Why Deron Williams Is Entering Career-Defining NBA Season with Brooklyn Nets
Never before has the talented point guard had such a stacked supporting cast, and he finally has a legitimate chance to bring home a championship.
A big part of that is because Williams has not been a truly great NBA player since his days with the Utah Jazz.
Very rarely does someone average 20 and 10 out of the backcourt, but Williams used to approach those figures with regularity. Starting in 2007-08, he put up at least 18 points and 10 assists per game for four consecutive seasons, giving him a solid case for the title of the NBA's best point guard.
However, that production was rendered essentially moot by his Jazz teammates.
In 2009-10, when Williams was selected to his long-overdue first All-Star Game, he was Utah's second-leading scorer—just behind Carlos Boozer and ahead of Mehmet Okur and Andrei Kirilenko.
Even in his prime, Boozer couldn't be the second-best player on a contender. While Kirilenko was an elite defender, Okur could not cover for Boozer inside, leaving Utah prone in the post without enough scoring to justify the weakness.
Unfortunately for the Jazz, Williams wasn't able to carry that squad past the second round after making the leap to stardom. Now he is finally the face of a true championship-caliber roster.
The Big Three of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez didn't cut it last season, elevating Brooklyn into the playoff picture but not into the title conversation. Yet Mikhail Prokhorov is a ruthless spender, so Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Kirilenko and Jason Terry, among others, are all in town now.
Those additions will give the Nets a strong core of defenders—a necessity for any great NBA team, but a luxury Williams has lacked throughout his career. Only once has he played for a team ranked in the top-third of the league in points allowed per 100 possessions.
Here's an example of how important defensive efficiency is in postseason play: The four conference finalists in 2013 were all in the top seven in points allowed per 100 possessions, and three the category leaders.
The Nets, on the other hand, were 18th. No other playoff team was so porous.
While Williams himself is a serviceable defender, he hasn't played with any viable stoppers since Kirilenko. AK47 is a step slower than he was in Utah, but he, Johnson and Pierce can all shut down wings, while Garnett is still one of the best rim-protectors around.
There's always the age concern about those guys, all of whom except Williams are at least 32, staying healthy. Yet Brooklyn is no longer worried about simply playing into May. Jason Kidd will happily rest whoever needs time off during the regular season in hopes of being the last team standing next June.
That leaves Williams and Lopez to be Brooklyn's engine, allowing the older guys to pick their battles. Though it will be an absolute necessity to play that way in the regular season, the Nets will have to keep leaning on that duo in the playoffs to maintain continuity.
The onus there primarily falls on Williams' shoulders—not only because he's the point guard, but also because he's the only relevant Net who can play with any speed, particularly on the offensive end.
It's the typical drawback of a team with tons of veteran experience, as years of NBA games take a toll on the best athletes' legs. Pierce and Johnson can both still get into the lane off the bounce, but they primarily use their strength, savvy and shot-making ability.
Without a guard forcing defenses to adjust due to his penetration, everyone could just stay home on the other Brooklyn stars. Adding Williams to the mix, with his quickness and burst, forces help and doubles.
And Williams has to prove himself the best player on the Nets in order to command that respect. Plenty of guys need their shots in Brooklyn, and he will best be able to distribute them if he is considered the most dangerous scorer.
That means shooting efficiently rather than shooting often.
Per Hoopdata, he easily set his a new career mark by hitting 70 percent at the rim, but his 2.9 attempts per game were his fewest by a full shot per game. Attacking will be easier with Garnett as his second big, but Williams can't afford to settle for jumpers himself.
He needs to get the looks he wants and convert in order to make life easier for those around him. That's what a superstar does, and that's what Williams will have to do for Brooklyn to have any chance to win it all.
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