ESPN expects Deron Williams to be a top 5 point guard


Deron Williams is primed for a big year in 2013-14. AP Photo.

Deron Williams is primed for a big year in 2013-14. AP Photo.

Jason Kidd said that he’s not doing his job right if Deron Williams is not a MVP candidate this season. ESPN hasn’t gone so far as to agree with him, but the Worldwide Leader in Sports said that it expects D-Will to be the fifth best point guard in the association. In a point guard league, I’ll take it.

Here’s what they said:

5. Deron Williams, Brooklyn Nets

Projected 2013-14 WARP: 9.9

With the change in talent around him, Williams will be one of the most intriguing players to watch in the coming season. In his best years in Utah, Williams was an assist machine, but, as a Net, he initially took on a heavy scoring load and his efficiency dropped off the map. Last season, with Brooklyn’s roster improved, Williams’ usage rate returned to previous levels, and his shooting percentages recovered accordingly. However, his assist rate was his lowest since his rookie season. Williams’ turnovers also were down, so he simply had the ball less.

With so much talent and so many alpha personalities on the new Nets, Williams can either be more of a cog in the machine or he can become its operator. Given the on-court proclivities of his new coach, Jason Kidd, I’m going to guess it’s going to be the latter. If Williams can return to his days of double-digit assists, it will be a sign the new mix in Brooklyn is working.

Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Kyrie Irving, and Stephen Curry were the only one’s to finish ahead of D-Will. Rajon Rondo and Derrick Rose finished behind him mostly because the poll was based on WARP, wins above replacement level, too make the poll which ranks a player’s efficiency and is a volume stat. Considering Rondo and Rose are coming off major injuries, they just don’t project to play enough to outrank D-Will.

Still, there is reason to think that D-Will could be primed for a big year. His Player Efficiency Rating, or PER, was 20.3 last season which is only the fifth best (third worst) of his career, but he played all year on bad ankles. Toward the end of the season, after he had platelet rich therapy and cortisone shots in his ankles, he played stellar basketball until he wore down again by the playoffs. Being that this is his first real offseason for two years because he played for Team USA last offseason while also promoting the Nets move to Brooklyn, it’s realistic to expect him to be healthier next season.

Of course, the Nets also made big improvements with the additions of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry, Andrei Kirilenko, Shaun Livingston, and Alan Anderson while only losing one playoff starter in the washed up Gerald Williams. So D-Will will have plenty of options to pass to which he’ll better be able to focus on as he won’t be forced to be a primary offensive weapon himself.

Throw in a coach who is presumably going to draw up more plays for his style and improvement seems not only possible, but likely as well. Considering that his 20.3 PER, while not great for him, was seventh in the NBA last year among point guards. With a little improvement a top five finish isn’t hard to imagine.

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