It’s not often you see a fourth-year player designated to a two-way contract, but circumstances could be playing out that way for Alan Williams. Following him being let go by the Suns on July 2 — Williams would have made $5.5 million this season if he wasn’t waived before the NBA’s moratorium period lifted later that week — the market has seemingly dried up on him.
Williams lost most of his 2017-18 campaign following a freak knee injury in a group workout before training camp, resulting in a torn meniscus sidelining him until March.
As Williams told AZCentral’s Scott Bordow earlier this offseason, his knee is 100% healthy and would welcome a return back to Phoenix.
“I’m trying to find where I fit and where I have the opportunity to play. I love the city of Phoenix, I love my teammates and I think the new coaching staff is great. It would be really awesome to be able to come back and help this team go in the right direction. Ultimately, though, I have to do what’s best for me.”
What’s best for the man known as “Big Sauce” is opportunity, and coming back to the Suns might be his greatest chance of breaking through once more. Although it would be in a completely different scenario than signing another long-term deal, Williams’ infectious energy and rebounding prowess could still nestle into Phoenix’s system one way or another.
The Suns’ big man rotation at the moment is filled to the brim with Deandre Ayton, Dragan Bender, Marquese Chriss, Richaun Holmes, and Tyson Chandler, as is their overall roster with the maximum number hit, but Williams could still crack the rotation deep into the 2018-19 season.
Two-way contracts don’t count against the team’s salary cap, as is the case with George King. Players can be slotted into this contract up through their fourth season, which Williams would just be entering.
Williams would play most of his minutes early on with the Northern Arizona Suns — where he averaged 16 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2 blocks in 23.3 minutes per game during his week-long rehab stint last year — but he could still travel with the team up to 45 days as they can dress both two-way designated players.
Also, if Williams performs well during his extended G-League stint, it could open the door for Phoenix to formally buyout Tyson Chandler’s contract so he can pursue a championship in what is likely his final NBA season. Then, Williams could be called up to the main roster taking Chandler’s position as the third center behind Ayton and Holmes.
This seems like another win-win for team and player, as both are mutually beneficial. Williams would still make the maximum G-League salary of $275k (if he spends the 45-day maximum on the main roster as well), a steep decline from his original extension signed last summer, but it gives him the best opportunity to see consistent playing time while performing at high levels.
Signing Isaiah Canaan to his non-guaranteed training camp deal following his gruesome ankle injury was the first step in good faith by the organization. Bringing back not only a fan favorite, but one of the most respected players in the locker room would be another step towards rehabilitating outside views of subpar player relations.
Williams, a longtime Phoenix native, would relish the opportunity of one more go-around. The Suns should continue to capitalize on taking another step in the right direction by bringing back Williams.