How Is Lou Williams Working Out?

When Lou Williams was traded from the Lakers to Houston many looked at the deal as Daryl Morey fleecing neophyte Magic Johnson by giving him a late round pick for the Lakers leading scorer. Williams was having a career year with the Lakers, his second year on a dreadful team with Williams being mature, consistent and trustworthy. It was a win for Morey because Williams has one year left on his deal at a very reasonable price ($7 million) so in a worst case scenario, if it all falls apart, Williams can be packaged on his expiring deal. How exactly could the Rockets lose by adding another three point shooter who is crafty with the ball? Sure, Williams doesn’t play a lick of defense but neither does anyone else on the Rockets so he is hardly an outlier.

It has been a month of Williams in Texas. No one expected an exact replica of his Lakers performance. In L.A. Williams was the only reliable threat on a horrible and young team so he shot the ball whenever he wanted. He was the prototypical player with a green light.  However, a good player on a bad team is always accused of padding his stats. Let’s call it the Carmelo Anthony rule.  How good is Lou Williams really when games matter and his performance is put through the microscope?

Let’s dive in. With Houston, Williams is shooting 39% so ouch. But his three ball is holding steady at 36% and he is pouring in 14.5 points a game. His offensive rating is slightly lower than it was with the Lakers but his defensive rating is much improved just because of circumstance. Leaving the worst defensive team will up your numbers big time. Williams has a lower PER than he had with the Lakers, probably because he is shooting 22% on mid range shots (10-16 feet). With the Lakers he drilled 35% of his mid range shots, so inside the three point line and at the elbow has never been a Lou Williams specialty but 22% is miserable.

The Rockets are 9-4 since acquiring Sweet Lou. In three of the four losses, Williams has been particularly weary with his shot. Against the Spurs, Williams missed 9 out of 10 shots. Against the Jazz, he missed 8 out of 10 shots. Against the Pelicans, he missed 8 out of 12 shots. Which brings us to the Lou Williams paradox.

All he does is shoot. He is not a rebounding guard. He is not a ball mover. He doesn’t fight in the paint. Lou scores. So when his scoring is off, exactly what good is he? Versatility is not his game.

Lou has had bad games and the Rockets have won because of their depth. He missed 9 out of 11 shots against the Clippers and the Rockets won by 19. He missed 7 out of 11 shots and the Rockets won by 21 in Chicago.

In his 13 games with the Rockets, Lou Williams has shot 42% or better three times (Pelicans, Pacers, Nuggets). He has shot under 35% six times (Clippers, Spurs,  Jazz, Cavaliers, Pelicans, Nuggets). 5 out of the 6 teams are playoff teams.

None of it matters in the regular season. But in the playoffs, his roller coaster shooting can sink the Rockets in a closely contested game against strong perimeter defenders.

That is the reality. And yet Lou Williams is a gamble that the Rockets had to take. One more scorer is a first world problem Mike D’Antoni can figure out. If the Rockets don’t get to the Western Conference Finals it won’t be because of Lou Williams, regardless of his numbers. It will be the Rockets defense and James Harden and the three ball clanking that will be their demise.

Lou wasn’t brought in to be a savior. At the end of the day, whenever the Rockets playoffs end, he won’t be judged as a fallen savior either.


photo via llananba