Lou Williams Is Putting Up All-Star Numbers
Before this season, the average NBA fan might have considered Lou Williams' most notable life accomplishments his two girlfriends and his name-drops in rap music -- or his forays into rap music himself. We won't forget those things any time soon, but the Legend of Lou is quietly (OK, maybe not so quietly) putting together a season that could land him in the NBA All-Star Game.
A second-round pick out of high school in 2006, Williams carved out a decade-plus of NBA success as, essentially, a hired gun. At every stop of his nomadic NBA career -- Philly, Atlanta, Toronto, Los Angeles, Houston -- he's played the same role. Check in, get buckets until the starters are ready to re-enter the game, rinse, repeat. And he played it well, averaging double-digit points every season since 2007-08, despite limited minutes. He even won the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year Award as a member of the Toronto Raptors in 2014-15. Still, that's all he was: a complementary piece for a team in need of scoring punch off the bench.
Until this season.
The Rockets flipped LouWill to the Clips as part of this summer's mega-deal for Chris Paul, and after an injury to Patrick Beverley forced Williams into action, he's been a revelation. In his 13th season, at age 31, Williams is playing like an NBA All-Star. Through 43 games (13 starts), he's leading the Los Angeles Clippers with a career-high 23.2 points per game, dishing out a career-high 5.0 assists and shooting 41.2% from three-point range (a career-best) on 7.2 three-point attempts per game (most in his career).
Williams is one of only two players in the NBA averaging 20 points and 5 assists while shooting 41 percent from three-point range. The other is two-time MVP Stephen Curry. And before Wednesday night's Clippers win over the Nuggets, Williams was averaging 31.2 points per game since December 22nd, with an NBA-high 405 total points over that stretch.
Here are Williams' ranks in a few other notable (offensive) statistical categories so far this season.
|Category||2017-18 NBA Rank|
|Offensive Box Plus/Minus||6th|
|3-Pt Field Goals||6th|
|Free Throws Made||7th|
|Free Throw Pct||8th|
|Free Throw Attempts||9th|
|Offensive Win Shares||9th|
If you're thinking that an uptick in production would be pretty obvious with an uptick in usage given Williams' increased role, that's fair. But he's also been among the best guards in the league this season in terms of efficiency. nERD is a proprietary numberFire metric that, similar to Win Shares, measures his total contribution throughout the course of a season, based on his efficiency (league average is 0). A player's nERD gives an estimate of how many games above or below .500 a league-average team would win with that player as one of their starters.
You can see the full list of player nERD rankings here, but check out how LouWill stacks up as compared to some notable guards with All-Star aspirations.
Meanwhile his team is on fire: Los Angeles has won six straight games and 12 of its last 15. Despite being devastated by injuries this season and starting out 11-18, L.A. is now 23-21 and firmly in the mix for a playoff spot in the Western Conference. Over the last month, the Clippers have seen their playoff odds jump the most in the entire NBA, up 36 percent (to 82.9%) since December according to our algorithm.
The Clippers' 7.2 net rating as a team is fourth-best in the NBA since December 20th (behind only the Minnesota Timberwolves, Golden State Warriors and Oklahoma City Thunder) and they are 11-4 when Williams scores more than 25 points in a game. Blake Griffin, who has missed 16 games this season has called Williams "unbelievable" and "better than advertised."
Lou Williams goes for a career-high 50 points, including 27 in the 3rd quarter, in the Clippers win over the Warriors pic.twitter.com/NoCh28CGhj
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 11, 2018
Williams dropped a career-best 50 points in a win over the Warriors last week, prompting reports that the Clippers had engaged with his agent in contract extension talks, though nothing is imminent. His chances at locking up an All-Star bid are admittedly slim, given the bevy of stars in the Western Conference who are mortal locks to make it based on brand name alone. But All-Star nod or not, if LouWill keeps this kind of ridiculous production up and leads the Clippers to the postseason, the unrestricted free agent-to-be could be looking at a serious payday this summer.