The Deron Williams of old wasn't walking through the door when the Dallas Mavericks signed him this past summer.
Despite knowing that, the Mavericks still coveted him even after the free agency frenzy of 2012. Long gone were the days of D-Will averaging 20 points and 10 assists on a nightly basis. His 14-point, six-dime averages this year were reasonable expectations, and he's been solid for a Dallas team that's had a revolving door at the point guard position in years past.
But no one seemed to let the Mavericks know that when they signed Williams, he'd turn out to be so damn clutch.
Once upon a time, when Williams was one of the premier point guards in the league, he was dangerous with five minutes to go in the fourth quarter and in overtime. In the 2007-08 season, Williams made 50.4 percent of his shots in crunch time and made almost 44 percent of his threes. Those numbers took a dive in his final years in Utah and when he was a member of the New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets.
|Deron Williams, since 2008||FGM||FGA||FG%||3PM||3PA||3P%|
|2010-11 (Utah, New Jersey)||66||144||.458||15||43||.349|
|2011-12 (New Jersey)||44||104||.423||15||38||.395|
Take out Williams' last two years with Brooklyn, where he took less than 100 shots, and those numbers are pedestrian after that 2008-09 season. At least a third of those shots he took in crunch time where 3-pointers, which isn't surprising knowing Williams has attempted over 3,000 threes in his career.
Take out the 2014-15 season, though, and D-Will has connected on 35 percent of his threes only one time during this stretch: his first full year as a Net.
Who knows if it was a matter of Williams coming back to play for his hometown team or if he's been sipping from the Fountain of Youth, but the D-Will of old has shown up plenty of times with games on the line for the Mavs this year. Remember this?
In reality, that shot is all that's needed to show how clutch Williams has been, because that still stands as the best moment of this disappointing Dallas season thus far. But this is the kind of clutch player Dallas has at its disposal:
|Deron Williams in the clutch||FGM||FGA||FG%||3PM||3PA||3P%|
So, yeah. There's that.
Those are numbers as of March 15. Williams is already 15 shot attempts away from reaching 130 attempts inside five minutes, which he hasn't done since the 2010-11 season. Mind you, the Mavericks have played a whopping 36 games that have been decided by single digits and 11 of them went into overtime.
It's a blessing and a curse for the Mavericks to be in all of these close games, but Dallas has been on the wrong side of most of them. There's no doubt that when Dallas is caught in a bind, though, it's been the play of the three-time All-Star that's bailed the Mavs out.
And it's also a relief the Mavericks not only have a closer, but someone who has been able to fill the void left by Monta Ellis.
Letting Ellis walk to Indiana has shown to be a questionable move at times for the Mavericks. While Wesley Matthews provides defense and 3-point shooting at the shooting guard position, Monta was the one who had the ball in his hands with the game on the line. In the last two years, Ellis took 394 total shots in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter and overtime. Compare that to Dirk Nowitzki, who took 264 shots in that stretch.
When it came to Ellis in crunch time, though, the volume of shots far outweighed the efficiency of said shots.
|Monta Ellis - Dallas clutch numbers||FGM||FGA||FG%||3PM||3PA||3P%|
General thought would say to give Ellis the benefit of the doubt for his 2015 numbers because Rajon Rondo took the ball out of his hands. But it doesn't excuse the fact he shot below 27 percent from distance in the final five minutes. Where Ellis struggled, Williams has thrived. He's taken 50 shots with three minutes or less left in the fourth quarter this year, making 24 of them while shooting 9-of-20 from 3-point range.
In overtimes, Williams has shot 14-of-29 from the floor. He's not only been clutch, he's been efficient in the clutch.
And when looking at where Williams ranks among the league's best in crunch time, he's one of them. There are only eight players this year who have taken over 100 shots in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter and overtime while shooting 47 percent from the floor. D-Will is one of them.
The others? Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns, Chris Paul, Jimmy Butler, Gordon Hayward, LeBron James and Steph Curry. That's not a bad list to be on.
In a few months, D-Will is going to be 32 years old. His days of being an elite point guard are numbered. He might be a 14 & 7 guy for the rest of his career. But he's taken on an even bigger role than just the Mavericks' point guard. He's Dallas' closer, and can be for the rest of his career if he continues to put up numbers like this.
All stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.