Why Lou Williams Was the Right Choice for NBA Sixth Man of the Year
The Toronto Raptors organization can finally boast about their first player award since Vince Carter's 1999 Rookie of the Year. The NBA announced this afternoon that Raptors guard Louis Williams has won the Sixth Man of the Year award in his first season north of the border.
Williams eventually pulled out the victory over Isaiah Thomas and Jamal Crawford with a comfortable margin. Williams received 78 of a possible 130 first place votes, edging out Thomas, who finished in second place with only 33 first place votes. Crawford actually finished with eight first place votes despite missing 18 games with a strained calf.
Williams was traded to the Raptors last summer for forward John Salmons in an attempt to cut salary by the Hawks. Williams struggled last season with his hometown Hawks, averaging only 10.4 points per game on 40.0 percent shooting from the field in 60 contests. Part of those struggles were due to Williams still recovering from a 2013 ACL injury, but the resilient combo-guard would not let that be the last that the “Association” heard from him.
Williams responded with the best season of his 10-year career, averaging 15.5 points per game in 80 games off of the bench for the Raptors. Williams' impact on the Raptors offensively has been a major factor for the team's overall success as Atlantic Division champions and a 49-33 record. He finished second on the team in Offensive Win Shares with 5.4, ahead of All-Star starter Kyle Lowry (5.1). Lou Will had the third highest usage rate on the Raptors (27 percent) and the second highest Player Efficiency Rating (19.9).
According to Synergy Sports Technology, Lou Williams led the NBA in pick and roll scoring efficiency this season with 1.032 points per possession and was second in the entire NBA on points off of pull up jumpers per 40 minutes with 7.9. This is further evidence backing up the eye-test that tells us that Williams is one of the best players in the NBA at creating his own offense.
Simply put, Lou Williams has been one of the Raptors' most impactful offensive players, and his contributions have directly impacted team success. Williams was especially key in keeping the Raptors afloat during a 17-game stretch that DeMar DeRozan missed earlier in the season due to a strained tendon in his leg. The Raptors went 11-6 during that stretch in which Williams raised his points per game average to 18.3.
Against the Competition
Williams's numbers are very similar to the second-place finisher Isaiah Thomas's when it comes to points per game and PER, but there is a good amount of separation when it comes to our nERD metric, which quantifies how many wins above or below .500 a player would add to a league-average team based on an 82-game season.
Williams posted a nERD of 5.1, which was half a point higher than Thomas's 4.6. Thomas has had an astounding season, but he spent more than half the season trying to fit in on the Phoenix Suns roster (46 games). While with Phoenix, he averaged only 15.2 points per game before finishing up the last 21 games in Boston, with whom he averaged 19.0 points per game.
Williams contributed more wins this season than Isaiah Thomas, according to Win Shares. Williams added 6.6 Win Shares this season, compared to 6.1 for Thomas. If Thomas spent the entire season on the Celtics, than he could have made a more compelling case, by having an impact on a potential playoff team.
Luckily for Williams, the Sixth Man of the Year is a season long award that recognizes the best non-starter in the NBA, and his overall impact from November through April is the reason why he is the most deserving of this award.
Stacking Up Historically
Not only does Williams have the best case for the award this year, but also his numbers compare very favorably to the Sixth Man of the Year winners of the past 10 years.
In the last 10 years, only two players put forth higher PER outputs: James Harden in 2012 (21.1) and Manu Ginobili in 2008 (24.3). His nERD was higher than either of the previous two winners, though not quite on par as some other names on the list. Either way, Williams is, by the numbers, the best Sixth Man of the Year since Harden.
Lou Will can finally rest easy now that he has received the proper accolade that coincides with the melodic Drake track "6 Man" in which the Canadian born rapper boasts of Williams' scoring prowess for his hometown Raptors.
Drake is an official ambassador of the Raptors, so his message may be a little biased, but apparently the voters of the award agree with him.
And, according to the numbers, they got it right.