The reason the Lakers aren’t in the cellar in the Western Conference is because of their bench. The Lakers bench leads the NBA in points (51.3). The stars of the bench are veteran guard and former Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams and third year guard Jordan Clarkson. Williams and Clarkson play deep into the 4th quarter and support a young team with three point bombs and for Clarkson, crossovers and drives to the rim. In addition, Williams has a pretty efficient floater he pulls out the repertoire.
For Williams, who suffered through last year’s wretched lows and few highs, this has been a bounce back year, a return to Lou being Lou. Williams greatest moment last year had nothing to do with what he did on the court but what he said off of it. In response to the D’Angelo Russell/Nick Young video crime, it was Lou Williams who said, “it’s okay to be a grownup.” He was speaking to his very immature teammates.
Lou Williams entered the NBA out of high school, a Georgia product who could do things with the ball. He was Mr. Basketball as a high school junior and senior, a five star recruit. He was 6-1, not particularly big for NBA standards but he had quickness, handles and a perimeter efficiency that was equally as lethal. He was drafted by the 76ers in the second round and played in the D-league. His third year in the league, he averaged 11.3 points and 3.2 assists. He signed an extension with the 76ers, went to the playoffs and was runner-up for Sixth Man of the Year. As a free agent, he signed with his hometown team Hawks, but against the Brooklyn Nets in January of 2013, he ripped his ACL. It ended his season. Williams returned nine months later but wasn’t truly whole. When he was traded to the Raptors, he made his comeback, eventually winning Sixth Man of the Year.
So to think a down year under Byron Scott would harm Lou Williams, considering everything he has gone through in his career, is not understanding Lou Williams, the man. He has fought through adversity from the start. A second round draft pick. The D-league. Tearing his ACL and then being given up on and traded. He has had a lot of resurrections. What he is doing this year isn’t one of those resurrections. It’s just Williams feeling legitimized and free under a players coach.
Like every other Laker, Williams is released from the Byron Scott prison and the burden-less Williams is reminding everyone how good he really is. 16.5 points. 47.2% field goal shooting. 40.7% from three. 52.1% on two point shots,. 3.7 assists. 1.6 steals. All career highs.
In the second year of a three year deal, Williams is the most stable player in the Lakers crew of guards. Luke Walton is trusting 30 year old Williams to use his veteran experience to balance the Lakers youth and impulsiveness. That he is playing with Jordan Clarkson has upped his efficiency. Teams have to guard the athletic Clarkson and his drives to the rim. Lou is open. Lou, though, also knows how to get open.
Seven out of eleven games (Utah, Indiana, Atlanta, Golden State, Sacramento, New Orleans, Minnesota) Lou Williams shot 50%+ from the field. Against Utah, he shot 75% from three. Of Lakers players that log 20+ minutes, Williams and center Timofey Mozgov have the third highest offensive rating, 117. (Nick Young has the highest rating at 129, Larry Nance Jr. is second at 128.). Williams has the third best defensive rating at 107, a surprise because Williams has a reputation of being a reluctant defender.
The Lakers are a good but not great 3-point shooting team. Jordan Clarkson, D’Angelo Russell, Nick Young and Lou Williams have efficiency long distance. Williams leads the team with 40.7% from three. He also has the highest PER (25.4) and his assist percentage, 26.6% is just a shade less than starting point guard D’Angelo Russell’s 27.4%.
If you are shooting 62% at the rim, 60.0% 3-9 feet, 47.1% on long twos and 40.7% from three, with a 16 point per game average, your name is going to be tossed out there for Sixth Man of the Year. It has happened to Williams before. It will happen this year. The Lakers lead the league in bench points and that is Williams responsibility. Keep the ball moving when the starters exit. Make shots.
Lou Williams has not changed. He comes in and makes a difference. He keeps the ball moving. He is making shots. Success happens when you play that way.
Welcome back Sweet Lou.
photo via llananba