D-Will's rookie season was full of ups and downs as he fought to learn Jerry Sloan's offense and earn playing time. Against the Hawks, Williams scored a then-career-high 28 points (he had been averaging less than 10 per game) to pull out the victory for a struggling Jazz team that would miss the playoffs for the only time in Williams' tenure.
The 2006-2007 season saw Deron Williams and the Jazz come into their own, winning 51 games and advancing to the Western Conference Finals, a level the Jazz haven't yet reached again. They fought past the Houston Rockets in seven games and blew away the upstart Golden State Warriors in five. But the eventual-champion Spurs were too much for the Jazz, despite a heroic performance from Williams. His Game 1 effort ended with 34 points, nine assists and seven rebounds in a losing cause.
While Williams has always been a pass-first point guard, he also has tremendous scoring talent, and this game against the rival Los Angeles Lakers proved it. With starters Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur sidelined by injury, D-Will stepped up with a career-high 35 points and let Andrei Kirilenko do the distributing (AK had a triple-double). The end result was a 120-96 shellacking in a game the Jazz were supposed to lose.
A Dallas native, D-Will has frequently played well against his hometown team. Just a week after setting a career high in points, Williams did it again, dropping 41 points, seven assists and three rebounds. Unfortunately it wasn't enough to lead the Jazz to victory, as the Mavs' Josh Howard went off for 47 points.
D-Will often adapted his game to what the situation required. In this game, he amassed 20 assists (one off his career high of 21) along with 17 points as the Jazz overcame an injury to Andrei Kirilenko to secure the win. Williams' 14 assists in the first half were one shy of John Stockton's team record.
The Jazz and Lakers would battle several times in the playoffs during Williams' time in Utah, but this year may have been the team's best chance to unseat the old enemy. The Jazz almost blew a late lead, but rode D-Will's 29 points and 14 assists to an overtime victory and a 2-2 series tie. The Lakers would then win the next two games, bouncing the Jazz again.
Much has been made of the "rivalry" between Deron Williams and New Orleans point guard Chris Paul, who was selected one spot later in the 2005 NBA Draft. But head-to-head, D-Will owned his draft mate. On this night, Williams scored 20 points and 13 assists, against Paul's 24 points and seven dimes, to lead the Jazz to victory. But Deron's most significant assist came after the game, when he handed the ball to Gail Miller in remembrance of team owner Larry Miller's death one day earlier.
Every great player needs to perform when it counts, no matter if he's hot or cold. In this game, another playoff war with Los Angeles, Williams struggled to find his touch, scoring just 11 points and 9 assists until the final seconds, when he crossed over former Jazzman Derek Fisher and hit a fadeaway jumper to secure the victory for Utah.
D-Will has always played with a chip on his shoulder. He fuels himself to greater performances with his anger and intensity. The Rockets took the brunt of his fury in this game, one night after the Jazz suffered a narrow loss to the Sacramento Kings. Williams exploded for 35 points, 13 assists and seven rebounds in a Jazz rout.
This game had it all: high scoring, a tight matchup between two entertaining teams, and an overtime victory for the Jazz. And Williams was at the center of everything, scoring a career-high 42 points and adding 10 assists and three rebounds. Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant hit shot after shot to give the Thunder a late lead (he finished with 45 points), but D-Will swished an 18-foot jumper with 1.1 seconds left for the win.