According to ESPN, the Brooklyn Nets have agreed to a two-way contract with former Suns big man Alan Williams. His signing represents the first player that Brooklyn has signed to a two-way deal for the upcoming 2018-19 season. This patient approach is a 180 degree turn from how they were in 2017-18, as both Jacob Wiley and Yakuba Ouattara were signed well before this point last year.
However, that patience might end up being a virtue for the Nets as Williams was a solid front-court player during his run with the Suns. Through three seasons with Phoenix, he averaged 6.4 points and 5.7 rebounds on 50% from the field in only 14 minutes per game. Following the 2017 NBA All-Star break, Williams averaged 11.4 points and 9.1 rebounds on 51% from the field in only 23 minutes per game.
Unfortunately, that stint ended up being the last bright spot for Williams’ run with the Suns as he tore the meniscus in his right knee in training camp before the 2017-18 season. He didn’t return to the NBA until March 25th, when he played 16 minutes against the Boston Celtics. After four below-average games with Phoenix, where he averaged 4 points and 4.4 rebounds on 39% from the field, the Suns waived Williams on July 2nd despite him having two more years left on his contract.
Despite this injury, there is a ridiculous amount of upside in Williams. He is arguably the accomplished NBA player to receive a two-way deal. While most of his success came in just a span of two months of the 2016-17 season, he was fantastic during that post All-Star game stretch. He was second in the NBA in double-doubles among players that played 30 minutes or less per game with 12. The only player ahead of Williams was current Nuggets star Nikola Jokic, who had 16 double-doubles during that time.
Much of this success had to do with his rebounding prowess. Despite being an undersized 6’9 center, Williams was still able to dominate on the glass due the trifecta of hustle, great instincts and using his incredibly 260 pound frame to out-muscle the other players that he’s trying to box out. Those skills allowed him to average 14.8 total rebounds per 40 minutes, which put him 8th in the entire NBA.
Now two years later, Williams will look to prove that he can recapture the same magic which allowed him to be one of the best rebounders in the NBA. However, that journey will start in Long Island as the 6’9 center will have to prove to the Nets organization that he’s recovered from the torn meniscus and is able to shine against G League players. That might be easier said than done as Long Island’s inner division opponents should feature some solid front-court players including Knicks two-way prospect Isaiah Hicks and Celtics rookie center Robert Williams.
If Williams can shine against G League competition while also remaining healthy, his run with Long Island may not last long. That possibility could be due to two separate reasons: Brooklyn’s lack of front-court depth and Williams’ proven NBA skills. The first part is exemplified by how Jarrett Allen is the only front-court player that has a contract which extends past the 2018-19 season.
Although that could change if Rondae Hollis-Jefferson receives an extension before he becomes an RFA after this year, Brooklyn would have to look outside the organization for front-court help. However, that problem would be somewhat mended if Williams proves himself at the G League level as the Nets could sign him to a similar type of two-year deal that Golden State gave to Quinn Cook towards the end of last year. That would allow the Nets to have a solid rotation big that would be under a team-friendly contract.
The Nets are in a great position with Williams. If he does great in the G League and shows he can remain healthy, Brooklyn can decide to waive one of their current players and sign him to a standard NBA deal. In the case that Williams struggles in the G League or is unable to stay healthy, Brooklyn could decide to waive him without worrying about taking on the same level of financial burden that comes from a player on a standard deal.
That level of flexibility mixed with the clear upside means Brooklyn signing Alan Williams to a two-way deal was an extremely smart decision that can pay off for the team in 2018-19 and beyond.