The Real Deron Williams Is Back

The term Point God has made its way through basketball’s subculture over recent years, reserved for the elite playmakers in the NBA. That term has led to the pseudo Mount Olympus list of players who orchestrate their team’s success from the lead guard position, guys like Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Rajon Rondo and Deron Williams.

For Williams, he has slowly slipped from the elite, at least in the court of public opinion, especially since coming to New Jersey/Brooklyn from the Utah Jazz via trade in 2011. He has struggled with his shot since becoming a Net while trying to get a handle on an offense that was unfamiliar and in some ways unimaginative. At just 41 percent from the floor in his first full season as a Net and the same percentage up until this year’s All-Star break, Williams was missing the mark as a max contract star.

Earlier in the year in The New York Times, Williams called out the Nets offense for being too isolation-driven, seemingly longing for the days in Utah.

“That system was a great system for my style of play,” Williams said of the “flex” offense run by Utah. “I’m a system player. I love Coach Sloan‘s system. I loved the offense there… I’m just used to movement. So I’m still trying to adjust. It’s been an adjustment for me. But it’s coming along.”

At his peak in Utah, he was attempting nearly 43 percent of his shots near the rim, a number that now stands at 32, which would seem to add credibility to his claim. Add in that the former Illinois guard has been playing basketball non-stop as a member of USA Basketball and it’s reasonable to think Williams may also be worn down. He entered the season with pain in both ankles while believing the left ankle may need to be cleaned out in the offseason.

Electing to play through the pain has opened him up to criticism, specifically that he’s not worthy of the max deal he signed in the summer. The lunacy of that is shrouded in irony, considering some thought he was better than Chris Paul for a time when Paul himself was struggling with injuries. How quickly people can forget.

For the most part, Williams owned up to his decline, saying he needed to be better and wasn’t deserving of All-Star consideration this season. As the season progressed, he received treatment on his ankles (cortisone shots, plasma rich injections), and took a week of rest just before the All-Star break. He has also reportedly lost 10-15 pounds since February and is now playing his best basketball of the season.

Since the midseason break, Williams has started a God of War, Kratos-like assault on the point guard rankings. With averages of 22.2 points and 7.9 assists on 47 percent shooting, Williams is again playing like he did in Utah. Further proof of his improvement lies in his plus/minus statistics. In the 50 games before the break, he was a woeful minus-0.3. Since the break, he is a very respectable plus-3.8. He is no longer deferring to guys like Joe Johnson and the offense has more movement with he and Brook Lopez heavily involved in screen-n-roll plays.

When the Nets struggled earlier in the year, some thought Lopez had developed into their most important player. But think about a Brooklyn team with Lopez and no Williams… that was basically the 2010 Nets who won a whopping 12 games. Think about that and decide which one truly makes Brooklyn more competitive.

With Williams leading the charge, the Nets have a chance to make noise in the playoffs for the first time since Jason Kidd was there. Maybe the term “Point God” is a bit blasphemous for some but there is no denying that a healthy Williams is still among the elite.

Where does Deron Williams ranked among the best point guards in the NBA?

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