Philadelphia 76ers

Lou Williams: Analyzing Teams That Must Target Star Free Agent

CHICAGO, IL - MAY 01: Louis Williams #23 of the Philadelphia 76ers smiles near the end of Game Two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Chicago Bulls during the 2012 NBA Playoffs at the United Center on May 1, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. The 76ers defeated the Bulls 109-92. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Stephen BabbFeatured ColumnistJune 24, 2012

Philadelphia 76ers guard Lou Williams has opted out of the final year of his contract and will see what he's worth on the open market before making any decisions about his future.

The shoot-first sixth man would have made over $6 million next season, but it's clearly in his best interest to pursue a lucrative long-term deal with his value at an all-time high. The 25-year-old point guard is coming out of his best season with Philadelphia after averaging nearly 15 points a game off the bench.

Williams has never been the most efficient scorer, but he's a spark-plug who never hesitates to take big shots. His shooting from range improved to 36 percent this year, and his mid-range game makes him an especially hot commodity.

The bad news for Philly is that this guy could command big dollars from teams looking for an extra scoring punch (via Philly.com's Bob Cooney):

A league source said that the interest in Williams throughout the league is “significant” and that a contract to land him could be “in the Thaddeus Young range.” Before this past season Young signed a 5-year deal worth close to $43 million.

That kind of dollar range won't necessarily break the bank, but not every team will be able to afford that kind of deal. Here are a few teams with both the resources needed to land Williams and a role for him to play in the backcourt.

 

Boston Celtics

BOSTON, MA - JUNE 07:  (L-R) Ray Allen #20 and Doc Rivers of the Boston Celtics look on dejected against the Miami Heat in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Finals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs on June 7, 2012 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO US
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Williams may not seem like an ideal replacement for Ray Allen. He doesn't have the size, and he's not as pure of a long-range threat–but then again, who is?

Still, Boston needs offense, and there's no question Williams can play off the ball and run his defender through screens with the best of them. He's got quick feet and a quick release and could give Rajon Rondo a dangerous target in the Celtics' half-court offense. 

The Celtics will likely spend the better part of their cap space on Kevin Garnett and potentially a big man to pair alongside him. If any of those plans fall through or the team finds a way to spend efficiently, it may have enough room to make a run at Williams.

 

Phoenix Suns

PHOENIX, AZ - APRIL 25:  Steve Nash #13 of the Phoenix Suns during the NBA game against the San Antonio Spurs at US Airways Center on April 25, 2012 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Spurs defeated the Suns 110-106.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Regardless of whether Phoenix finds a way to retain point guard Steve Nash, a scorer like Williams would make a nice addition. Shooting guard Shannon Brown is an unrestricted free agent, but the Suns could probably use a versatile shooter even if they do hang on to Brown.

Phoenix will have around $20 million in cap room this summer, so it wouldn't be hard to fit Williams into their plans. The Suns could theoretically add a top-tier free agent along with Williams, or otherwise divide the money up amongst more options.

 

New Orleans Hornets

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 22:  Eric Gordon #10 of the New Orleans Hornets scores on a layup against the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center on April 22, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downl
Harry How/Getty Images

The Hornets can't be too disappointed with what they've seen from Jarrett Jack, but a sixth man to play behind him and Eric Gordon would give New Orleans an absolutely deadly backcourt rotation. The organization's actual interest will depend heavily on what happens with that 10th-overall pick in the draft.

It the Hornets hold on to the pick and land a guy like Damian Lillard, Williams wouldn't make much sense. If the club instead opts to trade the pick for a veteran, that could impact cap space and any free agent pursuits.

This much is clear though: Moving Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor will help free up some more money this summer when Rashard Lewis gets waived. 

 

Portland Trail Blazers

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 20:  Jamal Crawford #11 of the Portland Trail Blazers scores on a layup past Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the second half at Staples Center on February 20, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. The Lakers won 103-92
Harry How/Getty Images

Portland would probably prefer to have a pass-first guard like Andre Miller, but they could have enough money to go after a legitimate floor general like Miller as well as a shooter like Williams. Just about anything would be an improvement over what happened this season with free agent Raymond Felton.

With Jamal Crawford likely on the move, Williams would have a ready-made role in Portland thanks to his ability to bring some energy off the bench.

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