Deron Williams and the Brooklyn Nets lost to their borough rivals, the Knicks, last night in exciting fashion (Jason Kidd‘s play has been particularly timeless in New York), and they’ve fallen off after their hot start to the season, losing their last five, after winning five straight before that. The Nets fortunes can be partially tied to their superstar point guard, Williams. Last night he had 18 points and 10 assists, but he shot just 6-for-16 from the field and an abysmal 1-for-6 from three-point territory. He’s – again – shooting at a career-low this season, but it’s not really the anomaly some Williams defenders are claiming. He’s struggled mightily since coming to the East, and it’s worth wondering whether he’s still the All-Star point guard the Nets thought they were getting when they signed him to a max deal this summer.
When the then New Jersey Nets traded for Deron Williams in February of 2011, it was meant as a consolation prize for missing out on Carmelo Anthony, who had told Denver brass he would only agree to be traded to the two New York-based teams (and he probably would have only said the Knicks if the Nets weren’t headed to Brooklyn). This past offseason, the Nets’ acquisition of Joe Johnson convinced Williams to stay with them as they moved to Brooklyn; except, since he’s come east, his play has dropped off faster than Deron can say, “Man, I sorta miss Carlos Boozer.”
After being traded away from Utah past the midway point of the 2010-11 season, Williams shot under 35 percent in the 12 games he appeared in for the Nets before being deactivated to rest his janky right wrist. Earlier in the year, when he was still with Utah, he had shot over 45 percent, but that dropped almost the moment he came to Jersey. Williams kept playing with the banged-up wrist because the Nets were – speciously, at least – in playoff contention. You could make the claim it was the wrist that was affecting his shooting, since it was on his shooting hand, but after a full summer to recuperate, Williams again struggled last year in a strike and injury-shortened 55 games for New Jersey. He shot under 41 percent from the field, the lowest of his career… until this year, at least.
After last night’s 6-for-16 stink-fest that saw Williams miss five three-pointers, a couple of which would have come in handy late in their loss to the Knicks, Williams is shooting 39.1 percent from the floor this season. That’s his new career-low if the season ended today. If you look at Williams’ shooting graphics above which show his last full season in Utah, his full season in New Jersey last year, and this season, you’ll see that he’s not really struggling to finish in the restricted area. It’s more his outside shot – including the midrange jumper that Jeremy Lin‘s been struggling to find again in Houston. Williams’ three-point shooting is also a problem. For his career, he’s around the league mean, with a 34.7 percent career mark. But after dipping slightly below that last year, at 33.6 percent, he’s now shooting the lowest of his career, averaging a paltry 27.8 percent through the season’s first quarter. But it’s not just Williams’ shooting that’s suffered since moving to the New York area. He’s not distributing the ball like he did earlier in his career in Utah, either.
Starting in Williams’ third year in Utah, he averaged double figure assists over four consecutive seasons, through the 2010-11 campaign when he was traded to New Jersey. In fact, he actually averaged 12.8 dimes a game in the 12 games he started for New Jersey in 2011. But last season, his assist average dipped to the lowest it’s been since his rookie campaign. He averaged only 8.7 assists per game. Now while that’s not bad for the vast majority of NBA point guards, it’s not quite up to Williams’ numbers in Utah. This season, he’s again under nine assists a game through last night’s loss at home, averaging about what he did last year.
It’s important to note that Williams has never played with an off-guard the caliber of Joe Johnson. Not that Johnson is exactly wowing us this year with 16 points a game, 41 percent shooting, and 35 percent from three, but sharing the ball with another ballhandler should alleviate some of Williams’ offensive workload and help him be more efficient. Instead it’s gone the other way. Yes, Brook Lopez has been out for a few games, and he’s been dominant on the offensive side of the ball this season, but Williams’ struggles have come even with Lopez in the lineup.
Deron Williams is only 28 years old, the prime for most NBA basketball players. So why do all signs point to a dip in his play that is increasingly looking permanent?
What’s wrong with Deron Williams?
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