Brian ErniWe’ve all seen the splits regarding Deron Williams. When he’s good, the Nets are hard to beat. When he’s bad, not so much. So now that D-Will’s ankles have been cleared out and he’s on the road to recovery, what can Brooklyn realistically expect from their point guard upon his return?
Before delving into that question, it has to be noted that Williams is just not the same player he was in Utah. The per game break downs are pretty eye opening. In Utah, he averaged 17.3 points and 9.1 assists and shot 46.6% from the field. During his time with the Nets? Roughly the same amount of points (17.8, on an attempt more per game), but only 7.8 assists on 42.7% shooting. So what gives? What has made Williams a worse shooter (all accounted for on a slide in his two-point shooting) and less frequent distributor during his time in New Jersey and Brooklyn?
Williams is surrounded by the most talent he’s ever been. The emergence of Shaun Livingston and acquisition of Marcus Thornton allowed Williams to play in the least amount of minutes per game (32.2) since his rookie season, so it’s hard to blame on wear and tear. In the playoffs, it was noticeable how infrequently Williams played aggressively, and he admitted that he lost confidence at times. So is this dip in production solely based on health? Or is something else at play?
It’s impossible to go into a guy’s head. No one can do that. But I wonder if being anointed the man for a team with his expectations just isn’t a situation D-Will thrives in. It’s possible. This isn’t a prototypical clutch shooter like Joe Johnson or Paul Pierce, who seem to thrive when the lights are the brightest. Maybe the whole ordeal — steering a franchise suddenly thrust into a top media market — just isn’t for him. Or maybe that’s too much psycho babble. It might just be that Williams can’t cut and drive to the basket the same way he did on ankles that are three years older and countless sprains later.
But that’s the question Billy King has to anticipate the answer to. Because, even though it seems like Williams has one foot out the door, I think fences could still be mended here. So does the Nets general manager bank on the fact that these procedures that Williams underwent on Tuesday will solve the dilemma? Or does he sell low knowing that he’s risking Deron bouncing back and being a full fledged star again, just in a different uniform? It’s a gamble either way, but King will have to bet wisely. The Nets need to know if Williams can lead them into the future, or just be another chapter in their checkered past. With this surgery completed, they’re officially on the clock.