Rohan Bhatt / Contributing Writer
After rejecting Dallas' advances and signing a five-year max deal with Brooklyn, Deron Williams dealt with injury and motivation issues. He played a step slow and steadily declined from his production as one of the top-two point guards in the league. Popular opinion shifted from the loss of Williams. Now, it was, "How lucky is Dallas to have avoided Deron Williams?" Three years later, after a Brooklyn buyout and a return home, Dallas hopes that Williams can thrive in their quick-tempo and high-IQ offense while bringing some stability to the backcourt on defense.
There's a silver lining to the acquisition, though. In Game 4 of last year's first round series against the Hawks, Williams had 35 points and seven dimes on 50 percent shooting. This showed us that a motivated D-Will can still play well and be a net positive. But can the Mavs build on that and avoid meeting the declining version of Williams this season?
Let's look at another Nets star point guard who arrived in Dallas in an unexpected deal -- Deron's eventual Nets coach Jason Kidd.
Carlisle worked magic with Jason Kidd. Two extremely high basketball IQs and they gelled together very well (unlike Carlisle and Rondo). The Rick-Deron combo has the potential to do very well -- you have a fallen star who is motivated by a potentially huge payday next free agency cycle and who has a coach-killer status to outrun, and here is his chance to prove it. As a playmaker and shooter with a decent IQ, Deron could flourish in Carlisle's intricate and retooled offense (which looks much more like that top of the line one last season than the abysmal effect that a grumpy backcourt after a certain trade). But how can he really help?
Lets use advanced metrics to paint the picture of how much more effective he is than Rajon Rondo and Monta Ellis (both primary ball handlers while in Dallas). Obviously, this is a small sample size, but you can still see Williams' effectiveness shine through.
First is assist-to-turnover ratio, a relatively common stat. The second is a bit more complicated -- Player Impact Estimate -- which is used by NBA.com's stats page to measure what portion of game events (or overall impact) a player had on the floor. A higher number is indicative of more results and more involvement in success on the floor.
Deron Williams (2015-16*): 6.0 AST/TO, 12.6 PIE
Rajon Rondo (2014-15): 2.2 AST/TO, 9.5 PIE
Monta Ellis (2014-15): 1.7 AST/TO, 9.7 PIE
In general, Deron blows Rondo and Ellis out of the park when it comes to working within the team philosophy. He is a more effective playmaker, has better ball security (AST/TO), and has the third highest PIE on the Mavs. Williams' six assists to one turnover will drop at some point, but even with a four-game sample size, it points to his increased efficiency.
This is the largest upgrade the Mavs' have over last year's disgruntled Rondo. D-Will's playmaking and shooting ability allows him to draw defenders towards him regardless of whether he has the ball or not.
Rondo didn't force defenders to close out, so Rick Carlisle was forced to mix up rotations and run a very limited number of plays for their starters. Because of that very specific strategy, Rondo clearly wasn't going to succeed in a flow offense, so essentially, the Rondo trade transformed the Dallas offense midseason into something a lot slower, and a lot more daunting to both execute and to defend. You didn't see quick shots out of the secondary break like you did here.
On the flip side of that coin, you have the flow -- the flexible, malleable style of offense that Rick dedicates the season to perfecting. It allows more than just a wider range of plays, it allows Carlisle to mix up the rotation: to go small, or with three guards, or even both (as he did to jumpstart the Dallas offense in the second quarter of their home opener). Rajon Rondo allowed teams to get away with subpar defense- Deron will not.
But Deron will have his struggles on the inside, especially in replacing Monta Ellis' penetration. Ellis was so proficient at getting inside for last year's Mavericks team that pick plays with Nowitzki forced defenders to either switch or stay with both guys. Ellis' man would have to cut off the drive and also cover the pass to any shooters. That takes a huge toll on defense.
While Williams won't provide those same challenges, Dallas will be extremely efficient. Williams will be at the helm of that efficiency, along with Ray Felton, J.J. Barea, and Wes Matthews. There will be growing pains with penetration as Carlisle and Williams work together to execute the new hallmark of that offense and to forge an identity of aggressive and effective offense. But ultimately, this is what Williams can provide at his best.