New Jersey Nets fans have good reason to be elated about the addition of Deron Williams, a first-class point guard and one of the best individual players ever to don a Nets uniform. That said, it’s not going to be all smiles in New Jersey, because even the addition of Williams isn’t going to save this team.
First and foremost, Williams is only one player. Even if he, by himself, makes the entire Nets team 10 percent better, a 10 percent improvement over a 17-40 team is still a bad team. He’s a reason to be hopeful for the future (assuming the Nets can convince him to stay for the long term), but not a savior for the present.
Secondly, Williams is replacing, in Devin Harris, one of the few Nets who was already good. There’s no question that Williams is a better point guard than Harris, but the incremental improvement of adding Williams is going to be smaller purely because Harris wasn’t the problem for N.J. to begin with.
There’s also the question of how well Williams will mesh with those Nets who remain. Williams’ greatest strength is his ability to execute in the half-court offense, and offense is definitely the problem for the Nets (who rank 29th in the league in scoring). However, while the Nets do boast a terrific pick-and-roll partner for Williams in Brook Lopez—and while they have been slowing the pace down this year as a rule—they don’t really benefit from forcing a half-court game. They’re shooting just 43.8 percent from the floor, 27th in the league, as a team. They have athletic wings like Anthony Morrow and Travis Outlaw who are more effective in the open floor. Williams, though, is not the same point guard in transition, turning the ball over too often and trying to force plays that aren’t there. Unless Williams can improve his fast-break performance, or the other Nets can improve their efficiency in the half-court, Williams isn’t going to be as big an improvement as the team would like.
Lastly, there’s the fact that the Williams trade entails, in effect, trading Derrick Favors for Brandan Wright. Favors wasn’t any kind of star as a Net, and Wright hasn’t really gotten to show what he can do yet, but at the moment, Favors appears to be a better NBA player than Wright. Favors is more physical and more aggressive, and the Nets are likely to miss his 5.3 rebounds per game. Wright could certainly develop into a fine player, but in the short term, that part of the trade is a step back for New Jersey.