Deron entered the 2005 NBA Draft widely regarded as one of the top two point guards available. The other was Wake Forest's Chris Paul.
The Utah Jazz traded up to the third pick in the draft and had a decision to make: D-Will or Chris Paul? They chose D-Will. He would be following John Stockton, but the Jazz made it clear from the outset that he was not chosen to replace Stockton. He was chosen to be Deron Williams.
"When we've had good point play we've played pretty well," Sloan said. "We don't expect him to be John Stockton. We expect him to be who he is and have the opportunity to do what we think he can do."
From the jump, D-Will knew exactly what he needed to do.
"It doesn't bother me at all," he said of the higher expectations at the point guard position in Utah.
"John Stockton is who he is. They will not forget about him in Salt Lake City or Utah. I'm just trying to be me."
Deron would not be expected to assume the starting point guard job immediately either. He started the season as a reserve as Sloan offered a chance for him to get his feet wet.
He made his debut on November 2nd, 2005 during the Jazz' season opener against the Mavericks and started with a bang. After entering late in the first quarter, Deron scored 18 points, including a 61-foot three as time expired in the third quarter. Sloan rewarded him by allowing him to play the entire fourth quarter and he rewarded that trust by leading the Jazz to a come-from-behind win.
Deron went on to excel in the reserve role over the first eight games of the season, averaging 12.3 points and 3.8 assists per game in just 25.4 minutes per game. On November 15th in Sacramento, Deron made his first start of the season. He started the next 19 games for the Jazz and 47 in total over the course of his rookie season. He bided his time between starting and coming off the bench and even filled in for the Jazz at shooting guard when injuries struck.
Thanks in large part to Deron, the Jazz finished 41-41, a 15-game improvement over the year prior. D-Will finished the season averaging 10.8 points and 4.5 assists per game in his first season. He made the NBA All-Rookie First Team and was runner up for the Rookie of the Year. He also left a lasting impression on his peers.
"He's a great competitor and is tough," Steve Nash said of D-Will. "He's more than ready to play at this level."
LEADING THE JAZZ
With that first year under his belt and respect already earned throughout the league, Deron gained confidence that allowed him excel in year two in a starting role for the Jazz.
"I had a productive summer, worked hard, got in the best shape of my life," Deron told the Dallas Morning News. "My confidence level is definitely 10 times higher than it was last year. I'm out there playing free, not worrying about if I make a mistake, I might have to come out or this or that. I can just go out there and play."
The Jazz brought in veteran point guard Derek Fisher to ease the transition, but D-Will started each 80 of the games he played in during the 2006-2007 campaign. He rewarded Utah's commitment to him with a breakout season, averaging 9.3 assists per game, second in the NBA. He also managed 16.2 points per game, third on the team.
The breakout pushed Utah to a franchise-best 12-1 start. They finished ten games better than his rookie year, at 51-31, and Deron's excellence led the Jazz to the Northwest title, breaking a three-year playoff drought in Utah.
The Jazz began the playoffs with two straight losses to the Houston Rockets, but rebounded to win four of the next five games and take the series in seven. D-Will finished the series averaging 16.3 points and 8.4 assists per game. He dominated the final game of the series, playing 45 of the 48 minutes and posting 20 points on 7-of-13 from the field along with 14 assists.
The star-making performance forced TNT's Charles Barkley to proclaim: "Deron Williams is going to be a household name."
As the level rose in the 2007 playoffs, so did Deron's game. The Jazz matched up with the Golden State Warriors in the Conference Semifinals and D-Will left his mark on the series from the get-go with 31 points on 11-of-21 from the field in Game 1. He added eight assists as the Jazz took a 1-0 lead with a 116-112 win.
Behind Deron's electric play, Utah advanced to the Western Conference Finals with ease, dispatching Golden State in five. Deron finished the series with 16.8 points and 9.6 assists per game.
"As a point guard, you have to be sort of a silent assassin in a lot of ways," former Dallas Mavericks point guard Derek Harper told the Dallas Morning News regarding Deron during the 2007 playoff run. "You have to have that kind of attitude. That's his attitude. It's very deceiving from the standpoint that he looks almost like he's shy and quiet, but he has a killer instinct inside of him."
The Jazz matched up with the eventual NBA champion San Antonio Spurs in the West Finals, where they fell in five. But the loss wasn't from a lack of effort from D-Will. He raised his game again, reaching an elite level few point guards ever touch.
For the five game series, Deron averaged 25.8 points and 7.8 assists and 2.4 steals per game. In Utah's only win of the series, he scored 31 points, passed out eight assists and recorded five steals. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich left impressed by the second-year guard.
"He's already become, I think, one of the best in the league," Popovich said. "He gets more and more comfortable every month or so. He's going to be one of the top point guards we've had for a long time."