What is wrong with Deron Williams?
After watching Williams struggle mightily in another nationally televised game, it's time to start wondering if he should be classified as an elite point guard anymore. Williams seems to have trouble finding the passion and style in his game that made him such a successful playmaker for the Utah Jazz.
This is the third consecutive season that Williams has declined since the Brooklyn Nets acquired him. He's shooting below 40 percent from the field, which would be the worst Williams has shot in a single season. Williams is also averaging only 8.1 assists per game, which is his lowest total since his rookie season.
Besides those two telling stats, Williams PER (Player Efficiency Rating) is 17.4, which is the lowest it's been since the 2006-07 campaign. In fact, Williams' PER is lower than esteemed point guard colleagues such as Ramon Sessions, Jose Calderon and Jarrett Jack.
The worst part about Williams now is his failure to establish a leadership role in Brooklyn. In fact, he's complaining about how coach Avery Johnson's offensive system is the reason why he's been playing so poorly this year. This is also the same Williams who was a major reason why former Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan retired after 27 years of coaching.
And this from the Nets captain, the guy who is supposed to bring the entire team together.
Williams and the Nets have faltered the past couple of weeks, losing nine of the 12 games played so far in December. There have been several close losses during that stretch in which Williams seemed eager to defer to others in crunch time. He's refused to step up as a playmaker and a team leader this season, which is why the Nets have yet to live up to expectations.
I mean, how hard is it to have a good season when you have teammates like Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace and Brook Lopez?
With the way Williams has been playing this season, along with his steady decline the two seasons prior to that, I think it's safe to say that he's no longer a top five point guard. I don't think anyone would argue that they would take Chris Paul, Derrick Rose (when healthy, obviously), Russell Westbrook, Rajon Rondo or Kyrie Irving over Williams. I'd put Tony Parker into that group as well.
For people who would argue that he is more of a shooting guard than a point guard, Westbrook actually has more assists per game this season than Williams.
It's a closer call between Williams and Golden State's Stephen Curry, but with the way Curry has been playing this season, I would take him over Williams to run my team too. He's a much better shooter than Williams, he's averaging a career-high in assists this season and he's not afraid to take the big shot. He's also leading the Golden State Warriors to a surprising first-place start in the Pacific Division. I'm sure the majority of the NBA would take Curry as well.
That puts Williams as the eighth-best point guard in the NBA. Sure, it's above average, but it's definitely not All-Star level, let alone elite. It's simply astonishing how far Williams has fallen over the past couple of seasons. Just a few years ago, he was one of the two candidates being debated over as to who was best point guard in the NBA (Chris Paul being the other).
Now, there's a strong argument that Williams is no longer an All-Star point guard.
The Brooklyn Nets have to be wondering if they made a mistake signing Williams to a five-year, $98.7 million contract extension this past offseason. Owner Mikhail Prokhorov has always believed that Williams can lead the Nets to an NBA championship.
However, I believe that his current point guard is the wrong guy to help the Nets fulfill their championship aspirations.