The Deron Williams free agent saga has reached its final chapter. According to ESPN.com, Williams informed his representatives that he will sign a long-term contract with the Brooklyn Nets or the Dallas Mavericks after July 1st—the starting date when free-agent signings are permissible in the NBA.
Howard signed a year-long extension on his contract with the Orlando Magic into the 2012-13 season, which means the Magic can trade Howard well into next season if the team chooses to do so.
The Houston Rockets have already begun to aggressively pursue Howard. According to Sports Illustrated, the Rockets just traded Chase Budinger to the Minnesota Timberwolves for the No. 18 pick in this Thursday's draft.
The Rockets now have the #14, #16, and #18 picks in the draft. Their goal is to amass enough first round picks to entice Orlando to trade Howard. If the Rockets don't nab Howard this week, who knows what other teams will compete for Howard's services in the upcoming months.
The Orlando Magic have a considerable amount of time to hold onto Howard and maximize his trade value. Williams won't have as long to sign with the Mavericks. These two combined factors could tip the scales toward Williams opting to play for a Mavericks, an already established championship contender.
The good news is that without Williams on its roster, the Nets will have $42 million in cap space to invest in free agents. While the 2011-12 free-agent market isn't teeming with superstars, there are plenty of solid investments the Nets can make to build a strong team without Williams.
The Nets can make some sound investments this summer, and save cap-space for a by far more promising 2013 free-agent market.
Here is a reasonable prediction for a Nets lineup in the 2012-13 season without Deron Williams