Philadelphia 76ers: 8 Free Agents the Team Must Pursue If Lou Williams Leaves

Roy BurtonContributor IMay 30, 2012

Philadelphia 76ers: 8 Free Agents the Team Must Pursue If Lou Williams Leaves

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    One of the burning questions of the Philadelphia 76ers' offseason revolves around whether or not guard Lou Williams will exercise the early termination option in his contract.

    The 6'1" Williams has nearly $6.4 million due to him in the final year of his current deal, but after leading the Sixers in scoring this season (14.9 PPG), there may be more than a few teams willing to open up the coffers for his services. 

    If the 25-year-old Williams decides to walk, Philadelphia will be forced to scour the free-agent market in an attempt to bring in a suitable replacement. But before that happens, let's take a look at eight possibilities the team may pursue if Williams chooses to sign elsewhere.

No. 1) O.J. Mayo

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    24-year-old, 6'4" combo guards who have shown flashes of success in the NBA don't necessarily fall out of trees, but there will be a mighty fine one on the market this summer in O.J. Mayo.

    After a hideous performance in the playoffs this year (27.4 percent shooting in seven games against the Los Angeles Clippers), Mayo may have played his way out of Memphis. That isn't to say that he can't (and won't) provide a spark for another team next season.

    However, it will be extremely hard to convince Mayo to come to Philadelphia since he'll be behind Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner in the team's pecking order. But the former USC Trojan might just be looking for a change of scenery at this point.

    An emerging Sixers team is as good of a landing spot as any.

No. 2) Gerald Green

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    Stops in both the Russian and Chinese basketball leagues clearly humbled Brooklyn Nets' swingman Gerald Green, an uber-athletic wing who failed to grasp the nuances of the NBA during his first tour of duty. After a three-year absence, the 26-year-old returned to the league this season with a renewed outlook and shined as one the the Nets' better rotation players (12.9 PPG on 48.1 percent shooting).

    With a limited resume, Green may not command all that much this offseason, but he would give the 76ers a decent amount of flexibility off of the bench. The Sixers would miss the ball-handling ability of Lou Williams, but Green might be the more dynamic scorer of the two once all is said and done.

No. 3) Courtney Lee

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    Lou Williams and Jodie Meeks are more or less one-dimensional guards coming off the bench. By acquiring Courtney Lee, the 76ers would land themselves a legit shooter (38.6 percent in his career from beyond the arc) who can fill it up every night (13.5 points per 36 minutes in 2011-12).

    Lee's size (6'5", 200 pounds) is an immediate upgrade over the 6'1", 175-pound Williams, who is physically inferior to most top-flight guards. While Lee won't wind up on many highlight reels with his play, he's a solid NBA 2-guard who would be a fine backcourt option off the bench.

No. 4) George Hill

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    At 6'2", 180 pounds, Indiana's George Hill is similar in stature to Lou Williams. Hill, however, is both a better shooter (45.1 percent for his career) and a far more willing defender than the undersized 76ers guard.

    The Pacers will likely offer Hill the $3.06 million qualifying offer that is due to him this season, so Philadelphia won't be able to get the versatile guard at a discount. As long as the bidding doesn't exceed the $5-6 million range, the Sixers would be wise to inquire about Hill's services.

No. 5) J.R. Smith

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    If the 76ers are looking for an explosive scorer and instant offense off of the bench, J.R. Smith just might fit the bill.

    The 6'6" Knicks guard had a decent run in New York after his brief sojourn in China this past season. His game is remarkably similar to that of Lou Williams: Neither one is a prolific shooter, but both are deadly combo guards who are capable for going off for 30 points on any given night.

    Smith has a $2.5 million option for next season, but he may chose to forgo that to test the free-agent waters. If he does, Philadelphia would almost assuredly be on the phone with his agent shortly thereafter.

No. 6) Aaron Brooks

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    With Steve Nash all but certain to leave Phoenix, the Suns would be foolish to renounce their rights to free-agent guard Aaron Brooks. Phoenix has zero point guards under contract next season—Brooks could instantly step in and be the team's lead playmaker at the start of training camp.

    If it weren't for Stephon Marbury, Brooks would have been the premier import in the Chinese Basketball Association this year. As it stands, the 6' guard still averaged 22.3 points per game on 48.4 percent shooting for the Guangdong Southern Tigers and nearly led his team to the league title.

    In need of a player with an innate ability to score and natural point-guard skills, the 76ers could definitely benefit from signing a player such as Brooks this summer.

No. 7) Delonte West

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    Dallas Mavericks guard Delonte West doesn't necessarily bowl you over with his play, but he's one of the more solid point guards in the league, and he could potentially be the playmaker that the 76ers' second unit has lacked for years. His career assist-to-turnover ratio is better than 2-to-1, and his per-36 minute average of 2.0 steals per game last season ranks among the NBA's best.

    West's offense is often overlooked, but in terms of points per possession, he ranked among the Top 30 in the NBA in both isolation sets (0.91 PPP—27th) as well as spot-up situations (1.14 PPP—29th) according to Synergy Sports.

    The 6'4" West is a career 37.2 percent shooter from three-point range, and his ability to keep defenses honest would give players such as Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young more space with which to attack the basket.

No. 8) Gilbert Arenas

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    Gilbert Arenas had a decent (and more importantly, quiet) stint with the Memphis Grizzlies this year, averaging 4.2 PPG in limited playing time.

    Gone are the days when "Agent Zero" would go off for 15-plus points in a single quarter, but the 30-year-old Arenas is much more mature as well (read: He no longer brings guns to the arena). And while he may not be a top-level offensive option, there still appears to be some life left in his legs.

    To be fair, Arenas is somewhat of a downgrade from Lou Williams, but if some of the better options on the free-agent market are no longer available, the 6'3" guard could possibly be signed at a very affordable price.