Thus far in the 2012-13 NBA regular season, one of the game's brightest stars has struggled in ways unimaginable for a player of his stature. That elite individual is none other than Deron Williams of the Brooklyn Nets.
Fortunately for Brooklyn, there is a blueprint for Williams to reclaim NBA superstar status.
Williams has been one of the top point guards in the NBA since 2006. From his elite pick-and-roll facilitating ability under Jerry Sloan to his dominant scoring pace while with the New Jersey and now Brooklyn Nets, D-Will has earned the following honors:
Three-time All-Star, two-time All-NBA selection and a two-time Olympic gold medalist.
The question is, how can Williams restore his reputation as an elite force in the league? With the following steps, Williams will do just that.
The only question is when it will happen.
Deron Williams may be one of the toughest players in the NBA, but no one is going to play to the fullest extent of their ability while banged up. Especially not when they're as hurt as Williams presently is.
When your legs and arms are damaged by injury, one can only imagine that your performances will be damaged. That has been the case with Williams, who continues to struggle with shooting the basketball.
Which brings us to our next point.
Through 17 games of the 2012-13 NBA regular season, Deron Williams is shooting 37.8 percent from mid-range. He's also hitting just 28.7 percent from above the break.
Considering D-Will shot 40.0 percent from mid-range and 34.3 from above the break in 2011-12, it's fair to assume that something has gone wrong.
Williams is currently playing with bone spurs in his ankle, thus negatively effecting the rise on his jump shot (via ESPN New York). He also has a sprained joint in his right wrist, which is having an adverse effect on his release (via ESPN New York).
Just don't think D-Will is unaware of his struggles.
"I still haven't shot the ball well," Williams said. "I'm just trying to get through these little nagging injuries, so hopefully I can shoot a little bit better and help my team a little bit more. I'm just trying to do the little things, get everybody involved, play solid defense and help my team win."
Days later, Williams changed his stance.
“It’s not my wrist, man, it’s my confidence,” Williams said in a reflective moment, after finishing with 10 points and a 3-for-11 shooting performance. “I just got to play better. Injuries or not, I got to play. I can’t keep having 10 points, not being aggressive. I just got to find a rhythm. It’s just tough.”
D-Will is right about one thing. If he's going to continue playing through injury, he's going to need to produce at a much higher level.
If he fails to, a period of resting is the only logical option.
If Deron Williams is to reclaim his status as an NBA superstar, he must trust the one player who can take his facilitating to a new level. That man, of course, is six-time All-Star and late-game master Joe Johnson.
Unfortunately, trusting Johnson becomes rather difficult considering he's shooting 41.6 percent from the floor.
Johnson is presently averaging 16.6 points per game on said field-goal percentage. He's also averaging 15.2 shot attempts per game.
In order for Williams and Johnson to thrive alongside one another, said number should sit closer to the 18.2 attempts per game J.J. had in 2009-10.
Johnson remains an elite shooter who is more than capable of dominating in isolation sets. What Williams must continue to do, however, is work Johnson into the offense by finding him off of screens and creating open looks for the sharpshooter.
It is only then that Williams will see the Nets' offense function as expected. In turn, it will be Johnson's recovery which leads to D-Will's return to stardom.
When Deron Williams played his best brand of basketball, he had developed an elite pick-and-roll game with Carlos Boozer in Utah.
In fact, Williams has never played worse basketball than he has in his short tenure with the New Jersey and Brooklyn Nets.
A major reason for his shortcomings has been the lack of a go-to pick-and-roll finisher.
Enter Brook Lopez.
Lopez may be more one of the more maligned players in the NBA due to his lackluster rebounding, but he's also one of the top scorers. In fact, Lopez ranks third in the NBA amongst center at 18.5 points per game.
With that being said, Synergy Sports reports that the Nets rank 30th in the NBA at points per pick-and-roll play. This likely comes by virtue of the nature of the offense, as just 12.53 percent of their possessions have been run through the pick-and-roll.
Not the number you'd expect to see with, arguably, the best pick-and-roll point guard in the game.
With Boozer and Jerry Sloan calling for the high screens, D-Will averaged at least 18.7 points and 10.5 assists in each of the three seasons prior to his trade to New Jersey. Over the past two seasons, however, that number is down to 8.8 assists per game.
If Lopez can emerge as a pick-and-roll finisher, Williams could rejoin the NBA's elite.
When Deron Williams is on the floor, the Brooklyn Nets have posted a defensive rating of 107.3. When Williams is on the bench, however, the Nets have posted a number 90.7.
That comes by virtue of their allowing 98.0 points per 48 minutes with Williams on the floor. They sit at 77.6 per 48 when Williams is on the bench.
Although Williams has had a positive impact on the offensive end of the floor, the numbers never lie. He is damaging the team defensively.
This comes as a surprise considering D-Will played outstanding full-court offense throughout the London Olympics. Unfortunately, the previously-alluded-to injuries have had a clear impact on his mobility.
Playing at a position in which agility is key, a bum ankle and damaged wrist is certainly not the formula for slowing players such as Russell Westbrook down.
During the 2011-12 NBA regular season, Deron Williams averaged a career-best 21.0 points per game. Unfortunately, Williams did so on career-lows of 40.7 percent shooting from the floor and 4.0 turnovers per contest.
Williams hadn't shot below 45.0 percent since his rookie season in 2005-06.
We've seen more of the same in 2012-13, which could be chalked up to his string of injuries. Even still, it has become clear that Williams is attempting to do too much with the ball in his hands on a possession-to-possession basis.
In turn, Williams is shooting poorly, turning it over and damaging the Nets' chances at victory. Time to settle down.
When Williams allows the game to come to him and controls the pace, he is in the running for the label of "best point guard in the NBA." When he rushes, however, the results are inconsistent and his production is marred by poor field-goal percentages and high turnover totals.
Slow it down and play your game, Mr. Williams. You'll return to superstar status in no time.