Healthy Deron Williams Has His Confidence Back: “People Can’t Guard Me”

For ardent NBA followers like us, there’s little more satisfying than when a player overcomes a spate of injuries to regain the level of play that most assumed was unattainable. Just imagine how Deron Williams must feel, then. After claiming all offseason that chronic ankle issues were finally behind him, the Brooklyn Nets’ point guard is backing up that optimism on the court in the season’s early going.

The 30 year-old is averaging 19.5 points and 7.0 assists per game on 48.8 percent from the field for the 4-2 Nets, numbers comparable to those compiled in his heyday with the Utah Jazz. It’s no wonder that Williams finally has his confidence again.

Via Tim Bontemps of the New York Post:

“Before my injuries, I didn’t feel like anybody could stop me 1-on-1,” Williams said. “I just feel like if you put one person on me, it’s going to be hard to stop me, so I’m getting back to that.

“It’s just getting that confidence back where when I step on the court, people can’t guard me. I had some moves yesterday, I had some explosive moves that I haven’t been able to do that in a long time. I could tell, even watching film, I could tell that I’m a lot quicker out there.”

We can tell, too.

The plays below from his 29-point, 15-shot performance against Iman Shumpert and New York Knicks over the weekend are ones that Williams simply wasn’t willing or able to complete last season:

What made Williams such a difficult cover in his prime was a rare combination of power, quickness, and shot-making ability. Sapped of agility and belief the past two seasons due to those balky ankles, Deron was mostly stand-still jump-shooter for the Nets as opposed to attacking playmaker. And while his shooting prowess ensures that he’s still valuable in the former role, it’s the latter one that made him – and perhaps can make him again – a superstar.

Williams has traded a sizable portion of long jumpers for forays to the paint so far this season. 38.4 percent of his shots are coming from inside the free throw line in 2014-2015 compared to 34.6 percent last year. While that seems like a relatively small uptick, the supreme value of attempts from that real estate can’t be discounted. Williams has a true shooting percentage of 59.0 despite starting cold from beyond the arc, a number that would rank as the second-best of his career if it holds.

It’s too early to say whether or not it or Williams’ all-encompassing improvement will, of course. But considering the three years and $63 million which remain on his contract, that the former All-NBA guard has shown any signs of reclaiming his spot among the elite is very encouraging for the Nets long-term.

And if a healthy, self-assured Williams can maintain this level of play throughout the season, perhaps he’ll lead Brooklyn to more short-term success than anyone is anticipating, too.

(H/T @FredKatz of B/R, CLipperBlog)

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