FanPost

Brooklyn at the Half: Deron Williams

After signing for max money (bonus points for signing the contract on an iPad) to make the move to Brooklyn from New Jersey, it seemed like all was right in Deron Williams' world. Williams resigned with the team he wanted, got the wing player he wanted, and earned his second gold medal. Former Nets coach Avery Johnson best sums up the expectations of Williams heading into this season:

When we first made this trade for Deron and got him from Utah when nobody knew what was going on, I was just so excited when Billy brought this to my attention and told me this was really, really possible. He's been with us for a year and a half. We know it's been two years of playing not so great basketball, mixed with injuries and transitioning over to Brooklyn, but we feel like now is our time."

Of course, one of the big selling points of Deron Williams was his perceived status as "The Best Point Guard in the NBA." In a comparison piece with Carmelo Anthony, SB Nation New York's Ryan Jones wrapped his article up with this:

Williams might have long stretches where he never has to carry the offensive load and that will be just fine in his book. But there will never be any question who the king of Brooklyn's court is, and soon enough there won't be any doubt who's the King of New York.

Williams' rep, along with the return of Brook Lopez & the acquisition of Joe Johnson led to the expectations rising for this team. How high are they?

Well, in most situations, a team coming off three awful seasons of 12-70, 24-58, and 22-44 would just like to make the playoffs. In my opinion, that's not the case here. The Nets made big moves this summer, regarding both their location and roster. They spent over $330 million on player contracts over the summer. With big spending, comes big expectations.

The goal for this team has to be to get to the Eastern Conference finals. I'd like to see a top-4 record, and at the very least, losing to the Miami Heat after they get past the first (or second) round. With the other teams in the Eastern Conference, nothing else seems acceptable.

This Year

How's Deron's season been going? Let's check the numbers:

Metric

Deron Williams

Other Point Guards

Minutes per Game

36.2 31

True Shooting percentage

54.1 52.4

Rebound rate

5.4 5.5

Turnover rate

15.5 13.12

Assist rate

29.8 26.01

Usage rate

23.5 20.16

PER

17.9 15

Win Shares per 48

.138 .099

Wins Produced per 48

.111 .099

On court/ off court differential

-6

0

I feel like a broken record when I say this, but context matters. Williams has dealt with a wrist injury this season and will probably need o have ankle surgery in the offseason. I say I'm a broken record with relation to context because it feels like we always have to qualify Williams' tenure as a Net. Yeah his shooting been great, but he's taking on a role he's never experienced before. Yeah the team hasn't been any good, but have you seen this roster?

That being said, it's been another disappointing campaign for Williams. One big difference from last year to this year is the amount of shots he has taken. Due to Brook Lopez being out for 61 of the 66 games last year, Williams was forced into taking on the bulk of the scoring responsibilities for the first time in his career. He wasn't successful, as he amassed the second lowest True Shooting percentage of his career. He's shooting a little better this season, as his TS% of 54.1 is slightly above the league average mark of 52.4% for point guards.

One of the big things to consider with Deron is the type of shots he's taking. For reasons I've still yet to understand, the Nets love taking a ton of three pointers, even though they're not very good at them. They're top ten in total attempts despite playing at the league's slowest pace and being 21st in percentage. As for Williams, he's back to his career norm from deep. It feels like he's shooting much worse from downtown when you're watching the game, but Williams is shooting a very respectable 34.7 percent from three point range this year, including 42 percent on his attempts from the corners. One of the traps we need to avoid when discussing shot selecion is assuming that players can get high percentage shots at any time while ignoring the roles of the opposing defense and the style of your offense. The style of offense is key in this context, and as a result, you get comments like these:

"Is [the Nets offense] as good as there? No," he said. "There’s just more one-on-one and isos" in Johnson’s offense.

In keeping with the theme of shot locations, Williams hasn't gotten many shot opportunities near the basket. He's shooting a very respectable 65 percent in the restricted area, but he only takes about two shots a game from that area of the court. Where the injuries have taken its toll on Williams is in the midrange. In Utah, Williams consistently shot in the mid to upper 40 percent from 16-23 feet, but since he's been a Net, he hasn't broken the 40 percent barrier. He's currently at 37 percent from deep two on three attempts a night, which is a shade below the league average of 38.1 percent

By and large, the Nets defense has been around the league average for much of this season. On its own, that's not much to write home about, but considering how wretched their defense was the past four seasons, that's pretty impressive. When Williams is on the court, it gets ugly. When Deron is in the game, Brooklyn is allowing 106 points per 100 possessions, which would make them one of the worst defenses in the league. When he's not in the game, Brooklyn looks like one of the best defenses in the league, allowing only 97.7 points per 100 possessions. Without access to Synergy, trying to ascertain the cause of BK's poor performance with Williams on the court is tricky, but let's try anyway. The lineup he's been on the court with the most this year has been with Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace, and Brook Lopez. A quick glance at the team's on/off defensive ratings with those players on the court doesn't show a massive difference (if a difference at all) in the team's points allowed per 100 possessions, so that's probably not it. When we dig a little deeper in the lineup combinations, we see something interesting. The Deron Williams - C.J. Watson combination is really porous on defense. They've played 297 minutes (with Williams at the shooting guard) on the court together, and they are 14 points worse per 100 possessions than their opponents. Taking a peek at Williams' individual defense, going by the numbers, he's struggled defending the league's 2 guards. Those guards have a PER of 19.9 and an effective field goal percentage of 55.8 percent against him. Ouch.

Best game of the half: January 2 at Oklahoma City

After embarrassing themselves in San Antonio to end 2012, the Nets faced a very difficult challenge. On the road in the one of the most raucous arenas in the league and against the defending Western Conference Champions who were riding a 12 game home winning streak, it would be easy to write this game off as a sure loss. But thanks to great games from Williams, Johnson, and Lopez, the Nets pulled out their best victory of the year.

Worst game of the half: February 10 vs. San Antonio

He's had worse performances, but in this game, it felt as if he wasn't even there for large portions of the contest. He actually shot well in the game, but with Tony Parker going around and through any defender who got in his way and with the game being on national, Williams not having much of an impact is bothersome. Even though I happen to agree with his sentiment vis-a-vis point guard "battles," the lack of an impact, coupled with a beatdown being delivered by the Spurs (again) and the overall meh season by a max contract player, and it's very easy to see why the "Fake Star" dis is thrown at Williams in these parts.

What's the second half looking like?

When the second half begins, Williams will be back (hopefully recharged) after missing the end of the first half with an ankle injury. When he does get back, he'll be facing off against playoff contenders Milwaukee, Houston, and Memphis.

If the Nets plan on doing anything major in the postseason, they're going to need a healthy and productive Williams. With Brook Lopez as the focal point of the offense and Joe Johnson as the second option, I don't think there'll be any pressure on Williams to score. I'd like for him (more specifically, the coaching staff) to get more shot attempts on the inside. He's a solid finisher at the basket, he's a very good free throw shooter, and his attacking will free up better scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates (side note: it would make the Nets offense interesting to watch. Watching isolations all game sucks.) He's still one of the better passers in the league, and should look to set up his teammates. And it'd be nice if he and Watson don't share the court together.

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