Lou Williams is a player whose role is about as well-defined as any on the Lakers’ roster. He will come off the bench with a score first mentality, look to create shots and if the shot isn’t there then, well, he’ll probably throw one up anyway. This is the way of a “chucker” and this, in a vacuum, is what Lou Williams has proven to be over the course of his nine-year career. However, despite its negative connotation, the “chucker” moniker is one Williams embraces and it has earned him other titles such as “2015 Sixth Man of the Year” in the process.
Whether creating space for a one-hop pull-up, taking his defender off the dribble, or leading and finishing on the fast break, Williams plays the game with flair. His nifty crossover, stalling hesitation move, and quick first step combined with a proven scoring ability should quickly make him a favorite among Lakers fans who haven’t seen a true “spark” off the bench since D’Antoni got his hands on Nick Young.
For all of the talent he offers as a playmaker, though, where Williams may need to find his niche with this Lakers team is off the ball.
As currently constructed, the Lakers possess a deep group of capable ball handlers in the backcourt (yes, really). With one of Clarkson, Russell or even Marcelo Huertas expected to see the bulk of minutes as the lead guard over the course of a game, Williams will most likely be pushed into an off-guard role for the majority of his time on the floor. Not to mention, a healthy Kobe will handle a fair amount of ball-handling duties as well.
Considering this, the Lakers should rely on Williams to produce in plenty of catch and shoot situations rather than as the lead ball-handler. This is something he is indeed capable of.
According to numbers accrued by SportsVU, Williams quietly found greater efficiency on catch and shoot attempts from three-point range last season, shooting a solid 39.6% — a mark better than noted sharpshooters Wesley Matthews and Dirk Nowitzki. Looking at Williams’ career-long shot chart offers a better sense of where his best areas of efficiency lie:
Granted, the sample size is smaller, but it is clear Williams had greater efficiency when given the opportunity to let it fly from the corners, combining for a roundabout average 48% from both sides. If the Lakers are able to generate more looks for him in these areas, that average may slightly dip due to volume, but the overall threat will remain the same.
What makes this threat important is that it can create a conundrum for opposing defenses and offer better scoring opportunities for both Williams and his teammates. When Williams shares the floor with any combination of Bryant, Clarkson or Russell, defenders will likely look to double the lead guard off a screen and roll but will also be hesitant to leave Williams open around the perimeter.
If defenders feel compelled to play Williams more closely, it can either open easier scoring lanes for the lead guard to operate or offer Williams the freedom to showcase his playmaking ability if given the ball. In that same vein, if defenders choose to double the lead ball handler and go into team defensive rotations — the more likely scenario — it leaves Williams open in the corner where, as noted, he’s shown an ability to make them pay.
Now, to clear the purple and gold elephant out of the room, it is true that Byron Scott plans to implement the Princeton — an offense that, at least in how the Lakers ran it last season, is designed to generate a high volume of mid-range pull-ups and is subsequently slandered for its inefficiency and antiquation in an evermore data-driven league.
Much as we might try, we cannot ignore the Princeton is ill-suited for this Lakers roster. In saying that, however, it will be on both Scott and the players to find a middle ground where execution of his offense and flexibility for more free flowing sets coexist. However, naturally, no matter the system, any offense tends to result in spot up chances that occur either as a result of defenses focusing on recovering in the paint or giving added attention to the primary ball handler.
One doesn’t have to look too far back to visualize a Lakers offense where these opportunities arise. The Lakers Summer League team implemented Scott’s offense and more often than not, when the high screen and roll was initiated, the ball handler (usually Russell) had clear opportunity to kick to an open Clarkson, Jabari Brown or Anthony Brown on the weak side. While Russell may have not always taken advantage of such chances, the key is that the offense allowed for them to exist.
If regular season game action is what you wish for, we recently posted a piece commemorating Kobe’s passing ability. If you watch the included 9-minute video clip highlighting each one of Kobe’s assists from this past season, you’ll notice that a fair amount of those were of the “kick to the open corner” variety with Kobe drawing attention in the low-post before ultimately swinging to the open man. Here’s Williams getting a shot on a similar-type play from last season:
These opportunities will also show themselves in transition where, if not handling the ball, Williams should operate as the gunner spotting up for an open shot on the weak side while defenders sink in or at the top the key as a trail man. Either by design or by the natural flow of the offense, catch and shoot chances will certainly exist, when Williams is on the floor, he can serve productively in these instances.
If used effectively, Williams shooting ability can space the floor for the Lakers offense and provide a bit more clearance for players like Clarkson and Russell to execute in the mid-range. The key with Williams, as with any player, is to not take away who he is or what he does best — which is, as the kids would say, “light it up” — but to properly implement aspects of his skill set into the system and make sure they are channeled in a manner that best compliments the parts around him.
For the Lakers, this will often mean spotting Williams up along the perimeter and hoping he connects. And if the past is any true predictor of the future, connect he will do.
Not a fan of Williams. Feels like a player you pursue when you are a playoff team to fill a specific role. Doesn’t feel like a good fit on the Lakers who are neither a playoff team nor who can offer a defined role.
I would have resigned Lin on the cheap and been happier.
J C says
Reigning 6th men of the year have proven themselves to have talent.
Bereft of big-name FA prizes, the Lakers snagged an excellent player.
Sure Williams would be excellent on a contender. But the Lakers had to start somewhere.
Given the circumstances I see no downside to picking up Williams. He will help you win ball games, which I believe is still the objective in the NBA.
Craig W. says
Fans tend to be all in or bust. Front offices – 76ers excepted – can’t really operate that way, especially a team like the Lakers. There has to be something there to sell each and every year.
Then there is the fact that rookies don’t really develop that well without some veteran help to get them past the rough spots and point out how the NBA operates.
IMO – the front office did quite a good job this year. They just really screwed up on letting the fans think a big free agent would sign with us. This is their biggest bad, and I don’t know if they could have avoided it. They should have tried to smooth this out, however.
Plusses to Williams signing:
1. If Kobe goes down again, Williams will be able to help with scoring and will be there when Kobe needs nights off even if KB’s body makes it through the schedule.
2. As suggested, Williams’ presence may help keep the pressure off Russell and Clarkson and help their respective development curves.
3. The FO might be able to move LW’s deal to a contender for a late first-rounder or he could be salary ballast in a larger deal.
Minuses to Williams signing:
1. He is a high-usage guard who will expect minutes, shots, and touches, as will Kobe, Clarkson, Russell, and Young.
2. Given the public statement by Kupchak about the playoffs, Scott’s tenuous status, Kobe’s probable impending retirement, and Jim’s self-inflicted timeline, if Russell struggles early, and I think he will, Williams’ presence will make it easier for Scott to sit Russell and go for wins instead of development.
3. Williams’ deal is probably a year too long, given his age and skillset.
My own opinion is that the FO thought they had a taker for Young when they were chasing Williams, but then had to pull the trigger when Williams had other offers.
So, while there is nothing wrong with Williams per se, on balance, I don’t think I would have done it because as noted by many, player development is actually more important to this year’s team than wins are. If the Lakers have a “good year” and go 39-43, but Russell does not get the reps he needs, that will be a negative. Like I said awhile back, and like many others have said, this year is about Russell, Randle, and Clarkson, and I am not clear on how Williams’ being here helps them.
But, there are a lot of variables, and I may be proven wrong.
This is their biggest bad, and I don’t know if they could have avoided it.
That is nowhere close to their biggest bad, but sure they could have. All Jim had to do was just make some public statements about the FO “taking the time to do this right” instead of talking about signing two max FAs, and not asked for multiple meetings with Carmelo Anthony and LaMarcus Aldridge, and instead either
a) Met with no top-tier FAs at all
b) Only met with guys in their 20s (D Jordan, Monroe).
One of the recurring themes in FO defense narratives is that the Lakers’ FO is powerless. The FO is always up against the wall, ducking, covering, and weaving, against a variety of shadowy, implacable foes: Howard’s selfishness, Phil’s sneakiness, Kobe’s stubbornness, Pau’s whininess, Byron’s datedness, and Magic’s Tweetiness; as well as the CBA, the ingratitude, ignorance, and impatience of an entitled fanbase; and an unfair media.
In the real world, the two things to remember are:
1. Not all of the current mess is the fault of the FO. The world is a complex place.
2. But the FO has a lot of agency and power—the guys running the Lakers make decisions about who is on the team and what they are paid, who coaches the team, who is drafted, who does analytics for the team, what team officials say to the media and which media people they communicate with, how they recruit FAs, and which FAs they choose to recruit.
Williams: As rr states – Williams is largely here in case KB goes down. Craig is saying the same in that we need something to sell (again – if KB goes down). And I think one of the main reasons that Williams is here is because he and his agent recognize that he is a KB injury away from being “the main guy” which is something he could not have gotten elsewhere. This does not mean that Williams is good for our young guys or good for the long term. We will see (and yes the extra year on the contract is a common theme – as was the case with Nash, and Young – someday we will probably offer the same to Crosby and Stills).
FO and Free Agency: This was not just a PR issue. If we had intended to avoid big name FA, then we could have easily done that, and said that was our intent. That was not our intent. We wanted a big name type signing and we did not get that. So it was not just PR, it was execution (and it was probably for the best that we did not execute).
rr: “The FO is always up against the wall” This is a true statement.
RIP Moses Malone
One other possibility with Williams: maybe they think he can help draw Al Horford, and Horford might make Durant look here. Long shot, sure, but there are always parts of the board that we cannot see.
J C says
Fo Fo Fo
One of the best.
First, Chocolate Thunder and now the
Chairman of the Boards.
Life is a fleeting dream to be cherished but for the blink of an eye.
J C says
Nice post on Williams pros and cons.
Classic CSNY reference.
Moses – another great player gone far too soon.
Nick Young is setting a perfect example for the draft picks
Re Nick Young: Yes, so glad that we have him for three more years.
Robert Fisher says
About Rusell’s development. Last year didn’t Clarkson spend early time in the D-League, and then on the bench and told to watch? Scott didn’t play him until half way through the season.
And Randle got injured in the first game and spent the season rehabbing, but also watching and writing up reports to Mitch.
And you think Russell will simply jump out of the starting gate full throttle to run the starters?