With Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Raymond Felton, Nate Robinson, Monta Ellis and Jarrett Jack, (not to mention Roko Ukic, Travis Diener, Orien Green, any of whom could still find places in the NBA) that 2005 draft will go down as one that was rich with ball-handling guards.
The one who is winning the most right now is the one that gets very little national TV exposure, and that's Deron Williams. David Thorpe just told me that in his book Williams is one of the three best point guards in the NBA right now. I made it a mission to watch a whole bunch of Deron Williams clips on SynergySports. Here are some things I noticed:
He's big, strong, and fast.
He pushes the ball when he can, and effectively. Utah is ready to score on the break or in the half-court.
He's decisive as all get-out. He knows what he wants to do with the ball, and he's not bashful about directing teammates, who seem more than willing to take direction from him. Similarly, Jerry Sloan clearly trusts him to make things work on the court.
He's gritty. On the break, he welcomes contact with the defender. In the half-court, he doesn't panic among the tall trees in the lane. He wins more than his fair share of 50/50 balls.
Thorpe explains that his size and strength are especially valuable in the "flex" offense Utah runs fairly often. In that arrangement, all five players have to be interchangeable, and Williams has no trouble filling in anywhere on the court.
I know we all like to think of Utah as the model of self-control, but make no mistake: Deron Williams dribbles and shoots a lot. Threes, spot-up twos, off the dribble in the lane, on the break... it's the nature of their four-forward offense that someone has to be the creator, and it's usually Deron Williams.
He's a willing and excellent scorer, and gets his points in a number of different ways, most commonly as the ball-handler in a pick and roll, in transition, coming off screens, spotting up, and in isolation. At times, especially when the defense clamps down, he is Utah's primary option.
The fact that he has the green light to shoot makes extra sense when you consider that Utah is an excellent offensive rebounding team. A lot of his misses find their way back to the Jazz.
He clearly loves getting the ball to Carlos Boozer (and, to a lesser extent, Mehmet Okur). Sometimes he attempts overly difficult passes to those guys that get picked off. He appears to generate more than his fair of steals, and they're almost always trying to pass in the range of a long-armed defender.