On February, 10th 1997 Terrell Brandon of the Cleveland Cavaliers was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated with the title “The Best Point Guard in the NBA.” At the time it wasn’t completely off base even if advanced numbers would have suggested that the real best point guard was John Stockton. However, it wasn’t a completely egregious mistake. The previous year Brandon had the 3rd highest Win Shares Per 48 Minutes behind Michael Jordan and David Robinson, but right ahead of Karl Malone. He was 6th in total Win Shares that year behind John Stockton and right ahead of Scottie Pippen. At his pinnacle there really weren’t many point guards as good as Terrell Brandon.
The problem was his pinnacle just wasn’t that long. He peaked and then in a couple years was back down to being an above-average NBA player. That isn’t bad and he certainly had a good NBA career, but he is generally not remember as being one of the NBA stars of the 1990s.
Terrell Brandon is listed as 5-11 and 175 pounds.
Jason Kidd never had a year like Brandon’s 1995-1996 season according to advanced metrics. His highest Win Shares was in 2002-2003 when he produced 11.3 wins for the New Jersey Nets. Brandon had 12.7 in 1995-1996. However, nobody would ever suggest that Brandon has been a better NBA player than Jason Kidd. While Brandon had a higher peak, Kidd has had a longer, consistently better career. He has done all of this without ever being a really good shooter.
Jason Kidd is listed as 6-4 and 205 pounds.
It should be pretty clear with the title and with my word choice where my argument is going. I am obviously setting up an analogy between Chris Paul and Deron Williams. In my last post about the Jazz drafting, I listed Deron Williams vs. Chris Paul in the “comparable picks” despite the fact that Paul has 66.8 win shares compared to Deron’s 43.7. I think that it is clear Paul has been better than Williams, but I think that Deron Williams will end up being better than Paul from this point on.
This is in no means a way of discounting Chris Paul. He is extremely fun to watch play and has put up some incredible numbers. He is one of the 5 current best players in the NBA and it has been that way almost since his rookie year. However, I am going to make a case that Deron Williams has a better future and the reasons why I am happy the Jazz took Williams over Paul back in 2005.
- Size – Chris Paul is listed as 6ft 175 pounds. Deron Williams is listed at 6-3 and 210 pounds. You can now see the comparison between Brandon (Paul) and Kidd (Williams). Paul is a small, quick point guard who relies heavily on his quickness to be effective. Also, Paul might be more injury prone because he is small. Williams on the other hand is bigger and should be a player that can age better because of his size.
- Durability – Williams has played in 412 games compared to Paul’s 370 because Paul was injured last year and also in his 2nd year.
- Playoff Experience – 44 games for Williams compared to 17 for Paul.
- Chance of staying – While it isn’t a guarantee that Williams is going to stay with the Jazz, I think it is even less of a guarantee that Paul will be with the Hornets for a long time.
- Flexibility - Williams can play point or shooting guard, which is really helpful for a Jazz team that seems to have been looking for an effective shooting guard since Jeff Hornacek retired in 2000. Chris Paul is and will always be a point guard.
- Scoring/Usage % – Both are upwards trends for Deron Williams, while Paul’s numbers have stayed pretty flat. Deron seems to be shooting more, scoring more and doing this all while shooting at a higher percentage.
- Shot selection- The closer you are to the basket the easier it is to make shots. Paul is more reliant on outside shots than Williams, which because he is smaller makes logical sense. This year Williams shoots 27% from close. Paul is at 16%. Last year it was 34% to 26% in Williams favor. By watching the game you can see Paul utilizing the mid-range jumpshot more than Williams. My thought is that he is able to shoot this often and effectively because his quickness allows him to get separation from defenders. As this quickness goes away he will have to either learn to shoot more from in close or make more from the three point line. Williams has less margin of error with his shot selection since he already shoots more from in close and also more from the three point line.
I think Deron’s size is going to play a huge advantage in his improvement over the next few years and the longevity to his career. It will allow him to be less reliant than Paul on quickness, which with age will decline for both players. Also, don’t underestimate the importance of Deron Williams’ mental makeup. In no disrespect to Paul, but Williams seems like one of the players who is wired differently. He seems ultra competitive and one of those players that will drag his team to the championship one of these days. Paul seems like a nice guy, but might have a little too much of the ”just want to be one of the guys” in his personality. I am probably overreaching, but the “Paul toasts Knicks future dream team with Stoudemire, Anthony” headline seems to lend credibility to that theory.
In the end Deron Williams won’t be Jason Kidd (he will be better) and Chris Paul definitely won’t be Terrell Brandon (he will be much better). I think however the analogy fits in that while Paul might have a better peak than Williams, that Williams will have a better career. And more importantly for the likely readers of this blog I think Williams will have a better career for the Jazz.