Yesterday, after LeBron James announced he was sitting out the 2014 Worlds and 2016 Olympics, a number of articles came out postulating as to who will be chosen for those competitions. Very few of them had two-time gold medalist and three-time All-Star Deron Williams in the lineup.
That event is one of a number that have me shaking my head at Deron Williams' demise being greatly exaggerated. True, his 2012-13 season was hardly his best, and was particularly bad prior to the All-Star break, but I'm projecting him to bounce back for his best season ever in 2013-14.
In fact, I don't think it's completely out of the realm of possibility for him to lead the league in assists, start in the All-Star Game and finish in the top five in MVP voting.
Where am I getting that? Well, it's a compilation of statistical analysis, projection based on present trends and taking into account the three new guys with the Nets (forward-center Kevin Garnett, small forward Paul Pierce, and coach Jason Kidd)
Here are some key metrics for Deron Williams in his last two seasons with the Nets, as well as his last full season in Utah. A stat in bold indicates a career high, italics indicate a career low.
As you can see, while 2012-13 may not have been a banner year for D-Will in terms of absolutes, it was a good year in terms of efficiency. This is particularly the case in the 28 contests after the All-Star break, during which D-Will shot 42 percent from downtown and 48 percent overall.
One of the first things that jumps out at you is that a lot fewer plays were run to or by D-Will in the 2012-13 season than before, this in part to a full All-Star season of Brook Lopez. While he was over-utilized in the 2011-12 season, trying to do too much as the Nets went 22-44, I think he may have been under-utilized last season.
One could argue that Williams' usage percentage will decrease even further with a lineup crowded with Lopez, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. And that is true, at least in terms of field goal attempts.
I think we will again see D-Will shoot more in the 13-to-15 shots a game range, rather than the 17.5 he jacked up in the disappointing 2011-12 campaign. But if Williams has an effective field goal percentage of 50 percent or better, as he has in four of the last six seasons (including 53.5 percent in the second half of 2012-13), I'd gladly take that.
As for assists, Williams now has two additional targets in Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to pass to. Combined with Johnson and Lopez, and the Nets have guys who can convert from almost anywhere on the floor. Williams will also be helped in the assists department by being coached by the man who has the second-highest number of assists all-time, and who will likely run an offense more favorable to Williams than previous coach P.J. Carlesimo did.
Generally, people with more assists also have more turnovers. But D-Will improved his assist-to-turnover ratio by 0.5 from 2012-13, and is still well below his career high in that department. I project him at an A-to-T ratio of 3.0 this season, so we'd be looking at something in the neighborhood of 9 assists against three turnovers per game.
In short, I think this is the year D-Will combines the efficiency of last season with the absolute numbers of earlier in his career. Or, to put it another way, I think the Nets will be treated to a full season of what we saw after the recess last season. And, as the plus/minus numbers indicate, that will probably mean the Nets will do pretty well with lineups featuring him.
A combo efficient-and-high-dishing D-Will on a Nets team that will likely finish in the top three in the East pretty much has to be in contention for major awards, which is why I don't think All-Star starter or top five MVP is out of the question.
Don't stop believing: this'll be Deron Williams' year.
Advanced metrics courtesy of Basketball-reference.com, SportingCharts.com and http://espn.go.com/nba/player/stats/_/id/2798/deron-williams