Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz point guard Mo Williams (5) controls the ball during the second half against the Oklahoma City Thunder at EnergySolutions Arena. The Thunder won 90-80. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports
In the midst of Jeff Teague signing a 4-year offer sheet with the Milwaukee Bucks, speculation has begun about what would happen if the Hawks simply let Teague walk by forfeiting their opportunity to match. The general buzz has surrounded both Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings for weeks, and we’ve covered our thoughts in depth on both players as options in the Atlanta backcourt. However, another name has emerged from various reports (chiefly from ESPN’s Marc Stein) as a Hawks’ interest, and that is free-agent point guard Mo Williams.
We touched on Williams a bit when we examined potential targets, but the flurry of reports suggesting the former Utah/Cleveland/LA Clippers/Milwaukee guard as an option coupled with the Teague have brought him to the forefront. Williams is far from a “traditional” point guard, averaging just 5.9 assists per 36 minutes in his career, but ideally, the Hawks are in need of a stopgap option if the team believes that Dennis Schroder is the point guard of the future.
As far as Williams’ on-court performance, it is a bit of a mixed bag. He has a track record of ten seasons in the league, so he basically “is what he is” at this point, and that is a average to above-average player. He has a career PER of 15.4 (average is 15.0) with a peak of 17.2 during his first season in Cleveland, playing with Lebron James and company. Williams’ reputation as a shooter has taken a bit of a hit in recent years with a falling field-goal percentage (43% in his each of the past two seasons), but he is a career 38.6% shooter from beyond the arc who would provide floor spacing in a unique way from the point guard spot. Also, getting legitimate scoring from the point guard spot is a luxury in the league, but Williams has a scoring average of 16.3 points per 36 minutes for his career, and even in a down year in Utah, he put up 13 points a game in 30.8 minutes of floor time.
Defensively, Williams is a bit of a liability, but he also isn’t an abject disaster. At 6-foot-1, he has semi-decent size for the position and he isn’t prone to being dominated by bigger guards. On the other hand, he lacks the lateral quickness of most players at the position, and as a result, he is below-average. Williams has played a lot of minutes at the 2-guard spot in recent years, which hasn’t helped his defensive metrics, but in Atlanta, Lou Williams and John Jenkins would be the “small ball” shooting guard options, and I can’t see Mo Williams being deployed there a ton if he were to come on board.
Speaking of Lou Williams and John Jenkins, the “fit” for Mo Williams in Atlanta is less than ideal for me. I am certainly in favor of bringing in a veteran point guard if Teague departs due to the uncertainty that surrounds Schroeder at this early stage, but I would much rather have a more “pure” point guard option rather than another small-ish combo guard with defensive issues. Playing Mo Williams and John Jenkins in the backcourt together would be a defensive nightmare, and I’m not sure that using him with Lou Williams would be much better, as it would force Mo Williams to attempt to guard the opposition’s shooting guard.
In the end, there are positives and negatives surrounding a potential acquisition of Mo Williams. The jury is out on Teague’s return, but unless you factor in Brandon Jennings, Williams is one of two point guards available (along with Beno Udrih) with real experience as starters in the league. I haven’t heard a peep about Udrih as far as Hawks’ interest and frankly, he is a much, much worse defensive player than Mo Williams (imagine that) who doesn’t profile as a starter.
For the right price, I would endorse a Williams acquisition, but such a move would signify (at least to me) that the organization believes in Schroder’s development on a fairly quick timetable. With that said, matching the 4-year, $32 million offer sheet for Jeff Teague (a far better player than Williams, even with his flaws) or signing Brandon Jennings to a Teague-like deal (admittedly a long shot) would be preferable options. Danny Ferry still has time to form his backcourt for next season, but the options are dwindling by the day.