As I sat second row at the Utah Jazz intra-team scrimmage, I noticed one thing more than any other—the killer instinct of Deron Williams.
Deron's team was down most of the scrimmage. At first Deron was just out there having fun, trying to get his teammates involved and putting on a show for the crowd.
But as soon as the fourth quarter hit, everything about Deron changed. He got a fierce look in his eyes, he stopped joking around with other players, and his desire to win was about as palpable as the chair I was sitting in.
Deron helped his team overcome a 17-point second half deficit to tie the score (the scrimmage ended in a tie). I was left sitting amazed at what I just witnessed.
On TV you can see Deron take over games, but it is nothing compared to being there in person. I sat wondering what Deron's intensity would be like in a playoff-elimination game, if this is how strong it was in a free scrimmage to the public.
There are not many players in the league that can match the intensity of Deron Williams. Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and maybe Chris Paul or Kevin Garnett possess this supernal level of desire to win.
Kobe, LeBron, Chris Paul and Kevin Garnett were in the discussions for MVP in 2008. Why not Deron Williams?
MVP candidates lead their team to a winning record, and have numbers to back up their play. Deron Williams lead his team to the Northwest Division title, and the Jazz finished with a 54-28 record. Williams averaged nearly 19 points and 10.5 assists a game.
Comparing numbers among players is difficult, because every team plays a different offense at a different pace. For example, because Paul averaged 21 points and 11.6 assists, many casual observers thought he was a better player than Williams.
But Deron's numbers may be deceiving because of the motion offense of the Jazz. In the motion offense, more players are helping set up the plays and touching the ball. With the Hornets, it's mainly Paul dribbling the ball at the top of the key, breaking down the defense, then throwing the ball out for an assist.
No one on Paul's team averages above three assists a game besides him. Behind Paul is Pargo with 2.4 assists, and West with 2.3. While for the Jazz, Deron averages 10.5, but AK averages four assists and Boozer averages nearly three. Wiliiams' numbers are slightly lower, but it is because of the offense in which he plays—not his ability.
So Williams numbers are comparable to the MVP candidates last year, and his team was one of the top teams in the competitive Western Conference. So why was he not in the national media's discussion for MVP?
When Steve Nash was MVP for two consecutive years, it was mainly for his contribution to his team—the Suns could not win without Nash. This past year it was the same with Kobe, LeBron, and Paul. The media assumed that their teams would not be able to win without them.
The way the Jazz play, it is not readily apparent that one player could make that much of a difference on the team. The offense that the team runs, focusing on team play and Jerry's desire that no player is the star of the team, makes it almost impossible for one player to seem missed when absent.
However, anyone who carefully watches the Jazz can testify that without Williams, the Jazz are a different team and would not be able to win or be competitive. In the 2006-2007 season, Williams missed two games due to a strained groin. The Jazz lost both or those games—and even watching those games was somewhat painful. The Jazz did not play at their usual level... why because there was no Deron to lead his team.
Past MVPs also have mostly been flashy or finesse players. It is easy to see how last year's candidates fit into that category. They all have amazing highlights.
Deron also is a highlight machine, but because he plays in Utah—which for 20 years was strictly pick and roll, Stockton to Malone—nobody pays attention. The tradition of the Jazz supercedes anything that Deron does different on the court. Because Jerry Sloan is still the coach many think that Deron is just like Stockton.
Jazz fans—or anyone that watches the Jazz for even a few minutes—can tell you that Deron loves to run, throw the alley-oop pass, break ankles with his killer cross-over, and drain the three-pointer on the fast break.
What else did the MVP candidates have that Williams didn't? The candidates were all from large media markets with the exception of Chris Paul. Paul, however, did come with the feel-good story of the team's first full season back in New Orleans after the devastation of hurricane Katrina.
Also, Chris Paul has been a media darling since his days in Wake Forest.
That is something that Williams can not control. The Jazz will never be a media favorite due to the small market size. David Stern has the NBA promote the large-market teams above all others—no matter how much he denies it.
Deron does possess the same qualities as past MVP candidates, besides playing in a large market. So can Deron make a run for MVP in the 2008- 2009 season? If every media member who votes could see and feel what I felt at the Jazz scrimmage, then the answer would definitely be yes!