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The Brooklyn Nets will go as far as Deron Williams takes them.
That statement will most likely be true for the remaining three-and-a-half years of the star point guard's $98 million contract, and it is definitely true this season.
The value of Williams' play to the team has been quite evident this year. The Nets are 15-7 when Williams shoots over 40 percent from the floor, and 2-11 when he shoots under 39 percent. They are 15-6 when he turns the ball over fewer than three times and 1-8 when he has at least four turnovers.
The most telling statistic? Williams' has a plus-50 plus-minus this season, while every other Net, save Kirilenko, is in the red.
The reason the rest of the season hinges so much on Williams' play is that the Brooklyn front office still believes—or is forced to believe by his massive contract—that the face of their franchise has the capacity to be a top-five point guard in the NBA. Besides, it was less than three seasons ago that Williams was averaging over 20 points and 10 assists a night.
On many evenings, the Nets' optimism is warranted. Williams cuts into the lanes and dishes to open shooters or drains pull-up three-pointers. Then there are the nights where Williams appears shackled by his ankle injuries or, worse, is forced to watch from the bench, wearing a suit instead of shorts.
Despite the ups and downs of their season, the Nets do have a blueprint for ascending the Eastern Conference standings. To have a puncher's chance against the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers in the postseason is rather simple: Brooklyn needs to pray for Williams' health and the point guard in turn must perform like the superstar he once was.