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Thursday, May 15, 2014
Starting Five: Rating D-Will's season

By Mike Mazzeo

Brooklyn Nets point guard Deron Williams was supposed to be a darkhorse candidate to win the NBA’s MVP award in 2013-14.

It never happened.

Not even close.

The $98 million man’s season turned out to be a massive disappointment: from start to finish.

In Game 5, Williams failed to score in the fourth quarter, going 0-for-2 from the field and deferring to his teammates, as the Nets collapsed down the stretch and were eliminated from the playoffs by the Miami Heat on Wednesday night.

For the series, Williams went 1-for-11 from the field with four points and five assists in the final period. Overall against the Heat, he averaged 11.2 points and 6.2 assists on 36.7 percent shooting (22-for-60).

In his last two seasons with the Nets, Williams has been far from 100 percent healthy. Ankle injuries have persisted, robbing him of his ability to explode off the floor. In fact, he had to receive a cortisone shot and an inflammation injection in his left ankle prior to Game 7 of his team’s first-round series with the Toronto Raptors.

Williams did a pretty decent job of facilitating for his teammates and probing the paint, but he couldn’t finish at the basket. And his confidence clearly wasn’t there in crunch-time, because he never attempted any shots in the final minutes.

How close were the Nets to really making this a series?

Extremely close. Just look at this:

Game 2: Outscored 15-5 in the final 6:55; shot 1-for-7

Game 4: Outscored 13-6 in the final 4:28; shot 1-for-8

Game 5: Outscored 13-3 in the final 4:49; shot 1-for-10

Revisionist history now, but imagine if the Nets could’ve gotten one or two of those games? This series would still be going.

The organization now must figure out what the future holds for their franchise player. Williams has three years and $63.1 million remaining on his contract.

His trade value is probably pretty low, but both sides could possibly use a fresh start.

But if Williams does end up staying, the Nets need to make sure his ankles don’t flair up again. Having Williams healthy -- even if he’s no longer the player he was five years ago -- would do wonders.

But will he ever be as healthy and productive as he was in Utah? Hard to bet on that.

Question: How would you rate D-Will’s season? What would you do with him if you were GM Billy King? Let us know in the comments section below.

In case you missed it: Paul Pierce’s future with the Nets is uncertain, while Brooklyn’s $190 million roster could not get past the two-time defending champions, leading Ohm Youngmisuk to wonder: What’s next? Plus, Joe Johnson’s heroics were not enough.

You should also vote on our Take 'Em or Trash 'Em.

Stat to know: The Nets went into the fourth quarter of Wednesday night’s game with a 75-66 lead. They were 45-4 on the season when leading after three quarters. They finished 45-5 after being outscored 30-19.

Up next: Exit interviews and baggie day.