Indeed, one can collect several not-for-attribution votes for Williams, based on his superior shooting ability and size (the latter giving him an advantage on defense) and the 17-game playoff experience he got last season. A coach who observed both of them during the U.S. national team trials in Las Vegas over the last two summers—Paul participated in '06, Williams in '07—says that Williams seems closer to stardom. "Chris was kind of like everybody's little brother in camp," says the coach. "Deron was willing to learn, particularly from Jason, but he never acted like he didn't belong."
On the other hand The Wages of Wins, a stats-based website, devoted a long recent post to comparing the two, concluding that Paul is the superior player. Paul's assist-to-turnover ratio was 3.28 through Sunday, better than Williams's (2.37), Kidd's (2.60) and Nash's (3.27); that doesn't sound very loose-cannonish. And anyone who watched CP3 (so nicknamed for his uniform number) shred the Memphis Grizzlies with 43 points (including the game-winning basket with 1.8 seconds left), nine assists and four steals in a 118--116 overtime win last Friday would be hard-pressed to name a better point guard performance all season. (Of course, the next night Williams nearly matched Paul's point total, pouring in 41 in a 125--117 loss to the Dallas Mavericks.)
Whatever Paul and Williams might feel privately about who's better, you won't get either of them on the record. "I'm not going there," says Williams. And Paul waved the question away with a smile. "The good thing is," he says, "we have a lot of years to find out." And maybe to create their own models.
Ahead of the Curve
SINCE THE inception of the draft lottery in 1985, only 14 point guards, including Deron Williams and Chris Paul, have been taken with a top four pick. Here's how each quarterback fared in his third season.
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]
(Note: Jay Williams, the No. 2 pick in 2002, only played one season due to injury.)
*Statistics through Sunday