Greetings! We’re back with the next installment of our player profile series, examining the work of Atlanta’s own Lou Williams. In case you missed it, check out our last profile, when we broke down Elton Brand. Now, let’s go!
The cloud hovering over Lou Williams as the season approaches is his recovery from a long-term injury. On January 28, 2013, Williams tore his ACL in a game against Brooklyn, and we are nearly 9 months from that point without seeing him on an NBA court. There are various, and increasingly positive, reports citing Williams in near-full practice, including playing 4-on-4, but there isn’t a set timetable for his return.
With that, we’ll discuss Williams as a player under the prism of full health, no matter when that may be. I absolutely loved the Williams signing before last season (for the mid-level exception), but he did take a small step back in Atlanta from how he performed in Philadelphia. In his final year with the Sixers, Lou posted a PER north of 20, but that number slipped down below 16 in his half-season last year, and his one “elite” skill (getting to the free throw line) took a hit from 4.6 per game (in fewer minutes) to 3.1 per game last year.
The 6-foot-1 Williams is a rare example of an efficient scorer that shoots a low percentage. He’s a career 42.1% shooter from the field, but thanks to solid (and improving) 3-point shooting and elite free-throw production, he consistently posts true shooting numbers in the mid-50′s. He’s exceptionally quick with the ball, can play both guard spots, and he’s the NBA’s most illustrious creator of the 2-for-1 at the end of a quarter.
Williams brings an interesting and efficient skillset that not every appreciates, but his advanced metrics speak for themselves, and the Hawks have an extremely valuable asset here. If he can cut back on his turnover rate (10.4% last year, 5.9% in 2011-12) and improve his free-throw quantities again, Williams immediately becomes one of the best bargains in basketball, regardless of whether he’s a prototypical “starter” at either guard spot.
Role on the Roster
As we just touched on, Williams is probably the best shooting guard on the roster (Kyle Korver is a small forward, by trade), but it is tough to project a Williams/Teague starting backcourt because of the defensive implications. Prior to the acquisition of Dennis Schröder, Williams was a certainty as the backup point guard who also played some minutes at the 2, but it isn’t quite clear how much we’ll see of Lou at the point this year with a real, live backup to Teague on the roster.
I’d imagine that the team will bring him along slowly, no matter when he returns, and there will be an inevitable dip in minutes after playing nearly 29 per game last year. That said, Williams is an absolute fixture in the rotation, and in my opinion, one of the best 5-6 players on the roster (without question) when healthy.
This is a complete shot in the dark, but I think he’ll be back (and full strength) by Christmas. The practice reports are positive, and he has been tirelessly rehabbing the injury since the day it happened. I can see a 12-14 point per game average by the end of the year, and I have a feeling that Schröder/Williams backcourts will elicit alot of “oooo” and “ahhh” reactions.
Stay tuned for the next installment, and be sure to check out all of our Hawks coverage!