|"I used to be Deron Williams." (Getty Images)|
Things in Brooklyn ... are not going well. It was thought that the reason for the Nets recent slide (they've lost seven of their last 10, including an embarrassing loss to Utah on Wednesday), was the absence of Brook Lopez. But they've started losing again since Lopez's return, and the overall results -- team, player, everything -- have been disappointing. And offensively, maybe no one has taken a hit quite like Deron Williams.
Williams had an off year in New Jersey the last two seasons, but that was attributed to, you know, the Nets being awful. But Williams' production this season tells an alarming tale.
Let's run it down:
Fewest points per game since 2007.
Fewest assists per game since rookie season.
Career-low field-goal percentage.
Fewest rebounds per game since 2008.
Lowest per-36 minutes numbers since 2007.
Lowest assist percentage (percentage of assists contributed) since rookie season.
Lowest rebound percentage since 2009.
Lowest True Shooting percentage (factoring 3-pointers and free throws) since rookie season.
Career-low Win Shares.
Lowest PER since 2007.
You get the idea. It's bad. But according to Williams, the fall from his time in Utah where he was an All-Star and elite point guard has mostly to do with the system ... you know, Avery Johnson's system vs. Jerry Sloan's.
“That system was a great system for my style of play,” Williams said of the “flex” offense run by Utah coach Jerry Sloan. “I'm a system player. I love coach Sloan's system. I loved the offense there.”
The comments were provocative on multiple levels.
Williams was widely blamed for Sloan's sudden retirement in February 2011, just before the Jazz traded Williams to the Nets. And his openly pining for Sloan's system could be viewed as subtle criticism of Johnson's offense.
Williams did nothing to discourage that interpretation when he was asked to compare the offense used by the Nets with the one he ran in Utah. “Is it as good as there? No,” he said. “There's just more one-on-one and isos” in Johnson's offense.
Synergy Sports indicates that the 2009 Jazz, when Williams logged a career-best 21.1 PER, ran isolation plays just 10 percent of the time. This season's Nets run them14.7 percent of the time. But that doesn't calculate isolation plays that don't result in a turnover or shot. The Nets' offense is extremely heavy on isolations and stagnates a great deal.
Part of the issue, though, is personnel. Lopez is great in the post and in certain sets, but isn't as strong a pick-and-roll player as he could be. In Utah, Williams had Boozer, one of the better pick-and-roll players in a pick-and-roll heavy system, to say the least. But at the same time, the Nets aren't running nearly enough pick-and-pop plays with Williams and Joe Johnson, or Williams and Lopez.
What's also baffling is the Nets are getting only 13 percent of their possessions through the post, despite having Williams, one of the stronger point guards, Gerald Wallace who has quite a bit of muscle, Johnson, a huge, strong shooting guard, and one of the best post players in Lopez. It's baffling, and that's part of why the pressure has turned up so high on coach Avery Johnson.
Johnson is in the last year of his deal, and the Nets have been very much in his corner publicly. But there's starting to be talk that if things don't improve, Johnson could wind up being held accountable for any failures by the Nets to live up to their hype.
They do sell a lot of merchandise, though.