Top 50: Deron Williams, no. 11
The definitive ranking of the NBA’s best players.
For your perusal, a short list of Deron Williams’s accomplishments since joining the NBA as the third overall pick in 2005:
• 2005-06 All-Rookie First Team
• Second in assists (to Steve Nash) in 2006-07
• Led the Utah Jazz to the 2007 Western Conference Finals
• Averaged double-doubles in 2007-08 and 2008-09
• Third in assists (to Steve Nash and Chris Paul) in 2007-08
• 2007-08 Skills Challenge Champion
• 2007-08 All-NBA Second Team
• 2008 Olympic Gold Medal
• Second in assists (to Chris Paul) in 2008-09
• Beat former Tour de France champion Floyd Landis in a bicycle race (with a considerable head start)
• One of only two active players (Steve Nash) to have four 20-assist games
And here’s a few things he hasn’t done yet:
• Gotten a triple-double
• Won the Nobel Peace Prize
• Been named to the NBA All-Star team
The first two are somewhat understandable. Williams is young. He has time. But the third? Entirely inexplicable. It’s not that his team doesn’t win—the Jazz have won 51, 54 and 48 games the last three seasons, after making a 15-win jump to .500 his rookie year. It’s not that Williams is just along for the ride—Jerry Sloan trusts him enough to let him call a majority of plays on the floor, something John Stockton rarely did. By any measurable standard (except for maybe tattoos and haircuts), Williams is one of the top three—if not two—point guards in the game. And he can’t even make an All-Star team? What in the name of Rod Strickland is going on here?
It gets better. In ’07-08, Williams made the All-NBA Second Team on the strength of his 18.8 points and 10.5 assists per game. Last year he boosted both of those numbers, to career-highs of 19.4 and 10.7—and didn’t make All-NBA at all. Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Brandon Roy, Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups, Tony Parker. They all made it. Williams was the only player to receive more than 100 points in the voting and not be named to one of the three teams. Yes, he missed 14 games last season (all but one in November), but Carmelo Anthony missed 16 and still was named to the third team. The Jazz were 15-26 on the road, but so were the Miami Heat, and Wade made first team.
To be fair, save the gold medal, Deron hasn’t won anything yet—at least not since he was the 116-pound Texas state wrestling champ as a 12-year-old back in 1997. But he led The Colony high school to two straight state semifinals, Illinois to the 2005 NCAA Finals (hitting a pair of huge shots against Arizona and being named MOP of the Chicago regional in the process), and the aforementioned Jazz to the aforementioned 2007 Western Conference Finals. He hasn’t won rings, but he’s won respect.
Is he as good as Chris Paul? Probably not. If you’re a Hollinger disciple who worships at the Church of PER, Paul ran roughshod over Williams last year. A big part of the disparity was thanks to steals—Paul led the League, while Deron wasn’t in the top 20. But Deron is big (a legit 6-3, 210), he’s durable (he’d missed four games total prior to last season), and every bit an All-Star in game, if not in name. And with Paul in his conference, not to mention Nash, Chauncey Billups and Tony Parker, next year isn’t guaranteed either.
For his sake, here’s hoping Allen Iverson doesn’t have a resurgence.
• Rankings are based solely on projected ’09-10 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Jake Appleman, Brett Ballantini, Russ Bengtson, Toney Blare, Shannon Booher, Myles Brown, Franklyn Calle, Gregory Dole, Emry DowningHall, Jonathan Evans, Adam Fleischer, Jeff Fox, Sherman Johnson, Aaron Kaplowitz, John Krolik, Holly MacKenzie, Ryne Nelson, Chris O’Leary, Ben Osborne, Alan Paul, Susan Price, Sam Rubenstein, Khalid Salaam, Kye Stephenson, Adam Sweeney, Vincent Thomas, Tzvi Twersky, Justin Walsh, Joey Whelan, Eric Woodyard, and Nima Zarrabi.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.