Drafted: 1st round, 3rd overall by the Utah Jazz in 2005
College: The University of Illnois at Urbana-Champaign
2011-12 salary: $16,359,805
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Offense: Deron Williams is one of the most offensively dangerous players in the game, for a number of reasons. One reason is that he’s a natural scorer, something that he developed being an off-guard for most of his pre-NBA years. His career scoring average is 17.2, but it’s probably going to go up, as he now has more freedom to freelance and control sets, something that was not much of an option when he played for the grizzled Jerry Sloan in Utah. Having averaged a career-high 20.1 points per game in 2011, it’s likely that Williams will increase that in a “full” season with New Jersey.
It also helps New Jersey that Williams can play strong minutes and shoots a high percentage (.463) from the field and from the three-point line (.355) for his career; passing the ball is something that is still an underrated portion of his game, and Williams averaged 12.8 assists per game with the Nets in 2011 (before he suffered a season-ending wrist injury), the most he had ever had in a stint with a team in his career.
Williams has no true weaknesses as a player. His defense is solid, he’s an outstanding shooter off the dribble and spotting up, and the one Achilles’ heel of his game has long since been a non-factor (his weight). His bullish build actually makes him reminiscent of the old Charlotte Hornets backcourt of Baron Davis and David Wesley, big-bodied point guards who could devastate opponents with their brawn, brains, and overall shooting and playmaking abilities. And he’s better than both.
Defense: As a defender, Williams is able to do a lot of things because of his physical attributes and basketball instincts. Said size allows him the advantage of being able to impose his will on opponents, particularly point guards, but it’s not just his 6-3 height and 210-lb. body that keep him on the right side of defending. Williams’ length plays a part, but his quickness also gives an advantage. In passing lanes, he acquires some of his 1.1 steals a game from a misplaced pass, steals that usually allow for Williams to outrun the other team in transition for a dunk, layup, or pass to a teammate filling the lane.
2011-12 Outlook: Mikhail Prokhorov owns the Nets in name, but on the hardwood, D-Will has all the power. He’s singlehandedly the team’s best player and most valuable on-court asset. With Mehmet Okur, Shawne Williams, and Kris Humphries for the entire season, D-Will is bound to get at least 21 points and 11 assists per game. His roster is upgraded and he’ll be strong, and more importantly, healthy (we hope).
Facts of life: Sometimes, Williams grows his hair out just long enough to have mini-bangs — at least he did in Utah. I’m hoping that this doesn’t happen again.