Years Pro: 8
Hometown: The Colony, TX
Prior to NBA: University of Illinois
If Kevin Garnett is the heart of the Brooklyn Nets, Deron Williams is the face. He’s been the team’s most familiar figure since the franchise acquired him two years ago, and after bending over backwards to appease him in every way possible, they won him over. Now, after a building-block season and wild offseason that saw the Nets vault into the championship contention conversation, they have to figure out the best way to utilize him.
There’s no denying Williams’s elite, multifaceted skillset. At 6’3″ and over 200 pounds, Williams possesses a combination of size, speed, court vision, and ballhandling skill that’s nearly unmatched in the NBA. He can weave passes into tight spaces. Nets coach Jason Kidd often talks about good offense causing problems for the defense, and Williams is his problem child. No Nets player can force a defense to adjust quite like Williams can. Defenders are helpless when Williams is on; play the passing lane, he’ll bury a three, play too tight and he’ll whirl right around you and get into the paint.
He’s not the league’s best point guard — that distinction belongs to the Los Angeles Clippers’ Chris Paul — but when he’s healthy, he’s a major part of that conversation.
The entire Nets season may rest on Williams’s balky ankle, one that he injured working out at his Utah home and kept him out for nearly two months of action. An injury that should have healed before the start of training camp October 1st kept him out of practice until three weeks after, and all but one preseason game.
Ankle issues are not uncommon for Williams: he dealt with synovitis in both ankles last year, leading to multiple cortisone shots and platelet-rich plasma therapy treatment heading into the All-Star break. That, along with a detoxifying juice cleanse, gets credit for Williams’s resurgence, both immensely watchable and bolstered by statistics:
As you can see from the chart above, Williams dramatically improved his shooting percentages after the All-Star break, even though he took on a higher percentage of the offense. He got to the rim at a significantly higher rate post-break. He also recorded more assists and saw his net rating electro-shocked; with Williams on the floor prior to the All-Star Break, the Nets were outscored by 1.4 points per 100 possessions, after the All-Star break, the Nets outscored opponents with him by a full 7.3 points per 100 possessions.
I also said “watchable”, so this is necessary:
The only question about Deron Williams: which one are you getting? Are you getting the frustrated first-half Deron Williams, pained and inconsistent, or the scorching second-half Deron Williams?
It’s not clear (is it ever, before it happens?), but I’m optimistic. Williams shined in his only preseason game, hitting three three-pointers in about ten minutes of action and looking every bit the part of a superstar. He sure didn’t look like someone hobbled by an ankle injury.
This is a sink-or-swim year for Williams, and his biggest test yet. Nets head coach Jason Kidd set a statistical benchmark for Williams, imploring him to record ten assists per game with his star-studded offensive cast. Teammate Paul Pierce earnestly thinks he should be a part of the league’s MVP conversation. Garnett calls him the team’s general.
But while his teammates talk him up, they’re also the major reason he’s a resurgence candidate. Surrounding Williams is the most talented roster he’s ever been a part of. The Nets will go as he goes. The rest is his to write.
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| Shaun Livingston | Deron Williams | Tyshawn Taylor | Alan Anderson | Joe Johnson | Jason Terry | Andrei Kirilenko | Paul Pierce | Tornike Shengelia | Reggie Evans | Kevin Garnett | Mirza Teletovic | Andray Blatche | Brook Lopez | Mason Plumlee |