Deron Williams is experiencing career lows in all categories this year. Scoring, assists, rebounds, all of it.
Some of these can be slightly attributed to his career-low in minutes-per-game. But he’s got the 17th best offensive Real Plus-Minus among point guards, so as reliant as the Dallas Mavericks are on him, he’s already playing at a number, minutes-wise, that isn’t too high but that is, at the same time, high enough to be exposing him.
We can’t explain away his nearly-embarrassing shooting percentage (which has fallen from a career 44.4 percent all the way down to a 40.5 percent this year). If Williams shoots much worse, he’s in danger of hitting that dreaded sub-.400 mark, and that’s a liability.
Only four of the 112 qualified players have shooting percentages lower than 40 percent. Williams is currently ranked 108 out of 112 in FG percentage this season. Yet, like any irrational shooter, he keeps wasting possessions on his shots above those of his teammates.
On the other end of the floor, his wilting defense puts his Defensive Real Plus-Minus at 34th among point guards. So if the guy can’t defend, and the guy can’t shoot … what are we applauding?
Here’s our thesis:
The Mavs have a point guard problem. And because of the diminishing returns that will stem from it, we fear that as we approach the mid-February NBA trade deadline, they are about to have a ‘Trading Deron Williams’ problem, too.
We’re not unloading all the blame for this awful record on D-Will. But as we filter through the vets who look like core pieces for the future …
Wes Matthews has had a rough night here and there, but remains a glue guy who’s just waiting for something worth gluing together. He is a steady presence, offering scoring and defense.
Harrison Barnes continues to be the best scoring option for the Mavs (and the Mav most likely to fight his way to the line). And his billing as a gym rat shows up on defense, too.
And Dirk is Dirk and that's different.
Not counting all the kids, a lot of other Mavs are still trying to find their place (or discover whether or not they have one at all).
Both The Eye Test and the stat sheet insist that Barnes and Matthews are keepers. It also suggests that Williams is expendable (and possibly losing value every day).
I can tell you this: The minutes coach Rick Carlisle gave the other night in the loss to Houston to Seth Curry, Justin Anderson, Dwight Powell, Finney-Smith and Pierre Jackson? Those are the minutes that need to go up.
We can learn a lot by watching those young guys play. We’ve said it before, but we can learn whether or not they CAN play. We can learn whether or not they’re the types of players to build around. … Whether they’re the types of players to trade for value.
One of quiet mistakes of the last 10 years for the Mavs was overvaluing Roddy B on the trade market while at the same time undervaluing him as a player. By the time they realized Beaubois wasn’t going to be a player for them, the rest of the league also realized he wasn’t a player. There were a number of times they could’ve sold high on his potential.
Right now is an amazing chance for the Mavs to throw a lot of young players on the floor and see which ones take the playing time and convert it into a real NBA career.
And there are only so many minutes to go around. Something needs to be sacrificed.
Does Devin Harris need 14 minutes? Does D-Will need 23 minutes and 11 shots? Both those scenarios played out in a blowout loss to the Rockets. Why?
We don’t need to see Williams (or Andrew Bogut for that matter) again to know that neither of them is a part of this team’s future, that neither of them is good enough (alone or together) to get this team more victories, and that neither of them is getting BETTER by being on the floor more often.
Could they be helpful pieces for just the right contending roster now? In theory, yes.
Is Dallas on the verge of being a contending roster? In fact, no.
Bogut might be eroding his trade value with every injury and lukewarm stat-line he puts up.
Williams might be drawing attention to his shooting woes has he drifts closer and closer to the bottom of the league in FG percent.
Meanwhile, Seth Curry is shooting the ball better than Williams, turning it over less, playing more active defense, and getting better every day.
If you don’t see either player as part of your future, it’s worth remembering that teams will give up assets for Williams based on pedigree and reputation. But, eroding that reputation will also erode his value.
On the other hand, guys like Curry, Finney Smith, Anderson, et al? Those guys can improve their stock and their ability by being on the court as often as possible.
You just have to admit that you aren’t a playoff team. This has nothing to do with D-Will as a hometown hero or as a lovely person. (Fish's profile of Deron and his family remains a must-read.) It's about an organizational admission that is tough to make.
(There is another wrinkle here, the issue of D-Will's ability to not accept a trade. D-Lord gives you that answer here.)
That’s the pinch the Dallas Mavericks find themselves in. “The Treadmill of Mediocrity’’ swallows everything around it. Moods and attitudes? Being swallowed. Chances for the playoffs? Being swallowed. Chances for a high lotto pick? Being swallowed. So you play a guy like Deron Williams because you think maybe he can lift you from mediocrity, when instead his level of play might be so low that potential trade partners decide his value is too low to bother.
It’s “The Incredible Shrinking Trade Value Of Deron Williams’’ … and the more he plays — because his play fit right in with “mediocrity’’ — the more we fear it’s a problem.