Reasonable people can debate whether or not Deron Williams is a top-3 point guard in the NBA, but there is no debating his status as the hottest free agent on the market this summer.
Think about this for a second. Williams’ eventual decision, in some shape or form, will impact where Dwight Howard ultimately ends up, the Orlando Magic's relevance, where Jason Kidd goes, the Nets’ ability to sell tickets in Brooklyn, the chances of Dirk Nowitzki winning another title, where Steve Nash goes, the chances of Kobe Bryant winning another title, the Knicks’ status as New York’s premiere team and countless draft scenarios in June 28’s NBA Draft.
That's why everyone has been following it so closely, and that's why it's a big deal.
Now, it’s very reasonable to wonder if Williams’ on-the-court impact is actually as noteworthy and meaningful as his free agent status is, but that’s a debate for a different day.
Right now, let’s just operate on the presumption that it is and will continue to be.
So, who are the teams that are in the Deron Williams Sweepstakes? Well, according to various reports, the list includes: Nets, Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Lakers and Knicks.
Let's go through these options one by one.
First, we have the Nets – who have the opportunity to offer him more money than any other organization. Via Chris Broussard of ESPN (by way of SB Nation’s Jay King ):
Broussard reports that Williams likes the Nets for a lot of reasons: His family enjoys the area, he has good relationships with head coach Avery Johnson and general manager Billy King, and he believes the Nets have a brighter future than most NBA observers do.
The Nets can also offer Williams more money than other franchises, but Broussard warns that money won't be the sole factor in Williams' destination.
After that there are the Mavericks – who can offer him more money than any team not named the Nets:
The Dallas Mavericks, according to Broussard, represent Brooklyn's greatest competition for Williams' services.
Brooklyn and Dallas are the favorites; however, there are also apparently some noteworthy darkhorses in the race to bring Williams in. Per the same report (by way of SB Nation’s Ernie Pomin):
That leaves Phoenix. The weather and golf (Williams is a huge golf guy) is great, the offense is free-flowing (something Williams is definitely looking for) and with him, the team could be on the rise. While the Suns' first choice appears to be to re-sign Nash, the younger Williams is obviously a better option. I don't think the Suns could move ahead of Dallas on Williams' list, but they should not be completely discounted, either.
Two other names that have frequently been linked to Williams are the Lakers and Knicks. Because of both teams’ precarious cap situations, however, there is no way either can sign him via free agency. That means a sign-and-trade would have to be set up and, unfortunately, New York doesn’t have anything that the Nets would want. There is a slight, very longshot possibility that the Nets might be interested in Andrew Bynum, but that’s purely speculation at this point.
Right now, the smart money is on Williams either staying with the Nets or joining up with Mark Cuban and Co.