Raymond Felton: 38.7 FG%, 25.0 3P%, 11.0 PPG, 5.8 APG, 2.7 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 0.8 BPG, 2.3 TPG, 35.4 MPG
Deron Williams: 40.5 FG%, 37.5 3P%, 9.3 PPG, 6.0 APG, 1.8 RPG, 0.6 SPG, 0.2 BPG, 2.7 TPG, 24.1 MPG
Tyshawn Taylor: 36.6 FG%, 27.3 3P%, 6.4 PPG, 2.6 APG, 1.0 RPG, 0.8 SPG, 0.0 BPG, 1.8 TPG, 16.7 MPG
The first matchup is a doozy, if only because it’s as fluid a position as the Brooklyn Nets have. Deron Williams, the team’s regular starter, hasn’t played a full game since November 13th, and the team lists him as doubtful to play against the New York Knicks. Shaun Livingston originally earned the start, but the torch has since been passed to electric second-year guard Tyshawn Taylor, who’s known as much for his athleticism as his erraticism.
It’s not just Williams; both starters have dealt with injuries throughout the season. Raymond Felton played with a pinched nerve in his hip in November, missing four games. Williams has dealt with numerous ankle sprains before and during the season.
Felton is one of the league’s unspectacular point guards: he’s a solid pick-and-roll guard, a decent passer and bullish driver. He’s a passable shooter from three-point range but doesn’t rely on it, as over 40 percent of his shots come from within 5 feet of the basket. He’s struggled to start the season, with a career-worst assist rate and effective field goal percentage (which accounts for the added value of three-pointers).
Even if he’s at full strength, Williams has yet to play significant minutes with this roster, and likened his early-season playing time to his own personal training camp. Williams’s brilliance as a playmaker will help him adjust quickly to his surroundings, but players rarely adjust immediately to NBA speed right away, especially when they haven’t gone through practices. “I would definitely think you need to scrimmage before you go out and play an NBA game,” Williams said on October 20th, ten days before the season began.
Williams didn’t practice with the team heading into their matchup against the Denver Nuggets Tuesday, and the Nets only went through film Wednesday, which didn’t give Williams a chance to officially scrimmage with the team. That doesn’t bode well for his chances at playing Thursday night, but the team is monitoring his progress closely. If trainer Tim Walsh gives the green light, he’ll play, most likely with a minutes restriction.
If Williams can’t go, expect the starter’s role to end up in Tyshawn Taylor’s hands, who fell backwards into the role after Jason Kidd decided he’d pushed nominal backup Shaun Livingston too hard as a starter. Taylor’s edge over Felton comes in his breakneck athleticism and defensive aggressiveness, but as a floor leader, Felton gets the nod over him.
If Williams plays, and plays to his full capabilities (never a guarantee), the Nets have a real shot. But that’s one too many ifs for me.
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