Not surprisingly, it’s looking like The Mo Williams Situation from last season is going to continue to be a situation into this offseason. While he is expected to opt in to the final year of his contract that will pay him $8.5 million, he remains unsatisfied with his role on the team.
Basically, Mo wants his cake, and he wants to eat it too.
According to a report by Ramona Shelburne of ESPN Los Angeles, Williams’ agent and the team seem to share the belief that this is, indeed, “a situation,” and are working towards a way to resolve it.
“Mo’s a professional and I think he showed that last season,” (Mark) Bartelstein (Williams’s agent) said. “He had a great year under difficult circumstances. That said, he’s a starting point guard. He’s an All-Star starting point guard. So we’ll look at everything and see what makes sense.”
Williams has until June 30 to make a decision on the final year of his contract. Bartelstein said both he and the Clippers are “kind of exploring everything” in the hopes of finding a solution that works for both sides before June 30.
Looking beyond the agent speak for a moment — and that, my friends, is some Grade-A agent speak — this report leads to some very interesting points. Starting with the obvious one, that this sure sounds like the beginnings of a trade request/trade search in earnest.
While one would assume that Mo has been available for the right price ever since the acquisitions of Chris Paul and Chauncey Billups, getting enough back to move a capable rotation guy might have been difficult in a compressed season. Now, assuming he opts in to his contract, which would put the team slightly over the $58.4 million salary cap, the team could be significantly more motivated to move him.
What’s his value? It will be interesting to see. Bartelstein mentions “looking at everything,” so presumably the market will determine whether Williams is still valued as an “All-Star starting point guard.” If that’s the case, then the Clippers would probably be wise to send him to the team that has the ability to absorb his contract and take back the (first round) draft pick that they’d logically be willing to surrender.
What gets interesting is if the process does not turn up offers commensurate with that kind of value. In this case, the Clippers still have options, should they choose to exercise them.
They could keep him and use his production off the bench. Let’s not forget, he pouted his way through most of last season, and yet was still an effective player. No reason to think that would change this year. And if they do hang onto him, he’d become more and more valuable as the trade deadline approaches, to a contender or as an expiring contract.
Or, rather than fight for a fair deal, they could take decisive action to move his salary. (As exciting as this option could be, “decisive action” is not the most likely course for a team without a general manager less than a week from the draft). There are teams with the space to absorb his contract (the Lakers, for instance, have an $8.9 million trade exception from dealing Lamar Odom), and surely one would be willing to take on his production for only one year.
If the Clippers decide to go this route, things could really get interesting. With Mo off the books, that would clear the way for them to amnesty Ryan Gomes (owed $4 million next year), giving them around $12 million in cap space.
Imagine what they could do with $12 million in free agency. They could make their former general manager sweat quite a bit by making a competitive offer to 23-year old stud small forward Nicholas Batum. How about setting a baseline for the contract of old friend Eric Gordon, by making him an offer and forcing soon-to-be Western Conference rival New Orleans to match?
Worried that Courtney Lee might command more than the Mid-Level exception? No problem. Same goes for George Hill, O.J. Mayo, Ryan Anderson, and Kevin Garnett, among others.
I’m not sure how this fits in the cake analogy above, but the Clippers may ultimately be wise to serve the cake, let him eat it, or even it it themselves — whichever means that they will be able to dive head first into free agency, with flexibility they had no business dreaming of before Mo Williams and his agent came to the rescue.