Deron Williams Is the One Player Deep Brooklyn Nets Can't Afford to Lose
The Brooklyn Nets have no other choice. With no trusted options behind him, Brooklyn's left hoping that the right Williams will lead it to the game's greatest summit.
If he's the coach killer who sealed Avery Johnson's fate last season or the one who effectively ended Jerry Sloan's legendary run with the Utah Jazz in 2011, the Nets are looking at another early postseason exit.
If he looks like the one who limped out of the gate in 2012-13, mired by weight problems and ankle injuries, Brooklyn will have problems. In 50 games before the All-Star break in 2012-13, he labored his way to just 16.7 points on 41.3 percent shooting from the field.
But what if he's the Williams who dazzled in the 28 games he played after the break? The one who reclaimed his spot among the game's elites with 22.9 points (and a scorching .481/.420/.866 slash line) and 8.0 assists against 2.7 turnovers per game.
Who wouldn't want that Williams leading the charge?
For the Nets, that's not a question they'll have the luxury of asking. While Brooklyn general manager Billy King stuffed the Nets cupboard this summer, the roster still lacks another player that could log major minutes as a floor general.
At any other position, Brooklyn could lose a man and still be OK.
Andrei Kirilenko is a plug-and-play option at either forward spot. Jason Terry and Alan Anderson could take over the floor-spacing duties if Joe Johnson or Paul Pierce went down. Andray Blatche could man the middle in Brook Lopez's absence, with glass eater Reggie Evans and sophomore stretch 4 Mirza Teletovic logging the reserve minutes left behind.
But Jason Kidd's projected point guard rotation (per HoopsWorld.com) has two potentially frightening names backing up Williams: Shaun Livingston and Tyshawn Taylor.
If Williams misses any time next season—he is, after all, already in a walking boot thanks to an ankle sprain and bone bruise he suffered during a workout in Utah, via Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News—then Mikhail Prokhorov's nine-figure championship dream crumbles.
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Livingston, an eight-year veteran, has been battling to reclaim the potential he showed before a devastating knee injury nearly ended his career in 2007. He missed the entire 2007-08 season while recovering and played just 12 games the following year.
He's been mostly a reserve player ever since (22.0 minutes per game in 2012-13), a 6'7" point man with great court vision but no jump shot (career 20.9 three-point percentage). He can handle an understudy role behind Williams, but he hasn't averaged more than 22.1 minutes since 2006-07.
An overdose of Livingston would slice Brooklyn's floor spacing. Defenses don't have to respect his perimeter game. The explosiveness he once showed has never returned. He's never had a long ball in his offensive arsenal.
The sophomore Taylor split his rookie season between Brooklyn (38 games) and its D-League affiliate, the Springfield Armor (eight appearances).
While playing at the big league level, he showed how far he still has to come. He shot just 36.8 percent from the field and committed 4.1 turnovers per 36 minutes. Right now, he'd be fighting for minutes on a team (literally) balling on a budget, let alone on a team facing an astronomical $87 million luxury tax.
Who is Brooklyn's most indispensable player for 2013-14 season?
Taylor can't run an NBA offense at this stage of his career. The Nets would need Pierce and Johnson to initiate their sets. Adding responsibility on a pair of past-their-prime players is less than ideal.
If Kidd follows Brooklyn's offseason path and chooses to go the veteran route, he could slide Terry over to the lead guard spot.
Terry has experience on his side, having spent the last 14 seasons in the league. But he posted a career low 12.8 player efficiency rating in 2012-13, and he's always been better at finding his own shot (career 15.7 points per game) than creating for others (4.5 assists).
With so many egos and only so many touches to keep them happy, a tactical floor general is a must for this roster. If Terry's firing at will and not feeding the post or finding his shooters, the Nets could have a mutiny inside of the locker room.
So the Nets are left entrusting their championship goals to Williams—damaged reputation, roller-coaster production and all.
If Williams can put his best foot forward—if his ankles will even allow that—Brooklyn might have plans for the title, not hopes.
But if Williams is lost, so too is the potential for any magic in Brooklyn. The Nets will have nothing more than nearly $200 million in broken dreams.
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