- Bradford Doolittle, ESPN Staff Writer
It wasn't that long ago that Deron Williams was smack in the middle of the argument over who was the NBA's best point guard. This was when Williams was running Jerry Sloan's offense for the Utah Jazz, with Carlos Boozer as his pick-and-roll partner. For a while, most of these debates came down to Williams or Chris Paul, and since Williams tended to get the upper hand in their head-to-head meetings, it wasn't hard to make a case on his behalf.
The perception of Williams, if not his performance, changed last season when he was traded from the Jazz to the New Jersey Nets. First, there was the reason for the trade, which reportedly had something to do with becoming disgruntled with Sloan, one of the league's coaching icons. Then out of necessity, Williams became a different player with the Nets. Whereas Williams had more support and played in a well-balanced system in Utah, he was asked to do not only all the playmaking in New Jersey, but also the lion's share of the scoring. His usage rate soared north of 30 percent, while his efficiency tumbled below the league average.
Nevertheless, Williams' skills are as sharp as ever, and with just a player option standing between him and the open market, he's on the verge of becoming the most coveted free agent in the land. It's not a slam dunk that Williams will turn down that option, by the way. First of all, it's $17.8 million. That's a lot of certainty to walk away from. Also, he may survey the landscape and decide there will be more and better suitors if he waits another season. His decision on the option is one of the great intrigues of the coming offseason.
For any player weighing his options, there are four basic criteria: 1. chance to win; 2. money; 3. on-court fit; and 4. off-court fit. We can't get inside the head of any player, so when we speculate on where he may be playing next season, we're basing it on what we know about the player, on and off the court, from an observational standpoint. We take that information and imagine how the NBA puzzle is going to reorganize for next season, and see what fits, and what doesn't. The consensus seems to be that Williams will land in one of two locales, but is the consensus correct?
Here is a look at how Williams would fit with each of the 30 NBA teams:
4dSteve Ilardi and Jeremias Engelmann