To no one’s surprise, Mo Williams says he plans to opt out of his contract for next season and test free agency over the summer.
Williams signed a two-year deal last summer worth $5.6 million, with 2014-2015 a player option. He was scheduled to make $2.7 million next season if he chose to opt into that deal.
Portland, of course, has been the NBA’s most pleasant surprise this season and is tied for the third-best record in the league at 27-9.
Williams has been a big part of the team’s turnaround as he’s proven to be a much needed veteran leader off the bench. His ability to both find shots for others and create shots for himself has given a once-anemic Blazers’ bench some life. (Though they still need more, as colleague Chris Bernucca points out in our latest Rookie Rankings).
While his scoring and shooting percentages won’t exactly wow you (9.1 points per game on 41 percent shooting for the year), his facilitating has been vital for his team’s offensive continuity. Williams has been responsible for 30 percent of his team’s assists while on the court and is averaging the exact same number of points created by assist per 48 minutes (22.4) as Tony Parker.
“I would like to be here long term,” Williams revealed to CSNNW.com. “My goal is to work something out with Portland this summer. I like it here and I want to make this place home.”
The Blazers would certainly like to extend the 31-year-old for the right price. The questions remain: What is that price, and how much does Williams realistically expect to get paid?
One thing for Williams to keep in mind is that he was essentially forced to sign with Portland very late in free agency last summer after every other potential suitor filled their point guard voids with better or younger players.
He is facing a fairly similar situation to what Jarrett Jack faced last year in Golden State as a Sixth Man of the Year candidate on an expiring deal. He’s proven to be a valuable member of a playoff-caliber team but isn’t exactly indispensable for that team. Whether he will become expendable will become known if C.J. McCollum can show promise in the coming weeks.
Williams will definitely rank behind Eric Bledsoe, Kyle Lowry and Isaiah Thomas in the pecking order for free agent point guards in 2014. Beyond those players, Williams will also have to compete with Ramon Sessions, Greivis Vazquez, Jameer Nelson, Nate Robinson, Rodney Stuckey and Kirk Hinrich for the coveted available sixth man roles around the league. Williams, with Portland, is in a better situation than all of those aforementioned players; I’m not convinced he’s actually better than any of them.
Unfortunately for Williams, it’s hard to say any leverage is in his favor. Portland should have enough cap space available this summer to offer a mid-level exception (or near mid-level exception), and it would be interesting to see if GM Neil Olshey could work his magic to convince Kyle Lowry to take a discount and join a championship contender.
While Jack received a four-year, $25 million deal with the Cavaliers last summer, it would be unrealistic for Williams to expect that same type of offer on the open market. For starters, Jack put up better numbers for Golden State than Williams has for Portland. Secondly, Jack was 29 when he signed his deal — Williams will be 31.
Williams is right to believe that his play has earned him a pay increase from the $2.7 million he was due next year. I’d just be surprised if his next contract exceeded somewhere in the range of two years and $9 million.
Now, onto the rankings…
|1||MO WILLIAMS, G, PORTLAND: Averaging 13 points, 6.3 assists and 1.8 steals in four January games. It’s a small sample size, but if Williams continues to excel at this rate, it’s tough to see the Blazers fading from their surprise elite status.||2|
|2||MANU GINOBILI, G, SAN ANTONIO: Shooting just 2-15 from deep in 2014 but has continued to distribute at career levels. The Spurs are averaging 114.7 points per 100 possessions with him on the court — the best rate in the entire NBA.||1|
|3||MARKIEFF MORRIS, F, PHOENIX: Still ranks in the top 10 among bench players in points and rebounds and continues to prove himself as a versatile scorer. His value for the Suns is obvious: In wins, he’s averaged 14.2 points. In losses, his scoring decreases to 8.5.||4|
|4||NICK YOUNG, G, LA LAKERS: The Lakers’ leading scorer has exceeded the 20 point mark in eight of his last 11 games. Unfortunately for him, the reeling Lakers have only won twice in that stretch. More on “Swaggy P” in this profile I wrote before moving to Brazil.||3|
|5||TYREKE EVANS, G, NEW ORLEANS: Up until Wednesday’s dud in the Pels’ loss to Washington, Evans had been putting together a streak of 10 consecutive games with double digit scoring. His dominant December finished with averages close to 16-6-5 for the month. Looks comfortable with his role for the first time in a long time.||-|
DROPOUTS: Jamal Crawford (5).
FIVE TO WATCH: Lou Williams, G, Atlanta; Dion Waiters, G, Cleveland; Gerald Green, F, Phoenix; Alec Burks, G, Utah; Rodney Stuckey, G, Detroit.