Much is being made about the Brooklyn Nets re-signing Brook Lopez, and rightfully so.
But the key to their success still relies heavily, if not fully, on the effectiveness of Deron Williams.
The ability of Williams to set Lopez up in scoring position plays a major roll in how potent he is offensively. The Nets have openly stated that Brook Lopez will be their franchise player. With that being the case, they’ll need someone to keep their best player involved. Williams has been, and will continue to be, that someone.
Nets coach Lionel Hollins spent much of last season demanding a style of play that was not in line with Lopez’s strengths. Coming from the grit and grind culture of his last coaching job in Memphis, Hollins was still set on having his starting center score the majority of his points off post-up plays. “I think coach at the beginning of the year coach wanted him to be like Marc [Gasol] and Z-Bo [Zach Randolph] and beat people up inside, but that’s not Brook” said teammate Thaddeus Young.
Lopez’s inability to be more efficient with his back to the basket caused Hollins to completely change the team’s offensive approach. He realized that Lopez was not a post-up player. Lopez’s buckets were often a result of jump shots, offensive rebounds or passes from his teammates where he had the opportunity to score over a recovering defender.
Hollins realized that Lopez was still able to be effective in the post area, just not in the way that was originally pictured. Because he was great at finishing around help defenders, the pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop became the two most effective plays for the Nets. Williams’ ability to throw a perfect bounce pass to a roller in stride was a huge part of Lopez shooting his signature push shot, and shooting it at a high percentage. Roughly 62 percent of Lopez’s field goals were assisted on last season, showing the importance of a well-delivered pass.
The big man’s need to be set up by a good pass does not diminish his high level of talent. He’s still the best player on the team. It just makes the passer the most important part of the equation. Being able to throw a quality pass leads to the maximization of Lopez’s skill. Although Williams had an inconsistent year, his 7.6 assists per 36 minutes shows that he can still distribute the ball with the best. This is precisely what Brook Lopez needs.
Outside of just being able to make the crisp pass, Williams also garners undeniable attention from defenders. The threat of his outside shot makes it impossible for defenders to sag off and follow Brook Lopez on the roll. Last season Williams shot 36.7 percent from three point territory. As a career 35.8 percent shooter from distance, leaving him out there would be a particularly dangerous risk for opposing teams.
While Brook Lopez is the Nets’ best player, this does not make him their most important. Because he needs to be given the ball in the correct areas to be most effective, the distributor of the ball becomes the key piece of the formula. The passer must be enough of a maestro to hit Lopez on target during a roll, but also threatening enough that he can’t be left alone when Lopez starts to percolate. Deron Williams perfectly fits the mold of the necessary floor general. Therefore, Williams is the key to Brook Lopez’s success, and in turn, the success of the Brooklyn Nets.
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