When Deron Williams returns to the Brooklyn Nets‘ lineup, whether that be against the New York Knicks on Monday or after, the immediate, exciting thought will be that a highly skilled offensive playmaker will be back on the floor looking to keep the good times rolling.
But through closer examination, that won’t be the most significant contribution the Nets will need from their star point guard. Of course they would love 20-plus points and 10-plus assists out of Williams every night, but that won’t be enough.
Ironically enough, what Brooklyn will require out of Williams more than anything else upon his return from yet another ankle injury is a solid defensive presence.
It isn’t too complex. Why have the Nets won six of their last seven games, including four without the services of Williams? Defense, defense, defense.
With the exception of the 110 points surrendered to the Atlanta Hawks in London on Thursday, Brooklyn has held each opponent during this recent stretch under 100 points. And considering that the Nets jumped out to an enormous lead over the Hawks and took their foot off the defensive gas pedal for much of the fourth quarter, the point total they gave up was a complete fluke.
The Nets have made it clear that they don’t need Williams to come back and try to be a superhero offensively. For the most part, the ball has moved well enough in his absence to suffice.
However, the starter’s minutes he will be taking away from Shaun Livingston will be key on the defensive end. Andrei Kirilenko’s stellar defensive intensity has clearly rubbed off on the rest of the team since his return, and Williams needs to buy into playing with that sort of energy as well in order to keep things trending upward.
Williams is very exciting and productive with the ball in his hands when healthy, but it’s what he does with his defensive physicality and feet that will prove to be more significant for the Nets moving forward.