kris Humphries -- but those players would cost them. Alternatively, they could try to pick up a guy like Carl Landry as a cheaper stopgap. At the 3, they could pursue Tayshaun Prince or Andrei Kirilenko, but perhaps Caron Butler would be a better pickup coming off an injury-plagued 2009-10 season. Jamal Crawford would certainly be a luxury, but again, is a 31-year-old high volume scorer who can’t rebound or play defense worth it?

GM Billy King and his assistant Bobby Marks have their work cut out for them.

King revealed last season that he would seek out the input of Williams on personnel moves. The hope of the organization is that Williams commits so they can determine how to proceed, though that’s unlikely to happen.

Do they take a chance, commit money to complementary players without their superstar locked up? Or do they decide to sign lesser players to shorter-term deals and take the risk that they may not be that good?

The Nets need to figure out what they’re going to do. And it’s just not that simple.

Dec. 9 -- the first day of training camp and free agency -- awaits.

Mike Mazzeo

ESPN New York Writer

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Joe Johnson
PTS AST STL MIN
16.4 3.7 1.0 34.9
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsK. Garnett 7.9
AssistsD. Williams 6.7
StealsJ. Jack 1.1
BlocksB. Lopez 1.5