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.
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.