With Jameer Nelson out with an injury (torn meniscus in his left knee), Jason Williams has been forced to assume the starting position at point guard for the Orlando Magic beginning this past week and so far, so good.
Since Williams has been inserted as the starter, the Magic have been able to come away with wins over the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Boston Celtics, and the Toronto Raptors. Out of the trio of victories, winning without Nelson against the Boston was the most impressive without a doubt.
Although Williams is not the scorer that Nelson is, he is as capable of running the offense without a hitch. The assist percentage of both players are nearly identical this year, at this point. Likewise, in his three starts, Williams has tallied 14 assists to only 3 turnovers. Williams has done an excellent job of starting the offensive sets for the Magic and letting the team's bevy of playmakers make plays. For example, with Nelson sidelined, one has seen Vince Carter's shot attempts rise a bit, given that he's had to assume more offensive responsibilities with Orlando lacking one of its main scorers on the court. However, don't let Williams fool you - he's still capable of scoring if the matchups are favorable, as they were yesterday against the Toronto Raptors.
What's been most impressive about Williams, though, has been his defense. It's been sterling, to put it simply. Although it's still early in the regular season and Williams benefits from playing in one of the best defensive schemes in the NBA, he has more than held his end of the bargain as the first line of defense for the Magic. With Williams, Orlando has been 13.4 points per 100 possession better than with him off the floor. If one looks closely, it's been Williams' presence on the defensive side of the ball that's been the catalyst. And those numbers aren't a fluke, either, as Williams' adjusted defensive plus/minus has been excellent, as well.
The questions remains whether or not Williams can keep up this level of play with extended minutes. So far, Williams hasn't shown signs of slowing down with more playing time, so it appears he can weather the storm while Nelson is rehabbing from his injury. As has been stated before, the Magic are better equipped as a squad to handle Nelson's loss and last Friday's win over the Celtics exemplified that particular statement.
The more pertinent question may be whether or not Orlando can continue to have Anthony Johnson be the back-up point guard to Williams. Granted, Johnson got off to a slow start this past season and rounded into form as he played more, but there's no denying that the offense "slows down" with Johnson at the helm, as opposed to Williams. Also, Williams can create his own shot, Johnson can't. One shouldn't rush to judgment as Johnson has played three games backing up Williams and performed well against Oklahoma City in one of those contests, but it's something to keep an eye on for the next few weeks.
All in all, it may not be worth it for general manager Otis Smith to make a move, given that Nelson is expected to be back within a month or so (possibly sooner). Of course, anything is possible.