Deron Williams will be the star of this summer's NBA free-agent market, but he likely won't be jetting around the country visiting several teams. Williams has already narrowed his options to two: Stay with the Nets as they prepare for their first season in Brooklyn; or join Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks.
NBA teams can begin negotiating with free agents at 12:01 a.m. ET Sunday, though contracts can't officially be signed until July 11. Williams' courtship isn't expected to take too long: He hopes to make his decision before Team USA opens its Olympic training camp Friday in Las Vegas.
The Nets' chances of keeping Williams, league sources said, could hinge on whether they can convince another marquee star to join them. So far, they've been unable to convince the Orlando Magic to trade Dwight Howard. The Nets also had interest in Kevin Garnett, but he's already agreed to re-sign with the Boston Celtics.
If Williams leaves, the Nets will look at other free-agent point guard options, including Steve Nash, Goran Dragic and Jason Kidd. If the Mavericks don't land Williams, they might try to convince Nash to return to Dallas.
"If the Mavericks get [Williams]," one league source said, "it will set the Nets back five years."
Here's a look at the rest of this summer's top 20 NBA free agents:
2. Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs, F/C: Duncan, 36, has already declared himself a "Spur for life." The only question is the length and value of his contract. Garnett received a three-year, $34 million deal with the final season not expected to be fully guaranteed, and the average salary of K.G.'s contract could provide a barometer for the Spurs and Duncan. The Spurs have sometimes had difficult negotiations with their aging stars – David Robinson publicly wondered if the franchise wanted him back before getting a two-year, $20 million contract – but Duncan should be different. He's won four championships for the Spurs, and so many people in the franchise have profited because of him.
3. Nash, Phoenix Suns, PG: Nash has publicly said he's open to re-signing with the Suns. Still, given how much other teams value him, Phoenix doesn't appear to the be the leader. The Toronto Raptors will make a hard push to sign the Canada native. Nash lives in New York in the offseason, and both the New York Knicks and Nets have interest in signing him. If the Mavs can't sign Williams, then they might try to sell Nash on a reunion with his good friend, Nowitzki. The Raptors and Knicks are scheduled to meet with Nash on the first day of free agency.
4. Roy Hibbert (restricted), Indiana Pacers, C: The Pacers would prefer not to pay Hibbert a max contract, but they also plan to match any offer sheet the All-Star signs with another team. Given Hibbert's age (25), potential and the dearth of quality big men in the league, he's likely headed for a big payday. And Hibbert's agent David Falk won't hesitate to shop for the best deal.
5. Eric Gordon (restricted), New Orleans Hornets, G: The Hornets drafted talented guard Austin Rivers, who potentially could replace Gordon, the top shooting guard in free agency this summer. Still, the Hornets will weigh matching whatever offer sheet Gordon receives.
Gordon will visit his hometown Indiana Pacers, in addition to the Houston Rockets and Suns this coming week. He's also receiving interest from the Portland Trail Blazers, Charlotte Bobcats and Mavericks (if they don't sign Williams). Like Williams, Gordon hopes to make his decision before Team USA's training camp begins.
6. Brook Lopez (restricted), Brooklyn Nets, F/C: The Nets have offered Lopez in potential trade packages for Howard, but he's still expected to get a lucrative contract from them.
7. Goran Dragic, Houston Rockets, PG: The Rockets want to keep Dragic, but it probably won't be cheap. The Raptors, Mavericks, Hornets and Suns – who traded Dragic to the Rockets – also have interest. The Rockets already have point guard Kyle Lowry under contract, and Lowry has said he wants to be traded if Dragic returns. There's been some tension between Lowry and Rockets coach Kevin McHale, and Lowry's name surfaced in the team's trade talks on draft day.
8. Jameer Nelson, Orlando Magic, PG: Nelson became an unrestricted free agent when he exercised his opt-out clause on Friday. He said he's open to re-signing with the Magic, but he'll also draw outside interest depending on where the other top point guards sign.
9. O.J. Mayo, Memphis Grizzlies, SG: The Grizzlies waived their right to make Mayo a restricted free agent, all but assuring he'll play elsewhere next season. Brooklyn, Boston, Phoenix, Indiana and Portland are interested, a league source said. The Celtics tried to acquire Mayo last season in a trade for Ray Allen.
10. Chauncey Billups, Los Angeles Clippers, PG: Billups is ahead of schedule in his recovery from an Achilles injury and hopes to be ready to play by the start of the season. He has enjoyed his short time with the Los Angeles Clippers, but the Rockets, Chicago Bulls, Trail Blazers and Philadelphia 76ers also have interest. Billups plans to do some light work on the floor during USA Basketball’s upcoming training camp in Las Vegas.
11. Ersan Ilyasova, Milwaukee Bucks, F: He's a versatile player who averaged 16.1 points and 9.1 rebounds after the All-Star break. The Bucks are expected to get competition from Brooklyn, Cleveland, Toronto and possibly Philadelphia (if the Sixers use their amnesty clause on Elton Brand).
[Related: Suns will pursue Celtics' Ray Allen]
12. Jamal Crawford, Portland Trail Blazers, G: The Los Angeles Clippers, Minnesota Timberwolves, Sacramento Kings and Mavericks could emerge as possible suitors for Crawford.
13. Jeremy Lin (restricted), New York Knicks, PG: The Knicks don't have plans to let the marketing marvel leave. They can match any offer Lin receives.
14. Andre Miller, Denver Nuggets, PG: The Nuggets would like to re-sign Miller, but he could also draw interest from the Golden State Warriors, Knicks, Magic, Nets, Suns and Mavericks. Unless the Nuggets are aggressive, Williams and Nash will likely have to make their decisions before Miller gets his best offer.
15. Jason Kidd, Dallas Mavericks, PG: Kidd could return to the Mavericks, depending on who else they sign. The Knicks and Nets also might have interest.
16. Omer Asik (restricted), Chicago Bulls, C: Asik is receiving interest from Chicago, Houston, Portland and Philadelphia.
17. Ray Allen, Boston Celtics, G: The Suns are expected to pursue Allen. They can pay significantly more than either the Miami Heat or Knicks, Allen's two other leading suitors. Suns president Lon Babby is Allen’s former agent.
18. Brandon Roy, Portland Trail Blazers, G: The Blazers used their amnesty policy on Roy in December after he was unable to play because of ongoing knee problems. After receiving the same platelet-rich plasma therapy Kobe Bryant underwent a year ago in Germany, Roy now plans to make his comeback this season. The Timberwolves, Mavericks, Bulls and Pacers all have interest.
19. Gerald Wallace, Brooklyn Nets, F: Wallace is expected to re-sign with the Nets, but Charlotte, Cleveland and Houston also could bid for him.
20. Chris Kaman, New Orleans Hornets, C: The Hornets put Kaman on the trading block, but ultimately kept him through the end of the season. He could draw interest from Indiana, Phoenix, Portland, Sacramento, Dallas.
Other unrestricted free agents of interest: Boston Celtics forward Brandon Bass; Los Angeles Clippers forward Reggie Evans; Boston Celtics forward Jeff Green; Portland Trail Blazers guard Jonny Flynn; Phoenix Suns forward Grant Hill; Los Angeles Lakers forward Jordan Hill; Atlanta Hawks guard Kirk Hinrich; Utah Jazz forward Josh Howard; Cleveland Cavaliers forward Antawn Jamison; New Orleans Hornets forward Rashard Lewis; Los Angeles Clippers forward Kenyon Martin; Utah Jazz guard C.J. Miles; Los Angeles Lakers point guard Ramon Sessions; New York Knicks guard J.R. Smith; Dallas Mavericks guard Jason Terry; Miami forward Rony Turiaf; Charlotte Bobcats forward D.J. White; Los Angeles Clippers guard Nick Young.
Other restricted free agents of interest: Minnesota Timberwolves forward Michael Beasley; Phoenix Suns guard Aaron Brooks; New York Knicks guard Landry Fields; Portland Trail Blazers forward J.J. Hickson; Indiana Pacers guard George Hill.
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