Deron Williams has endured an injury-plagued but fairly successful tenure as a Brooklyn Net. Over his past two-plus seasons with the Nets, he has enjoyed numerous spectacular performances.
Although, Williams’ production has slipped over the past few seasons some of the criticism is unfair. Until last season, Williams has averaged no less than 16 points per game, when installed as his teams’ starter.
He was never a high-volume scorer, even posting a career-best 21 points per game during the lockout shortened season of 2011-12 in New Jersey. He never was an exemplary 3-point shooter either.
What has dipped is his playmaking ability. Williams’ assist totals have dipped each season he has been with the Nets.
Bum ankles may have something to blame, which has been a recurring problem for the former third overall pick of the 2005 draft. And as Williams embarks on his 10th season at the age of 30, he certainly has the deck stacked against him.
The Illinois product is coming off of surgeries on both ankles.
Williams wasn’t himself the entirety of last season due to his ankle injuries, which became apparent to his teammates.
“Something was bothering him for the whole season. I bet his feet, his ankles were bothering him,” Andrei Kirilenko told Newsday back in early August. “Being fresh, having that surgery and being healthy for this season will definitely help him.”
The three-time All-Star had surgery at the end of May and his head coach believes he is ready to go this season.
Williams will have plenty of depth behind him in the backcourt this season as he continues to recover from the surgery. Brooklyn drafted guards Markel Brown and Xavier Thames; the latter at the moment doesn’t appear likely to play in the NBA this season.
The team also acquired Jarrett Jack as part of a three-team trade with the Cavaliers and Celtics.
Brown and Jack are capable of playing both guard positions, which should take the pressure off of having Williams chase the opponents point guard the entire game. It also may take some of the pressure off of D-Will when it comes to playing back-to-back games.
Brown and Jack are also more capable defenders than Williams. Williams gives up more than one point per possession.
But there is evidence that Brooklyn doesn’t play well when its starter is out. The Nets were 7-11 when Williams was hurt or inactive last season.
When both he and Brook Lopez are healthy, games are inherently closer but the pair shared the top two win share totals of the 2012-13 season, the last respectably healthy season for both parties.
If Williams struggles to begin the season, Jack is no stranger to leading teams to the playoffs. Two seasons ago, Jack finished third in the Sixth Man of the Year voting.
Williams has missed a total of 33 games since his first full season with Brooklyn. Health will always be a concern and he’s likely not going anywhere, which means Brooklyn is going to have to ride out the rest of his three-year, $63 million contract.
Title expectations come with lucrative contracts but was it realistic to actually think Brooklyn was going to win a title last year? Possibly, but very unlikely. It’s hard to justify giving that type of money to any player, especially one that’s supposed to lead a revamped roster in a new city.
The team has gotten to the playoffs two of the three seasons he has been with the Nets, winning one playoff series in the process. That’s worth something.
Williams has averaged 18 points per game the last two seasons in the playoffs. He took a tough Chicago Bulls team to the brink of a seven-game series before winning a dramatic first round series the following season versus Toronto.
Then, there was the complete meltdown against Miami, a team they swept during the regular season.
Some fans have a habit of being ignorant. If anybody expects Williams to come close to averaging 20 points and 10 assists again, they’re probably kidding themselves.
A successful comeback season for him would entail 70-plus games played and averages of 16 points and 7-8 assists per game.
Beyond that, like competing for, or even claiming, the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference would be icing on the cake. For that to happen, both Williams and Lopez need to get back to their old selves in a hurry.