Williams put up then-career highs of 18.8 points and 10.5 assists per game for the Jazz, who won 54 games and a Northwest Division title before being ousted in the Western Conference semifinals by the Los Angeles Lakers.
Williams had those kinds of numbers surrounded by the likes of Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur, Ronnie Brewer and Andrei Kirilenko. Nice players, sure, but not stars.
So can you just imagine the way Williams' eyes will light up now that he is surrounded in the Brooklyn Nets' starting lineup by four other All-Stars? In the middle, there's Brook Lopez, who averaged nearly 20 points a game last season and is only 25 years old. Also up front, there is a former Most Valuable Player in Kevin Garnett. On the wings? How about former Finals MVP Paul Pierce and All-Star Joe Johnson. The second unit has some flair as well, with his former Utah teammate Kirilenko, another former All-Star, and Jason Terry, still a productive bench guard in his mid-30s.
At the very least, Garnett and Pierce are a pretty significant upgrade over Reggie Evans and Gerald Wallace when it comes to the offensive side of the floor.
It just feels like Williams, in a system being designed by a legendary point guard in Jason Kidd, could put up some monster assist numbers, while still being an effective scorer himself.
The situation in Brooklyn seems like one of those where a group of aging stars could turn into something bigger and better than they could be on their own, because no one will have to shoulder the whole load. Garnett can focus on defense, rebounding and being his usual jolly self when chatting with opposing frontcourt players. Pierce can be the dagger man, the guy who Williams can set up for those clutch baskets late in games. Johnson should be more efficient because suddenly there will be another perimeter threat on the wing in Pierce, as opposed to Wallace, who almost didn't have to be guarded in 2012-13.
Williams will have a pair of willing and very able pick-and-roll partners in Garnett and Lopez, with Pierce and Johnson both having the ability to both spot up off penetration by Williams, or to do their thing with the rock on kick-outs and pick-and-pop plays.
If there is one Net who will be asked to do a larger share of the heavy lifting offensively, it will be Williams, who is primed to do so. At 29, he's still in the prime of his career, a player who has averaged just shy of 37 minutes a game over his last seven seasons since becoming a full-time starter in 2006-07.
Leaning on Williams means the 30-something crew of Garnett, Pierce, Johnson, Terry and Kirilenko can pace themselves, save their minutes for the postseason and still be very productive and, better still, efficiently productive.
Pierce isn't going to be asked to play the point-forward role now, as he was over the second half of last season with the Boston Celtics after Rajon Rondo went down to a knee injury. Pierce wore down over the final couple of months and had little left in the tank come playoff time. Ditto for Garnett, who was the defensive and rebounding anchor for the Celtics and who had little help up front after Jared Sullinger was lost to a back injury.
And Johnson hasn't been surrounded by so much talent since his days with the Phoenix Suns, when he teamed with Amar'e Stoudemire, Shawn Marion and Steve Nash on a 62-win team in 2004-05. A guy with point guard skills and small forward size, Johnson never felt like a player who was best suited to be a team's No. 1 option, but was well-equipped to be part of a talented ensemble.
That's what the Brooklyn Nets have put together for 2013-14, a talented ensemble ... but one that is most definitely going to be directed by Deron Williams.
Phil Watson is a freelance commentator and journalist who covers the Brooklyn Nets, New York Yankees and New York Giants for the Yahoo Contributor Network. He is also editor of brewers101.com and holds an editorial position at HoopsHabit.com.
- Sports & Recreation
- Deron Williams
- Brooklyn Nets
- Kevin Garnett
- Andrei Kirilenko
- Paul Pierce