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Thinking Out Loud: Why Would A D-League Player Turn Down An NBA Contract?

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Last week, I reported that the Indiana Pacers were expected to sign the Austin Toros' Marcus Williams according to sources close to the situation.

A couple of days later, Pacers coach Jim O'Brien said that if the Pacers would sign a hypothetical D-League player, he wouldn't play him.

The following day, Pacers GM David Morway e-mailed RealGM to say that the Pacers have "taken a close look at our options and we're not going to make a roster move at this time."

So random D-League blogger Scott Schroeder was wrong, right? As Lee Corso might say, "Not so fast, my friend!"

Even though it's impossible to get anyone to go on the record for this story (trust me, I've tried), I received the following message from one of my trusted sources (and corroborated it with another):

He turned them down. Good move by him not to get locked up. It's an interesting development in a development league. Call up crazy players limit themselves.

I feel the above story is much more likely than the story of the Pacers simply deciding that they're not going to make a roster move "at this time" - especially since Indiana didn't elaborate on the story and obviously showed enough interest that Williams didn't travel for his D-League team's first playoff game.

Following the jump, I break down other possible reasons as to why Williams would down an NBA contract with the Pacers from 'most likely' to 'least likely' in the interest of fully looking at all of Williams' options.

In short, I don't think Williams is as crazy as he sounds.

Williams wanted to keep his options open for the Summer.

Why this is a possibility: There are more than likely a number of teams with interest in having a 6-foot-7, 23-year-old scorer with budding point guard skills on their Summer League team.

Why should Williams limit himself to just the Pacers, especially if there wasn't a guarantee involved?

I've been told that the Pacers wanted to sign Williams through October 31, but he was only interested in signing with the Pacers for the last five games of this season through the Summer Leagues because he wanted to keep his options open with other NBA, Euroleague and Asian teams if the Pacers were unwilling to guarantee anything.

Bringing us to one of those options...

The San Antonio Spurs "recommended" Williams stick with the D-League team they own, his Austin Toros.

Why this is a possibility: The San Antonio Spurs obviously have shown a large amount of interest in Williams, starting when they drafted the Arizona rookie in the 2007 NBA draft and most recently in the form of giving him a chance to make the team by way of inclusion on the preseason roster.

Williams has also played for the Toros since his rookie season, running the Spurs system.  Therefore, Williams more than likely knows the Spurs offensive and defensive intricacies by now - and the Spurs know Williams better than any other NBA team.  Why would either party want to lose one another?

However, since the Spurs used their last two roster spots on current Austin Toros Alonzo Gee and Curtis Jerrells, they aren't able to lock Williams in with an NBA contract to keep him away from other NBA teams like they did with his Toros teammates.

What the Spurs could have done, though, is strongly suggested that if Williams sticks around for the duration of the Toros season, they'd once again sign him for the Summer as well as invite him to vet camp where he'll have a leg up on any competition due to - if nothing else - familiarity. 

Perhaps the Spurs even upped whatever the Pacers offered, which is what is heavily rumored to have been the reason that they were able to wrestle Alonzo Gee back from the Washington Wizards.

This wouldn't be the first time the Spurs outmaneuvered a rival team and it certainly wouldn't be the last.

Williams didn't want to hurt his chances of making an NBA roster next season.

Why this is a possibility: I know, I know - the Pacers were more than likely offering him at least a camp invite so this could have been his shot at making an NBA roster next season.

What most people don't take into account though is that the NBA minimum salary scale goes up each season - and the minimum is more than likely what Williams could expect as a D-League call-up.

Had Williams taken the Pacers offer, his minimum salary next season would be $885,120, but without accruing that extra NBA year of service he'd be owed $854,389 - a savings for the potential NBA team of over $30,000.  While that doesn't seem like a substantial amount, every little bit helps when you're a fringe NBA player hoping for a contract OR when you're NBA team treading dangerously close to the luxury tax.

Williams wasn't happy that he wouldn't be able to play this season.

Why this is a possibility:  What are the advantages of Williams taking a call-up to sit on an NBA bench for a few games when the alternative is to contribute to the Austin Toros playoff run, a team that's already helped Williams earn NBA contracts in his first two professional seasons?


While this may simply be a case that the Pacers decided not to bring Williams in - whether it be to O'Brien insisting he wouldn't play him or that they decided against it for another reason - the above options seem more likely, at least to myself.

Or maybe I'm crazy.