Back in August, Nets coach Jason Kidd laid out a goal for his star point guard, Deron Williams.
“I’m going to push him,” Kidd told reporters at an event in Coney Island. “I want to get him back to double-digit assists.”
The last time D-Will averaged 10 or more assists per game was 2010–2011, the year he was traded to the Nets. Since then, as chronicled in this space, his time in Brooklyn has not lived up to his reputation as an All-Star in Utah.
Kidd, the legendary ex-point man, sees the stat as a mark of performance for his team’s principal passer. Yet, during his eight-year career, D-Will has already averaged double-digit assists for more seasons (4) than Kidd did (3) in 19 years in the league. In his six full seasons as a Net in New Jersey, Kidd never notched that feat, despite a remarkable run that included averaging a triple-double during the 2006–07 playoffs.
No one would say Deron Williams has established himself as a better player than Jason Kidd, which brings us to a recent ESPN interview in which Deron was asked whom he considers the best point guard in the league today.
“I don’t really get into that conversation,” Williams responded. “Early on in my career, I got wound up in that. I think, you know, to be one of the best, you’ve got to consider yourself the best and so I try to put myself up there. But I think the importance is winning.”
Unspoken is the simple truth that Chris Paul — to whom Deron was often compared early in his career — is the best point guard in the NBA. The leader of the Los Angeles Clippers has developed an ability to impose his will during games that few players ever possess at the NBA level. But even Paul has one less double-digit assist season than D-Will under his belt.
So yes, averaging more than 10 assists — especially on a revamped Nets roster that includes a bevy of proven scoring options — is a worthy goal for Kidd to lay out for Williams. But it shouldn’t be the only one.
During those 19 years — a run that ended when he was 40 years old — Jason Kidd never averaged fewer than 1.5 steals per game. For nine of his first 10 years in the league, he averaged more than two steals per contest. This is where Chris Paul, not D-Will, has clearly staked out his position as the rightful heir to Kidd’s throne: in all but one season so far, Paul has averaged more than two steals per game.
Deron Williams has never averaged more than 1.3 steals per contest in his career. Through six games this year, he is averaging less than a swipe per game. In order for the Nets to live up to their preseason hype — and for D-Will to put his shaky start in Brooklyn behind him — the bar should be as high for Williams on defense as Kidd has set it on offense.
Matt Spolar is a nearly 6-foot-1 journalist with a middling high school basketball career who is sure the Nets win thanks to team’s top-tier guards.