When the Dallas Mavericks signed Deron Williams a little over a year ago, I was excited. The reason for my excitement was not due to the memory of a former All-Star, Gold Medalist, and legitimate contender for the title of best point guard in the league, but because even this diminished, oft-injured version of D-Will would be the best point guard the Mavericks have had since winning it all in 2011.
After watching Deron’s solid but unspectacular first season as a member of the Dallas Mavericks, my opinion still stands. I’ll take Deron’s less explosive crossover, streaky midrange shooting, constant fear of injury, and clutch performances that leave you wondering where this guy has been for the first 44 minutes of the game over a point guard that couldn’t make the simplest entry passes to Dirk Nowitzki, another who exploited his daughter’s illness to get out of a contract, and one who is so bad at shooting the easiest shot in basketball that he actively avoids getting fouled.
The stats don’t paint a beautiful portrait: Deron relied too heavily on mid-range jump shots, and had his most inefficient year from behind the arc of the past half-decade. However, judged within the context of the Mavs point guard situation of the past few years, the team could’ve done a lot worse than 14.1 points, 5.8 assists, and just under 3 rebounds per game in the regular season, big performances that pushed the team to clinch a playoff spot, and a gutsy showing that helped the team secure its sole playoff win from their starting point guard.
For Deron, the biggest question will always be health. From his ankles to his sports hernia last season, durability has not been one of Williams’ strengths. If he isn’t able to stay healthy, look for the Mavs to revert to their position-by-committee tactic by relying heavily on Devin Harris, J.J. Barea, and newcomer Seth Curry. Unless Curry takes a monumental leap forward, this would likely spell trouble for the Mavs. Despite J.J.’s spirited stretches of brilliance, and Harris’ steadiness, neither are capable full time starters.
The second biggest question for Deron is what kind of mentality he carries with him this season. Williams doesn’t seem to be ready to relinquish his place as one of the better players in the league. While he would routinely declare last season that his days of going for 20 and 10 were behind him, in other interviews he would playfully wonder aloud with just enough seriousness why he couldn’t be expected to produce at a higher level with consistency.
While Deron may not be the player that he once was, a strong argument could be made that he is the second best player on the roster. For all of his flaws, his ability to create a shot for himself is invaluable on a team where that skill is sorely lacking. Really, Dirk’s comment in an interview earlier this offseason that Deron was the other best player on the team only makes sense if the players are judged on their ability to create for themselves and score. Will Deron play like the player that Dirk thinks he is, or will he defer immediately if his shots aren’t falling on any given night? How Deron perceives himself in the pecking order of the Dallas Mavericks offense could have a huge outcome on both his season, and the team’s.
Best Case Scenario
At this point, expecting Deron to play a full slate of 82 games is simply ridiculous. As a reference point, he hasn’t played a full season since 2008. That said, if Carlisle can watch his minutes and perhaps protect him on select back to backs, the preventative measures could pay off come playoff time.
Assuming good health, the best case scenario for Williams would be a slight uptick in efficiency and production. Hoping for a more stable lineup with the durability of Barnes replacing the often absentee Parsons, and the hands of Bogut instead of the lay-up averse Pachulia, it would not surprise me if Deron could move the needle slightly towards the 16 points, 7 assists per game territory on 44/37/89 splits.
Worst Case Scenario
Many people commented on how much happier Deron seemed to be playing for Dallas. Although his raw numbers were pretty similar to those of his previous season in Brooklyn, D-Will had a solid season for the Mavericks, and missed roughly the same amount of games (17) as he had the previous two seasons (14, 18).
The worst case scenario would be if this were the year that the wheels fall off. Carlisle has already mentioned that due to his injury, Deron wasn’t able to do any physical activity during the offseason, and came into camp a little overweight. An injury early in the season, whether it be season ending or nagging could be fatal not only for Deron, who is playing on a 1 year contract, but also the Mavericks who boast a bevy of point guards that are not sustainable as starters.