Lou Williams has played exceptional basketball over the last few weeks, and he’s helped pull the Los Angeles Clippers out of their wallow in misery.
Just a few months ago, we were talking about the Los Angeles Clippers potentially shattering all expectations on the shoulders of Blake Griffin, who was positioning himself to make a run for the MVP. Things have come crashing down since. After beating the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday, the Clippers improved to 17-19 overall. The inflated loss total is the product of three separate losing streaks totaling nine, four and three games with three other loses sprinkled in-between. Los Angeles, however, is turning things around rapidly, and Lou Williams has been the key guy.
The team is 6-1 over their last seven games. Their offense is producing 115.7 points a night over that stretch, tying them for first with the Houston Rockets. Overall, 49.7 percent of their shots are falling, and Williams is turning the most heads.
This season, his 13th, is the best basketball Williams has ever played. His 21.7 points per game are a career-high, and he’s doing so with a true shooting percentage of 60.5.
The Clippers acquired the 31-year-old in the Chris Paul trade, and he’s been a crucial piece. Without Paul, someone would have to step up and be a secondary playmaker. Williams has filled that role. He may not be a high volume passer (4.8 assists a night), but his explosive scoring capabilities will more than suffice for Doc Rivers, who now has Milos Teodosic, his full-time point guard, back from injury.
Williams has blitzed defenses from all angles over the Clippers’ most recent stretch. His scoring average of 29.0 a game leads the team and accounts for about 25 percent of their total offense. The fascinating part is that Williams is shooting nothing like he used to. Low efficiency has been present throughout his career, but, typically, aggressive players with unwavering confidence get a pass because they’re going to shoot their shot no matter what. Lou Williams falls into that group. Before starting this campaign, his career shooting clip was 41.7 percent, and his three-ball was 34.5 percent.
The percentages are just as eye-popping during the streak, but it’s positive instead of negative. Overall, Lou Will is knocking in 46.7 percent of his attempts. From three, it’s 45.0 percent. On top of that, he’s worked his way to the foul line 69 times (nice) and buried 62 of them. Los Angeles is feeding the hot hand. They can’t be picky about who gives them their offense. Fortunately, Williams’ ability to score isn’t limited to him having to create the attempt. If the team wants him to work away from the ball, he can. And that’s the aspect of his game that’s going to get teams calling.
The former Sixth Man of the Year is an expiring contract, a hot commodity in trade talks. Los Angeles is looking to get younger and build around Griffin. It’s entirely plausible they strike while the iron is hot and deal Williams for a pack of prospects or draft picks. With how the game has shifted over the last couple of years, front offices will pay a higher price for guys who fill a particular niche; the Houston Rockets traded a first-rounder to the Los Angeles Lakers when they picked up Williams.
Any team that’s making a playoff push without a ton of depth would benefit from Williams’ services. He’s one of the few players in the NBA who can put up 20 points in the blink of an eye. As we’ve seen with him and Griffin, Williams is just as capable of pairing himself with a star as he is leading the second unit. There are, however, some shortcomings in his game.
I touched on it a bit earlier, but Williams isn’t going to wow anyone with his passing or basketball IQ, and his shot selection is somewhat questionable when nothing is falling. That’s not the case now, but things will sour if Williams gets into a slump. Human beings are fickle — remember that. He’s also a tremendous defensive liability. Basketball Reference estimates that the Clippers allow 111.3 points per 100 possessions with Williams on the court, compared to 105.2 when he sits. However, his scoring offsets that. Should he go to a team that’s already an above-average defense, there won’t be too many issues.
If the Los Angeles Clippers have no interest in re-signing Lou Williams, it makes sense for them to dangle him on the trading block. They could sneak into the playoffs, but there’s no shot at them making a team run. Keeping Lou Williams doesn’t influence their chances much, so it’d be silly to pass up a deal that’s loaded with long-term value.
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