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Deron Williams Went Scoreless, and That’s O.K.

USA Today Sports

USA Today Sports


Since Deron Williams‘ 0 point, 0-9 from the field performance in Game 2 against Miami, he’s spent a lot of time being called “overpaid”, “overrated”, and a just plain “bad”.  This isn’t exactly a fair assessment. When we focus on the scoring or the statline alone and come to any of the above conclusions, not only are we dealing with a minute sample size, we’re ignoring very important in-game context.

While he’s certainly capable of better, Williams wasn’t that bad (for what it’s worth, he’s still a good player, too). Juxtaposed with some of Roy Hibbert‘s recent bombed performances, the difference between the two players’ games is night and day. Deron Williams’ Game 2 didn’t involve him being virtually useless on both ends, or involve the committing of mindless fouls. Deron didn’t tumble to the ground each time he tried to gain position, forget how to do basic things like rebound or pass, or have no all-around impact. His prints were on the game, and some of his struggles were very arguably out of his control.

The Miami Heat themselves played a large role, which is nothing new: the Lebron James- era Heat have quietly given opposing point guards massive trouble on a league-wide level. Back in November, I took a look at how much they hindered point guard production: from Stephen Curry to Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook, we can see a dip in FG%, assist totals, and points scored when they are pitted against Miami. Once the Playoffs come around, this is likely to amplify, given Miami’s unique level of heightened aggression.

The reason behind the point guard troubles is largely because Miami loves to trap the ball-handler in the pick-and-roll, and given the Heat’s mobility, size, and aggressiveness, the point guard is often left with no choice but to defer to his teammates:

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Take note of Chris Bosh‘s extraordinary commitment to scouting the pick-and-roll early and dashing out to impede Williams’ movement:

Deron spent a lot of his game passing as a result, and did a very solid job at it. Though the box score may not show it, Deron did a fine job of penetrating and locating teammates — during which he passed up good shots for teammates’ better ones — and posted up to attract the defense:

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Deron kept busy in other ways, too. Brooklyn loves setting downscreens and backscreens to free up their wing players, who act as the focal point of Brooklyn’s offense. Here, Williams knocked the wind out of Allen with a well-placed screen, giving his teammate an uncontested look at the hoop:

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All in all, Deron Williams was the game’s best passer by a wide margin. He rebounded the ball seven times. He played inspired defense for the most part, pressing up on his player and winding through screens.  He pushed the ball on the break, set screens for his teammates, and looked for shooters who had a hot hand (Teletovic had five three-pointers in the first half). He turned the ball over just twice against a swarming defense. Most importantly, he made good decisions throughout the night. The Nets’ offense stayed on par with Miami’s for the majority of the game despite Deron’s failure to score, which isn’t a coincidence.

Deron Williams’ diminished role on a stacked team means he won’t score as much as he used to. When you add in a defense who is intent on slowing his production, things are only going to look worse from a statistical standpoint. You’d wish Williams would have finished on some of those drives to the rim, or connected on a few of the jumpers that were a tad long or short; you’d hope he would have found a little more room to produce in transition or isolation situations. But Deron Williams played a perfectly acceptable poor game. We’re fickle beings as basketball fans — it’s human nature — but if we also forget to recognize the opposition and consider the minor details, we’re only doing ourselves a disservice.

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