This is the second of our daily Nets player-by-player breakdown, with an emphasis on what’s to come for next season.
DERON WILLIAMS, POINT GUARD
Year in review: Williams was supposed to be a dark horse to win the MVP award. After all, the Nets had just hired his good friend Jason Kidd as coach and added Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to take some of the pressure off their franchise point guard. But for the second straight season, D-Will was derailed by ankle injuries. He averaged just 14.3 points and 6.1 assists per game during the regular season -- his lowest rates since his rookie campaign.
In the playoffs, Williams shot just 39.5 percent from the field -- including 41.6 percent inside the restricted area and 33.3 percent from midrange. His explosiveness was pretty much nonexistent; he had just five dunks for the second straight season. He went scoreless for the first time in his playoff career in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Miami Heat and was passive late in fourth quarters during the series.
The one positive was that the Nets were a better team with Williams on the floor. When factoring in total minutes played, he led the team in net rating in both the regular season and the playoffs. Williams underwent surgery Tuesday on both ankles.
Role moving forward: Williams has been plagued by ankle injuries as a Net dating back to the 2012 Olympics. The hope is that the surgery allows him to return to All-Star form. But Williams will be entering his age-30 season in 2014-15, so there are certainly question marks as to whether he can do that. Regardless, Williams can still be an effective playmaker, if not a franchise-caliber player. He is an accurate shooter who often thrives in transition and when occasionally playing off the ball. The bottom line: Williams needs to repair his fractured confidence this offseason.
Contract status: Williams is owed $63.1 million over the next three seasons. He has an early termination option for 2016-17 at $22.3 million. His contract contains a 15 percent trade kicker.
What they’re saying:
“I feel like I've kind of let people down, so I don't like feeling like that. I used to step on the court and feel like I was the best player no matter who I played against, so I gotta get back to that. Even if I'm not the best player on the court, I gotta feel like I am.” -- Williams on baggie day
Should they bring him back? See: Lopez, Brook. In this particular case, it really feels like it would be best if the Nets and Williams could part ways. Both sides could use a fresh start. But again, like with Lopez, what is the trade market for a former top-10 NBA player who is owed $63.1 million and is coming off dual ankle surgery? The thing that’s tough about the whole situation is that Williams is the player the Nets gambled their future on. They have given him pretty much everything a franchise could give a player. Has LeBron James ever joked that he’s the assistant to the assistant GM in Miami? Williams’ legacy as a Net can still be salvaged if he can get back to being the player he once was -- or at least close to it, anyway.