The NBA’s 30 best go-to players (#10: Deron Williams)

10.15.09 9 years ago 20 Comments

Who do you want your offense to run through with everything on the line? Counting down 30th to 1st (one per team), I’ve ranked the League’s go-to guys…

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#10: DERON WILLIAMS, Utah Jazz

It takes a special point guard to hold down the dual responsibility of being his team’s on-court quarterback and its go-to scorer. And in this new golden era of PG’s, Deron is built to handle both jobs better than just about anyone.

Going into his fifth pro season, Deron has almost mastered the art of knowing when to switch his mindset from pass-first playmaker to cold blooded point-maker and back again. One of only two players in the League to average double-digit assists last season (10.7 apg), he doubles as Utah’s primary scorer in clutch situations — and when Carlos Boozer isn’t around, their top offensive option full-time (19.4 ppg). Consider how Deron played during Utah’s 12-game win streak last season: one night he dropped 30 points on the Lakers, another time he handed out 20 assists against the Warriors. Overall, D-Will averaged 20 points and 12.4 dimes over that stretch.

Since making the ’07 Western Conference Finals, Utah’s last two playoff runs were ended by the eventual conference champion Lakers. Deron was the team’s best player both times, pretty much the only reason they even stood a chance at upsetting Kobe‘s squad. In last year’s first-round loss, Williams handed out 17 dimes in Game 1, scored 35 in Game 2, put up 23 and 13 in Game 4, and hit the game-winner in Game 3.

While he’s taken on more of a scoring role in the postseason, Deron’s passing is the foundation of his crunch-time production. According to, he averaged 12.4 assists per 48 minutes of “clutch time,” just a hair behind LeBron‘s League-leading 12.6 dimes. In the fourth quarter, Deron led the NBA in assists with 2.3 per. Whether it’s a pick-and-roll with Boozer, driving and kicking to shooters like Mehmet Okur and Kyle Korver, or setting up leapers like Ronnie Brewer and C.J. Miles in transition, he runs Jerry Sloan‘s system almost flawlessly when pressure is at its highest.

As a scorer, Williams relies on his pull-up jumper — and like most go-to point guards, almost always gets it by creating his own shot. Only nine percent of Deron’s clutch-time buckets last season were assisted; that number was even with Chris Paul and Chauncey Billups, and only Devin Harris (3%) had a lower percentage among top-level point guards. Blessed with one of the tightest handles in the League and enough power to out-muscle most point guards, Deron sets himself up to score off the dribble better than anyone at the position.

Williams could stand to improve his three-point shooting (31%), cut down his turnovers in crunch time, and there have been reports surfacing lately that the ankle that bothered him last season could still be a problem this season. But with the Northwest Division expected to be tighter than Deron’s waves, he’ll have plenty of close games and crunch-time reps to make his move toward the top of the PG charts.

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11. Vince Carter
12. Joe Johnson
13. Danny Granger
14. Steve Nash
15. Kevin Durant
16. Gilbert Arenas
17. Derrick Rose
18. Chris Bosh
19. Andre Iguodala
20. Tracy McGrady
21. Baron Davis
22. Michael Redd
23. Devin Harris
24. Kevin Martin
25. Al Jefferson
26. O.J. Mayo
27. Stephen Jackson
28. Nate Robinson
29. Boris Diaw
30. Rip Hamilton

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