Terrence Williams is a Work in Progress

When discussing Terrence Williams, one idea that many analysts keep coming back to is that he may not be elite in any one particular area, but he does do lots of little things well. While this may ultimately be in true, TWill has not reflected this versatile, “jack of all trades” player in the Nets’ first four preseason games.

Williams is averaging 7 points on 34 percent shooting in four preseason games, including two starts. What’s even more alarming is TWill has not been able to help the team with the two most highly praised components of his overall game – his passing and his defense. He has amassed 6 assists to go along with 8 turnovers and his +/- is -24.

Cue the part where you tell me that this is only the preseason, that Williams is a rookie, and that it’s very unfair for me to be passing judgement so early in his professional career. Overall, I agree with these sentiments, but I feel like the slow start could be a sign that it may take TWill some time before he can start making some positive contributions to the Nets, much to the chagrin of his fans who want to see Williams get every chance available to him to prove he can be a contributor in an NBA rotation.

There were a few specific plays from Tuesday’s loss to the Celtics that I believe showcase some of Williams’ passing and defensive issues:

1st Quarter, 3:32 left: Brook Lopez rebounds the missed Rajon Rondo shot and outlets the pass to Devin Harris, who brings the ball up to the top of the key before passing it to Terrence Williams, already in motion, streaking towards the rim along the right blocks. Williams has Rasheed Wallace beat to the rim but instead head fakes before flinging the ball with one hand across the court to Courtney Lee in the left corner. Lee’s sightlines towards the rim are being screened by Eddie House, who anticipates the Williams pass and runs over to get a hand in Lee’s face. Lee however, doesn’t make the catch and the ball goes out of bounds.

4th Quarter, 10:30 left: Williams has the ball near the top of the left wing when he makes a move to his left freeing himself up for an open jumper. Meanwhile, Eduard Najera is rolling towards the rim, Chris Douglas-Roberts and Tony Battie are standing in the paint, and Jarvis Hayes is crossing from the right corner to the top of the key. In mid-air, Williams opts to skip on the jumper and pass to Hayes, who’s not quite at his spot yet. The pass is intercepted by Rajon Rondo.

In both cases, Williams was guilty of being too cute with his passes and skipping on his own scoring chances. While this kind of unselfish play should generally be praised, Williams also underestimated the speed and reaction time of the defense. Even if his first pass to Lee reached its mark, Eddie House was already there with a hand in Lee’s face. Williams in essence gave up the easy score, or a chance to get to the free throw line, to set Lee up with a lower percentage shot that was going to be defended. On the second play, Williams was too quick to try and make a play and he didn’t let the offense get set up. By waiting an extra second, both Hayes and Najera would have been in better position to receive a pass, but instead Williams was already attempting a jump shot, putting himself in no-man’s land for a pass. Of course, if he had just shot the jumper, that probably would have been the smartest play.

As for TWill’s defense, the game appeared to turn in the third quarter when Williams was brought in with about 2 minutes left to run the point. In addition to the aforementioned bad pass, Williams also had a hard time containing Rajon Rondo, one of the quicker point guards in the NBA. Throughout the third and fourth quarters, Williams was the victim of the Celtics’ pick and roll game with Rondo and Glen Davis. There was also one specific play in the third quarter, where TWill was caught completely off-guard by Rondo’s quickness and saavy.

3rd Quarter, 30 Seconds left: On the Celtics inbounds pass, Rondo lets the ball roll all the way over to the halfcourt line. Williams keeps backing off, giving Rondo space to create. There is one instant where it looks like Williams is debating whether or not he should start pressuring Rondo, when Rashon makes his move, picking up the ball and in one motion streaking past TWill’s left side, getting to the rim and getting fouled by Tony Battie for free throws.

It was as if Williams was surprised by the speed of the NBA game. While TWill may prove in time that he will be effective in the point forward position, Lawrence Frank may want to hold off having him guard some of the leagues speedier point guards until he has more time to adjust to the NBA.

Overall, I still believe that Williams is going to be one of the positives to come out of the Nets this season. But by picking apart his flaws so early on, I think it gives Nets fans an opportunity to temper their expectations and to look for areas where Williams can grow into an NBA regular.