The Deron Williams-Joe Johnson backcourt failed to live up to expectations in 2012-13, but there’s reason to believe it can reach elite status next season.
It probably wasn’t fair to assume Williams and Johnson would form an elite backcourt in just their first season together. There is, after all, something to be said for NBA players taking the time to develop chemistry and continuity with each other.
Now that Williams and Johnson have had a full season together, there is reason to believe the Brooklyn Nets’ starting backcourt will have more success next season.
Unfortunate injuries to both players also contributed to their uncharacteristically poor performances.
Johnson was hobbled by plantar fasciitis in his left foot, while Williams was plagued by ankle and wrist injuries throughout the first half of the season. Johnson wasn’t willing to use the injury as an excuse, but it’s hard to imagine a healthy Big Shot Joe shooting 2-for-14 from the field against the Chicago Bulls in Game 7.
Williams, who got healthy as the season progressed, showed what he can do at full strength after the All-Star break. Over the last 32 games of the regular season, he averaged 22.9 points on 48.1 percent shooting.
Williams and Johnson now have the entire summer to rest and should return at 100 percent next season.
After watching D-Will average just 16.7 points on 41.3 percent shooting through the first 50 games of 2012-13, many forgot they were watching the same player that made three straight All-Star teams from 2010 to 2012. He’s also the same player that averaged a double-double for three consecutive seasons with the Utah Jazz from 2007 to 2010.
Johnson, meanwhile, made six-consecutive All-Star appearances with the Atlanta Hawks.
At 31 going on 32, Johnson is no longer at his physical peak, but he’s certainly capable of having a few more highly-productive seasons in Brooklyn, especially with Williams at his side. D-Will, who will be 29 next season, is still in the latter stages of his prime.
To a certain extent, Williams and Johnson also suffered from playing in a lineup that featured Gerald Wallace and Reggie Evans, who brought very little to the table on the offensive end. Wallace shot a dreadful 33.5 percent from the floor after the All-Star break, while Evans averaged just 4.5 points per game.
Wallace and Evans severely hampered the Nets’ ability to space the floor, and allowed opposing defenses to focus their energy on stopping Williams, Johnson and Brook Lopez.
After back-to-back losses to the Bulls in Games 2 and 3, in which the Nets averaged 79 points, former interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo refused to make changes to the starting lineup. A new, more innovative and cerebral coach, that focuses more on floor spacing and ball movement, could help Williams and Johnson become one of the best backcourts in the NBA.
Williams, Johnson and the rest of the Nets disappointed fans with a first-round playoff exit to a tough, yet utterly depleted Bulls squad. But those fans still have reason to be optimistic about their team’s star-studded backcourt next season.
Better continuity, a clean bill of health and new coach with a new offensive philosophy should help the Nets’ backcourt reach its full potential in 2013-14.
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