Mavs' DeronQuest: How He And Dirk Would Work

The advantages of bring Deron Williams home to Dallas? They seem self-evident. The advance-stats interpretation of how Deron and Dirk might work together, how Deron might serve in the Jet and Kidd roles simultaneously, how well Williams fits into Carlisle's desire to get a player who can push Dirk to being 'the Mavs' second-best player'? That stat interpretation is here for Premium Mavs Fans:

As a Premium Mavs Fan, you're already got more inside information that 99 percent of the world when it comes to Mark Cuban's plans on bringing Deron Williams to town. We at have looked at all of the different salary machinations and cap constructions that will allow Deron to make his way home. But now we take an in-depth look at his game and how it will mesh with this team and its superstar, Dirk Nowitzki.

There's no way yet to diagnose how Deron's game would fit with this Mavericks team ... because we don't yet know the makeup of that roster. But examining the Dirk-Deron match? Comparing how Williams stacks up to the man whose spot in the starting lineup he would be taking, Jason Kidd? And even wondering whether Deron's offense can make him the "Jet'' of the offense going forward?

With the help of advance stats and film study, those things we can do.

Deron on Offense

Though I'm inclined to agree with Mark Cuban that "all the data is dirty" from this season because of the effects of Lockout Ball (compressed schedules, injuries, no practice time), here are Deron's basic stats:

21.0 points, 8.7 assists, 3.3 rebounds, 20.3 PER.

Some other selected stats: 115 three-pointers made (11th in the league), 305 FTA (20th), 219 turnovers (5th).

On the surface, Deron's stats compare favorably to Dirk's from last season, with almost identical PER's and nearly the same points per (Dirk scored 21.6). Simply put, Dallas would be adding the "other superstar" that has been searched for since Nash's departure.
Or even better, as coach Rick Carlisle has phrased it, a player strong enough to "make Dirk our second-best player.''

Further, Deron has three-point range (though without a superb shooting percentage) and can get to the line at an elite rate, something Dallas has lacked since time immemorial. His turnovers are a bit concerning; he's said so himself. However, a portion of those can be attributed to "trying to do too much" as the only thing keeping that New Jersey offense afloat. (Indeed, he had the Nets in the top half of the league in points per possession at the All-Star break, an amazing feat considering the dearth of talent surrounding him.)

Looking deeper (with a big tip of the cap to SynergySports), the picture that emerges is one of a player who can score in a variety of ways. 24% of his plays came off an isolation, netting 0.84 points per possession (61st in the league), shooting 36%, drawing a shooting foul on 11.5% of those, creating 10 and-one's, and turning it over 13.1% of the time.

The other major way the Nets ran plays for Deron was off the pick-and-roll with Williams as the ballhandler, doing so 21.8% of the time. This was good for 0.93 ppp (23rd in the league), shooting 44.1%, 38% on 3, drawing a shooting foul 4.6% of the time, with six and-one's.

The other major Deron set is running him off screens, which happened 16.7% of the time, good for .94 points per possession (39th in the league), shooting 38.5%, with five and-one's.

As a whole, Williams is a player who can score with the ball in his hands or without. As a point guard, he is primarily a ball-handler, who can also beat his man one-on-one, something the Mavericks sorely need opposite Nowitzki, as Jason Terry derives most of his offense off of Dirk.

And again, it is so tantalizing to think of a Mavs offense featuring "two Dirks.'' … or in the case of Deron, someone capable of scoring …… points in a game in a variety of ways, as he did on …. … check out the cut-up of all those buckets:

By way of comparison, Jason Kidd essentially scored on two types of plays: spot-ups (44.2%) and pick-and-rolls (20.8%) as the ball handler. Ninety of his 113 made FG's came from those two plays and of those, 77 were three-pointers. As a scoring threat on offense, Kidd is practically one-dimensional at this point in his career. The Mavericks would be replacing (or maybe "moving aside'') his limitations with a multi-faceted scoring threat who can distribute on a comparable level.

Deron on Defense

Deron has a reputation as a strong, athletic defender with size. However, his numbers are less than terrific on that end. That doesn't mean he lacks ability; he certainly has that. But we would argue that at times seems he lost interest in New Jersey. With him on the floor, the Nets were -181 last season, hardly the type of numbers you'd expect from one of the top four point guards in the league. (For more on his on/off court numbers visit here.)

He struggles with screens, but most players see a dip in their numbers when screened, so maybe that's not much of a concern. However he also struggles when posted up by opposing players, surrendering 1.07 ppp (259th in the league), allowing the opposition to hit 52% of their shots. Kidd, by comparison, shines in these moments, surrendering 0.67 ppp (27th in the league).

However, he's most effective when he's in isolation against opposing players, holding opponents to 0.72 ppp (102nd) and only allowing 31.1% of opponents' shots to fall. Kidd, on the other hand, struggles in these situations, allowing 1.0 ppp (298th) and his man shot 52.5% in isolations. So there is a clear upgrade in on-ball man defense at the point guard spot. A weakness Dallas has had to cover in the past few years.

Deron and Dirk: The Future of the Two-Man Game

First let's look at Dirk as an individual. Most of his offense comes off of post-ups, spot-ups, pick-and-rolls where he isn't the primary ball-handler, and isolations, in that order. Post-ups dominate, at 29% of his plays on which he scores 47% of the time shooting 44.5%, good for 0.93 ppp (34th in the league). As a spot-up shooter, he hits 42% of his shots, good for 1.01 ppp (110th). He reaches truly elite status in isolations, where he often shoots over defenders or uses The One-Legged Euro LeanBack, hitting 43.4% of his shots, for 0.97 ppp (15th in the league).

Interestingly, his most eye-popping numbers come on plays that Dallas doesn't run all that often, and as such, may lack statistical significance. Indeed, on pick-and-rolls where he is the primary ball-handler (it only happened 24 times all last season or 1.7% of all Dirk's plays), he hit 62% of his shots resulting in 1.33 points per possession and drew a shooting foul nearly 13% of the time – his highest rate of any play.

The two-man game between Jason Terry and Dirk Nowitzki has long been a pillar of the Dallas offensive attack. Indeed, as P&R ballhandler, Jet racks up .84 ppp (49th in the league), shoots 45% from the field and 44% from deep. As the other player in a P&R (almost always with Dirk), he's even better, hitting 53% of his shots overall and 54% of his threes, good for a ridiculous 1.35 ppp (3rd in the NBA). Combined with Dirk's freakish efficiency, its understandable how (along with numerous other factors, of course) Dallas has rung up 50-win seasons every year since they've been teammates.

Now, imagine someone of Deron's caliber and multi-dimensional talents in that role. Both players derive nearly a quarter of their offense from the pick-and-roll but Williams is an infinitely superior ballhandler compared to Terry and draws fouls at over twice the rate of Jet, who's primarily a spot-up shooter. Deron's iso, post-up and off-screen games add facets Jet simply doesn't have. Combined with their skills on both sides of the pick-and-roll, as well as Deron's ability to distribute while still finding his own points, a pairing with Dirk seems natural on the court. Further, Deron can generate his own offense whereas Jet often needs to play off Dirk to get his.

When considered in total, and considered with the depth of advanced stats, a two-man game of Dirk and Deron can be everything the Mavs envision … and in the sense that Deron Williams does things on offense to simulate both the scorer Jet and the distributor Kidd ... more.





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