Jazz got the point
By Warren Blatt, Sports Network NBA Editor
(Sports Network) – Utah was well aware that it needed to address its
situation at point guard. On draft night, the Jazz made a big trade as they
dealt their two first-round selections in the draft (sixth and 27th overall)
and a 2006 conditional first-round pick to the Portland Trail Blazers to move
up three spots to No. 3.
With the third pick overall, Utah selected point guard Deron Williams of
Illinois and passed on Wake Forest’s Chris Paul. The 6-3 Williams is more of a
pure point guard, while Paul is more of a scorer and plays with the mentality
of think shot before pass. Williams was the first guard selected, as Milwaukee
chose center Andrew Bogut first overall and Atlanta grabbed forward Marvin
Williams with the second pick.
“I guess they (Utah) just felt the most comfortable with me,” said Deron
Williams about being selected before Paul. “I feel that I’m a Coach (Jerry)
Sloan type of player, tough defender, pass first point guard, get people
involved first. And I think they liked me. I had a good workout with them and
a good interview as well. I just think we hit it off.”
The Jazz won just 26 games this past season and did not qualify for the
postseason for the second straight year. Utah, which finished 42-40 in the
2003-04 campaign and missed the playoffs for the first time since
1982-1983, was hopeful that Carlos Arroyo would become John Stockton’s
successor at the point. However, the Arroyo experiment was a failure as the
25-year-old guard had some issues with Sloan, which led to him being
traded to the Detroit Pistons on January 21, 2005.
“I’m just honored to play for the Jazz and to play after John Stockton, to
wear the same jersey he wore and be on the same floor he was on because he’s
one of the best players of all-time, one of the best point guards of all-
time,” said Deron Williams.
By selecting Deron Williams, the Jazz hope that they have found their answer
at the point. Utah’s strength is its frontcourt as forwards Carlos Boozer,
Andrei Kirilenko and center Mehmet Okur makeup a solid trio. The 23-year-old
Boozer, who averaged 17.8 points and 9.0 rebounds in 51 contests this season,
and Kirilenko, who was limited to just 41 games because of injuries, give the
Jazz a youthful duo that should be able to provide years of productive
service, while Okur is still developing his game and should continue to
Deron Williams has excellent playmaking abilities and seems to be able to find
his open teammates for some easy baskets. With Deron Williams handling the
rock, Boozer and Kirilenko should be able to benefit offensively from his
strong passing skills.
“I’m looking forward to playing with those guys,” said Deron Williams. “Carlos
Boozer, Andrei Kirilenko are definitely two great players in this league and I
definitely feel they’ll enjoy playing with me. I’m best when I’m out there
making plays for people and making my teammates better and make the game just
easier for them.”
Boozer and Kirilenko are still the keys to Utah’s success. They need to be
healthy and must be able to produce on both ends of the court. Boozer can be a
monster down low, while Kirilenko is more athletic and is one of the top
defensive players in the NBA. Their games complement each others very well.
Playing with Utah’s talented forwards and for Sloan should only make Deron
Williams a better player.
“I’m happy that I’m playing for coach Sloan,” said Deron Williams. “I feel
he’s one of the best coaches in the game and I know regardless of how tough he
is on me, it’s only going to make me better as a player and help the team.”
Utah hopes it has found its lead guard for the next 10-plus years in Deron
Williams. The Illinois product should mesh well with his new teammates. He is
not going to make Utah forget about Stockton yet, but Deron Williams is a
hard-nosed player who plays the way a point guard was meant to. The Jazz got
the point at this year’s draft.