NBA Free Agency 2012: Why Deron Williams Is Just a Big Fish in a Small Pond

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NBA Free Agency 2012: Why Deron Williams Is Just a Big Fish in a Small Pond
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Deron Williams

Deron Williams is unquestionably the biggest name on the 2012 NBA free agency market. After he is off the market, however, the rest of the talent in the group is average at best.

For that reason, the price tag for the All-Star point guard has soared to maximum heights.

Williams is the only player on the market who could play a big role in turning around a franchise, but his whereabouts mean more to the Dwight Howard saga than they do to the league as a whole.

Williams is a great player, but realistically, how many All-Star caliber seasons does the 28-year-old point guard have left? He has a lot of miles on his engine and has stayed relatively healthy his whole career. The laws of probability tell us that the wear and tear on his body will take a toll at some point.

Williams has reportedly narrowed his destination possibilities to two teams. He will either decide to stay with the Brooklyn Nets or will bolt for his hometown squad, the Dallas Mavericks

Whichever team ends up with Williams will be getting one of the best point guards in the NBA, but at what price? The Mavericks hope that Williams could team up with the aging Dirk Nowitzki for one or two more runs at an NBA title, but Dirk is on his way down.

Williams is a great player, but he isn't enough of a difference maker to immediately make Dallas the favorite in the Western Conference over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Dallas can offer Williams a four-year, $75 million deal. The Nets, however, can hold onto Williams for $100 million over five years (via Marc Stein and Chris Broussard of ESPN.com).

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The Nets have more to lose if Williams leaves town. Howard reportedly made his preferred destination clear to the Orlando Magic front office, and he wants to take his talents to Brooklyn.

Now that the Nets have added Joe Johnson, the team has the trade bait to swing a deal with the Magic to add Howard. Brooklyn better act quickly to indicate to Williams that they are serious about making a deal for Howard because in the same story by Stein and Broussard, the duo reported that Williams is likely to make a decision between the Mavs and Nets Tuesday.

Williams has been the center of attention in the free agent world because he is the only legitimate superstar who is testing the market. He will likely be the only free agent to receive a max deal as well.

When teams pursue free agents, the pressure is on to add talent as quickly and efficiently as possible, even if a team has to overpay for its target. Take a look at the Houston Rockets, for example. They offered Chicago Bulls center Omer Asik a three-year contract worth $25 million.

Is the offensively challenged Asik worth that much money? Probably not. But that is the price the Rockets have to pay if they want to pry the restricted free agent away from the Bulls. 

Scarcity in the market drives the price tag up, and that is exactly what has happened in the teams' quest for landing Williams. He is the best player available in a weak free agent class, so franchises are willing to pay whatever it takes to acquire the cream of the crop.

Williams is the beneficiary of this system because he is commanding the most money possible from both Dallas and Brooklyn. There are no other top-notch options at point guard available this summer, and that fact has driven up the asking price for the former Illinois standout. 

The Mavericks and Nets are both feeling the pressure to add the best available options to their backcourts, even if it means overpaying for the best talent available.

Williams is in the prime of his career, but how long he will perform at his peak is still a mystery. Heading into his thirties, could Williams stay healthy all season and sustain his All-Star level of production each year?

Apparently it is worth $100 million to find out.

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