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2016-17 Cleveland Cavaliers Reviews: Deron Williams

The Deron Williams signing didn’t play out how the Cavaliers hoped in 2017.

NBA: Finals-Cleveland Cavaliers at Golden State Warriors Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

The idea of adding Deron Williams to the roster was a good one: A three-time all-star, on a minimum deal, who, while on the backside of his career could have theoretically solidified the Cavs bench, giving them a reliable ball-handler and decision-maker, someone who was also possibly still able to add some scoring to a contender in a limited role. More or less, he was added to control and protect possessions when LeBron was on the bench.

Kyrie is undoubtably excellent at what he does, but he’s capable of playing with tunnel vision to the rim, limiting the flow of the offense, and relying on iso sets. A lot of times that works out just fine, since he has some of the slickest handles in the game, with a stop-and-pop that’s quick and deadly — plus, I’m relatively sure that he’s an android programmed to navigate through traffic and finish layups at impossible angles. But, when Kyrie goes cold or gets flustered, it can kill any sort of momentum. I thought Deron Williams was going to be a safety net for that sort of thing. That obviously isn’t what happened.

The reality of adding Deron Williams to the roster wasn’t a good one: His age-related shortcomings didn’t vanish in the context of the Cavs lineup. LeBron and company didn’t rejuvenate his game by allowing him to get lost in the shuffle. Losing a step or two did matter. In 14.6 minutes per game in the playoffs he averaged 4.3 points, shooting 43.8 percent from the field, while adding 2.1 assists per game. It got worse in the finals, where in 12.2 minutes per game, he averaged one point per game, shooting 12.5 percent from the field, adding 1.2 assists. He wasn’t able to string many solid games together when the Cavs were still in the Eastern Conference, but when they got to the Finals, he was borderline unplayable.

Don’t get me wrong: Signing him after Dallas bought him out was still the right move. It wasn’t clear what he had left, or what the LeBron James effect would add to the equation. Seven years ago people argued whether he was better than Chris Paul. (Sure, it was mostly contrarians looking to be on the cutting-edge of a take, but it was kind of like the Kobe vs. Roy argument — there was a side that was trying to punch up, but they were still within striking distance for a brief period of time.) But, unless Williams was hiding an injury in 2017, it’s unlikely that he could be the sort of player that helps swing a future title. As a friend of mine said the other day, “With point guards, when it goes, it goes.”

There’s really not a lot more to analyze with Deron Williams’ time with the Cavs, it just was what it was: A high-upside, low-risk situation that didn’t work out. With the Warriors being the team that they are, the Cavs will inevitably have to make more of these sort of moves. Hopefully, they just turn out better. But, with David Griffin gone, we’ll see.