What Lou Williams’ Return Means For the Hawks

Thursday, November 21, 2013
By Robby Kalland

Philadelphia 76ers v Atlanta Hawks

Lou Williams made his season debut against the 76ers last Friday and played well in his first 16 minutes of action with seven points, three rebounds and two assists. Williams’ addition to the Hawks rotation provides Coach Budenholzer with a perimeter scoring threat off the bench, something the Hawks have struggled to get consistently from their other bench guards.

Since becoming a regular rotation player in his third season in the NBA, Williams has averaged 13.4 points per game. Last season, Williams was averaging 14.1 points and 3.6 assists prior to his knee injury.  He offers a consistent scoring option off the bench that the Hawks have lacked in the 10 games he’s been out this season.

Cartier Martin is averaging the most points off the bench among the Hawks reserve guards with 8.5 points, but he has not delivered reliable, consistent scoring. Martin is shooting 36.4% from the field and 36.7% from three-point range and has often been the first two-guard or wing off the bench for the Hawks. Shelvin Mack has been the most consistent scorer for the Hawks, shooting 50% from the field but is averaging 5.7 points per game in 13.5 minutes per game as he’s recently taken over the back-up point guard duties. Dennis Schröder, who began the year as the back-up point guard, has been strong defensively, but has struggled early in his rookie season on the offensive end shooting 33.3% from the field and averaging just 3.4 points per game.

Williams has proven the ability to come in and be an excellent offensive weapon thus far in his career. In Bud’s system, I believe he has the opportunity to really excel, particularly playing off the ball. The pick-and-roll game has been, and will continue to be this season, the biggest part of Lou’s game. Last season, 39.4% of Williams’ official offensive possessions were as pick-and-roll ball-handler (per Synergy Sports). Williams shot just 36.4% and only 28.1% from three on pick-and-roll plays last year. However, it is likely that, like Jeff Teague, Williams’ efficiency on pick-and-roll plays will rise in this system. Teague has been terrific early on this season, and he, like Lou, shot 36.4% on pick-and-roll plays last season and this year is up to 41.5% despite having a lower overall shooting percentage.

What is most exciting are the opportunities Williams will get off the ball. Last season, Williams shot 48.1% on spot-up attempts and an incredible 50.8% on spot-up three-pointers (31-of-61) to rank fifth in the NBA with 1.34 PPP on spot-ups. Coming off of off-ball screens, Williams ranked ninth in the NBA with 1.14 PPP and shot 42.1% (33.3% from three). Spot-ups accounted for 15.7% of Williams’ offensive possessions last year and off-screens were 7.4% of his possessions. In Bud’s system, these types of catch-and-shoot attempts could become a larger part of Williams’ production, which would lead him to being an even more efficient scorer.

The Hawks will run a lot of flare screens and pin-downs for their two-guards this season, which will create those catch-and-shoot opportunities for Williams along with spot-up attempts on kick-outs from the point guards running pick-and-roll or post-ups.

Williams is more than just a scorer off the bench, and Bud has spoken about how his active hands and awareness on defense are excellent and will help him thrive on that end of the floor. Coach Bud has also discussed Lou’s willingness to be physical and get on the boards, which he showed in his first outing with three rebounds, and showed off his passing skills in his second game by dishing out five assists. Williams will bring a well-rounded game to the Hawks, but it is his ability to be a consistent scorer off the bench that the Hawks have been lacking.

[Statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and Synergy Sports]

Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty Images

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