Last season, I wrote a series titled Franchise Player in which I wrote about the select few in the NBA that were worthy of being associated with the term. Far too often, we give the title away to players who make exorbitant amounts of money but do not fulfill the requirements of a franchise player. Have a look at exhibit A:
- Joe Johnson
- Rudy Gay
- Rashard Lews
- Vince Carter
- Baron Davis
- Elton Brand
- Al Jefferson
- Danny Granger
- Gilbert Arenas
And then people wonder why the owners want some significant changes to the collective bargaining agreement (even though they are the ones signing off on these deal). The truth is, there are very few true franchise players. But in order to determine who makes the list and who does not, we need some criteria. Have a look below:
- The Kobe Bryant Exception (formerly known as the Tim Duncan Requirement): Barring an injury to him, his team can only miss the playoffs once after his first three years in the league (my friend, Money, said this one should be changed to the Kobe Exception, and he’s right; I did put this criteria here because of the Mamba, we’ll change it next time).
- The Shaquille O’Neal aka Diesel Test: If he ends up with a contract of $20 million per year, you can’t even second guess the contract because he’s actually worth it (no the argument that he means more to his team than other teams won’t fly).
- The Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Standard: All-Star appearances and All-NBA appearances. An MVP trophy or two would help as well but not a deal breaker if the player does not have one.
- The Karl Malone Rule: If the team is going to put all of their hopes and money into one player, that player has to be able to suit up for at least 85% of the NBA season.
- The Magic Johnson Provision: Whether we’re talking about the 20th game of the regular season or Game 6 of a pivotal playoff series, a franchise player always stands out in a basketball game because he has stage presence. It might be rebounding, scoring, defense, passing or just being a great teammate; the franchise player just stands out no matter what.
Before joining the Utah Jazz, Deron Williams became a college star after leading Illinois to a berth in the NCAA championship game. Fans and general managers took notice of his game and saw that he had the required skills and confidence to play at the next level. So with the 3rd pick in the 2005 NBA draft, Utah selected the guard hoping he would help fortify the point guard position. Few truly expected the Texas native to actually become a star.
And yet, not only has Williams been an NBA star during his career, he has wrestled with Chris Paul and Steve Nash for the title of best point guard in the game. Indeed, few players can play the position the way it was meant to be played and these three have figured it out. With that said, does any of this make Deron Williams a franchise player? Let’s find out.
The Kobe Bryant Exception
Back in 2005, things looked bleak for the Utah Jazz franchise. They had just finished their season with a 26-56 record that saw the Jazz miss the playoffs for the second straight year. They passed on Chris Paul (yes that Chris Paul) and drafted Williams with the 3rd pick in the 2005 NBA Draft with the hope that he would be the team’s point guard of the future. The team missed the playoffs in his rookie season, however they have been back every year since.
The Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Standard
Deron Williams has participated in one All Star Game and has also been selected to the NBA 2005-06 All-Rookie team. Furthermore, Williams has been selected to the All-NBA 2nd team twice during his six NBA seasons. The former Illinois point guard is quite possibly the best point guard in a league that houses Steve Nash, Rajon Rondo, Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose and Chris Paul. Although it’s not an actual award, competing for the Steve Nash Championship Belt (basically the best point guard in the game title) has to count for something right?
The Karl Malone Rule
Deron Williams has been extremely durable throughout his NBA career. The most games he has ever missed is in one season is 14 which occurred during the 2008-09 campaign. But overall, he has participated in 420 out of a possible 444 games; which equates to a 94.6% participation rate.
Quick side note: One of the biggest reasons that Deron Williams will probably own the Steve Nash Championship Belt by the end of this season is his durability. While other great point guards drop like flies each and every season, Williams has been the Hummer of NBA point guards; basically outlasting all his peers these past few years and practically running them over.
The Magic Johnson Provision
The best players in the history of the NBA always come to play but they normally step their game up when the postseason starts and Deron Williams is no exception. Not many guards have played better that Jazz point guard during the playoffs in the past few seasons. Have a look at his playoff career averages:
21.1 PPG, 9.6 APG, 3.7 RPG, 45.8% FG, 40.8% 3PT FG%
Terrific numbers but they do not tell the whole story. Williams’ play has been far above what anyone truly expected but how good has he been really? Let’s put him in a historical context. There are very few players in NBA history that have been able to average 20 points and 10 assists for a whole postseason for a minimum of 10 games (I picked 10 games because it represents at least two playoff rounds). Seriously, it’s a really short list, have a look at it below:
*Player in Hall of Fame
As we can see, the feat has only been accomplished 12 times in the history of the league and Deron Williams has done it twice while notable greats such as Magic Johnson have done it three times and Steve Nash as well as Kevin Johnson have done it twice. Needless to say, anytime a young player can get wind up on a list with a few legends, it’s safe to say he’s doing something good if not great.
The Shaquille O’Neal aka Diesel Test
Deron Williams suits up 94.6% of the time, always performs as if the bright lights are on, and just seems to dominate all the other players at his position. If I asked you to name me a point guard right now that was playing better than Williams this year as far as scoring and setting up his teammates, would you be able to name any other player? Put that thought on pause for a moment and let me help you out. Have a quick look at the other terrific NBA guards in the league this year and what they are doing:
So far this year, no one has been the total package quite like Williams. The former Illinois guard recognizes when to get his teammates involved and when to assert himself offensively without taking anything away from the team. He scores efficiently and has less turnovers on average than some other notable great point guards. As an NBA general manager, I would have to be crazy to not give this guy a max contract if he were available.
In conclusion, Deron Williams meets all the criteria and has consistently been one of the best players in the NBA. He is the face of the Utah Jazz, their best player and the guy that the team is built around. He is for all intents an NBA franchise player.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
You can find J.M. stirring up some basketball ruckus on Twitter under the handle name @ShyneIV.