The Zombie Nets’ fearless leader. Right when we’re all convinced Deron Williams has exhaled his last gasp of greatness, he strings together his best performances of the season: a 26-7-7 performance against the New York Knicks and a 31-11 night against the Toronto Raptors two days later. The Nets only won those games by a combined seven points, but Williams was a +42 over the two games. They built leads with Williams in, and lost them with him out.
The caveat: The Knicks are a basketball team largely for show at this point, and the Raptors were without point guard Kyle Lowry, so the circumstances were certainly in his favor. There’s still an impressive bounce to Williams’s game lately: he’s hitting open threes, barreling into the lane in one-on-one looks and in pick-and-rolls, and finding open teammates when he makes defenses adjust.
This kind of play hasn’t been a consistent part of Williams’s repertoire: he matches up with Avery Bradley, not a poor defender by any measure, and blows past him, drawing the help from Tyler Zeller and whipping a pass for Lopez for an easy and-one layup.
Williams has also mastered the “pocket pass” with Lopez, a quick bounce pass off the pick-and-roll into the lane in between their defenders. It often comes off a screen-and-roll from the wing, with Williams receiving a handoff or a quick pass from a teammate mid-stride:
It’s as beautiful as it is simple. Lopez rolls to the rim, the defense plays catch-up, and once they have, Lopez has scored. It relies both on Williams’s passing precision and Lopez’s scoring. The two at their best make each other better.
With these two clicking, Hollins needs to play Deron Williams right up until the point when the wheels fall off. That was on full display during this past Friday night’s win over the Raptors; Hollins kept Williams in the game for the final 24 minutes, electing to keep struggling backup point guard Jarrett Jack on the bench.[note]More on this dynamic later.[/note]
With Williams, the risk is that his body or mind will repel him from the basket, and he’ll struggle to make a big impact again. But this is the Williams the Nets have at this point, and if he keeps this level of production up, they’ll make do.