LeBron James wanted a playmaker to help the Cleveland Cavaliers. Deron Williams is ready to be that guy.
The Dallas Mavericks waived Williams on Thursday, and the five-time All-Star is now looking to join the Cavaliers as they pursue a second straight championship, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because Williams has to clear waivers before signing with Cleveland.
Williams averaged 13.1 points and 6.9 assists for the Mavericks this season. The 32-year-old is in his 12th season and loved playing in Dallas. But the Mavericks resume play after the All-Star break on Friday night in Minnesota sitting in 12th in the Western Conference.
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Cavaliers GM David Griffin declined to comment specifically on Williams.
”Obviously the need for a playmaker still exists and we hope in all of these cases that we’re the kind of organization and the kind of team that people want to be part of,” Griffin said. ”And we feel that we’ll be competitive in that market for sure.”
Teaming up with James, whom Williams played with on Team USA, would thrust him into the championship hunt.
James said earlier this season that the Cavaliers were in need of another playmaker off the bench to backup starter Kyrie Irving. Matthew Dellavedova filled that role beautifully for the Cavs during runs to the NBA Finals the previous two seasons, but he left for a big contract with the Milwaukee Bucks last summer.
The Cavs have been searching for a suitable replacement ever since, and the lack of one has caused Lue to play James heavy minutes for much of the year.
Williams has dealt with ankle injuries and he missed eight games at the end of January into the early part of February with a sprained big toe on his left foot. But he played in the final three games before the break, and should be healthy and ready to help the Cavaliers.
Playing behind Irving will also reduce the physical toll on Williams, who can provide some scoring punch while the Cavaliers await the returns of injured starters Kevin Love and J.R. Smith.
”I always liked D-Will,” Lue said. ”He’s a good player. Anytime you have a guy who is an All-Star, he’s a great talent.”
While the Eastern Conference-leading Cavs weren’t active in trades, they did manage to get Williams and have their eyes on center Andrew Bogut, who was dealt from Dallas to Philadelphia and is expected to have his contract bought out by the 76ers.
The Cavs have been thin up front since center Chris Andersen went down with a season-ending knee injury and Bogut could give them a rim protector. They also brought free agent Larry Sanders in for a workout.
”Larry looked good,” Griffin said. ”Larry offers a rim protection that is attractive and there are other players that may or may not become available that do that as well. It’s something we’re working through. I enjoyed the time I got to spend with Larry on a personal level as well so it’s something we’re looking at.”
Cleveland did make a major move last month when it acquired Kyle Korver, one of the league’s best outside shooters, in a trade from Atlanta and have signed forward Derrick Williams to a second 10-day contract to bolster its frontcourt depth.
In waiving Williams, the Mavericks are handing the reins to Yogi Ferrell at point guard. Ferrell impressed enough while under a 10-day contract to earn a two-year deal.
Williams will receive the full remainder of his contract after being waived as opposed to reaching a buyout agreement with Dallas.
AP Sports Writer Tom Withers in Cleveland contributed to this report.