The Brooklyn Nets looked at the start of the 2013-14 NBA regular season like their expensive experiment and influx of veteran talent was going to be a massive failure. They were well below .500, they lost Brook Lopez to yet another foot injury, and Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce looked like shells of themselves. Then things started to turn around.
Things just started to go right for the Nets in the second half of the regular season. Garnett started to find value as the de-facto center for Brooklyn, veteran guys started hitting shots, rookie Mason Plumlee started stepping up, and a Trade Deadline addition of Marcus Thornton proved to be a huge and much-needed arrival for this team.
Now in the 2014 NBA Playoffs as the six-seed in the Eastern Conference set to take on the Toronto Raptors, the Nets are looking to hit their stride even more so and possibly make the postseason run that everyone expected them to before the season began. While experience is certainly on Brooklyn’s side, there’s no bigger factor for them than point guard Deron Williams.
Dealing with a number of injuries throughout the year, Williams has once again been saddled with the label of being inconsistent as a performer and leader this season. Even with that, though, his value to the Nets is enormous.
With Williams on the floor this season, the Nets are an astonishing 12.1 points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor than without. His impact on the defense comes in the leadership he provides, but his offense is just huge for this team. Not only is he a versatile scorer, but he also sets up his teammates beautifully when he’s playing up to his potential.
Obviously a lot of what Williams is able to do for the Nets in the postseason will hinge on health, but as he has looked healthy recently that shouldn’t be a major issue. However, we saw Williams sort of shy away from the big moment in the playoffs last year and the Nets follow suit. If Brooklyn is going to upset Toronto, they have to be sure that doesn’t happen for the second consecutive year.