Speaking with reporters at an event in Coney Island yesterday, Brooklyn Nets coach Jason Kidd spoke about his goals for Deron Williams during this upcoming season, laying down one specific benchmark:
“I’m going to push him. I want the best for him,” Kidd said after signing autographs at the Nets’ merchandise store in Coney Island. “When we sit down and talk about goals, team goals and also individual goals, I’m going to push him and I want to get him back to double-digit assists.”
It's a good (albeit simple) benchmark and a lofty goal, even for a point guard as talented as Williams. It reminds me of when former coach Avery Johnson wanted the Nets to allow under 44% from the field. Williams averaged just 7.7 assists per game last season, his lowest ever as a full-time starter, and averaged 8.7 assists per game the season before, his second-lowest ever as a full-time starter.
Boston's Rajon Rondo was the only point guard in the NBA that averaged more than 10 assists per game last season, but he did it in just 38 games. Williams will also be held back in raw per-game numbers because of the team's pace: the Nets finished 28th in the NBA in possessions per game last season, and through most of the season were dead last. Even though Kidd wants to run more this season, think about Williams's most common running mates: Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Brook Lopez. Not exactly a run-and-gun superathlete Fantastic Four.
That said, the most common beneficiaries of Rondo's assists were none other than Williams's new teammates Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Jason Terry (according to HotShot Charts), and Williams without question has the keys to this offense and a lesser scoring load with his new teammates. So: hope!
10 assists a game is a benchmark. It's a sexier benchmark than "finish the season higher than eighth in assist percentage" (which Williams was last year), but the point remains: Kidd wants Williams to distribute the ball like Kidd did. Indeed, Jason Kidd averaged more than ten assists per game three times in his career, once with the Nets (in 2007-08, for 51 games before the Nets traded him to the Dallas Mavericks).
The Nets have also talked up Williams as a potential MVP candidate this season. Whether or not Williams actually hits those numbers or shades below, he's now got another expectation to fill.
New York Daily News -- Jason Kidd has a statistical goal for Deron Williams