When the Brooklyn Nets acquired Deron Williams from the Utah Jazz during the 2010-11 season they hoped they were getting a cornerstone point guard that they could build a franchise around as they moved from New Jersey to Brooklyn. Williams has been an excellent point guard, there is no doubt about that. However, Williams hasn’t been the elite player that he was in Utah. That, began to change in March, however, as Williams suddenly rediscovered his game.
Williams’ signature moment came against the Washington Wizards on March 8th when Williams was unconscious from three-point range shooting .688 from beyond the arc on 11-of-16 shooting. He finished with 42 points that night and almost single-handedly beat the Wizards. That is the kind of game Williams brings to the court.
There is no doubt that when Williams is at the top of his game he is one of the top two or three point guards in the game. He can shoot, pass and even play defense. Few point guards in the game can pass the rock like Williams. Combined with the ability to drive to the net, or pull up and take a jumper, and the Nets have an invaluable weapon heading into their first-round matchup against an ailing Chicago Bulls team.
The Bulls will not be an easy first-round foe for the Nets, even if they might be without Joakim Noah to begin the series. Head coach Tom Thibodeau is one of the best coaches in the game and he has changed the culture in Chicago and the Bulls are one of the best defensive teams in the NBA, ranking third in the NBA in points allowed with 92.9 points allowed. It will be up to Williams to make sure the Nets score and exploit any weaknesses in the defense.
It won’t be easy. The Bulls have gone 3-1 against the Nets this season with Williams in the lineup. The Nets scored a high of 93 points against the Bulls and that was the game the Nets won. In the losses the Nets scored 82, 85 and 90 points which is not good enough. In those three losses to the Bulls the Nets were outscored by a total of 14 points, 11 of which came in one game. The Nets can obviously hang with the Bulls but they have to take the next step. They can only do that with Williams at the top of his game slashing through the Bulls defense and opening up the floor for Joe Johnson and getting the ball in down low to Brook Lopez.
With Williams and Johnson drawing the Bulls defense out and no Noah for the Bulls the Nets should be able to get the ball to Lopez inside and he should be able to exploit the softer defense inside. That can only happen if Williams is a threat from the outside or a danger to drive inside. The Bulls can’t afford to have Williams and Johnson pick them apart from outside. They also can’t afford Lopez to dominate them inside so the Bulls will have to pick their poison. That will only work if Williams is at the top of his game and plays like he has over the last two months and not like he did his first year and a half with the Nets.