“Ask and ye shall receive.” Or, in Lou Williams’ case, “get buckets, get paid.” After a career performance through 51 games, the former Georgia high school standout closed in on a three-year contract extension with the Los Angeles Clippers.
Williams, who has contributed to six teams in his 13 seasons is scoring a career high 23 points per game and keeping the Clippers afloat in the playoff race. After sending Blake Griffin to the Detroit Pistons, the Clippers are 2-1 and two games above .500.
Critics are quick to say the Golden State Warriors are on the fast track to another NBA Finals, even if dropping three of the last four games says otherwise. For Williams however, the success of the rest of the league is a non-issue.
Phoning in a career high 50 points against said Warriors is only the start of William’s magical bucket-fest. Sometimes he scores 30, sometimes he scores 40, but he’s always scoring. This season, Williams has only been held under 10 points twice; in a loss at the New York Knicks and in a home win against the Utah Jazz.
As of this writing, Williams’ scoring is the culmination of 1186 points, a mark good enough for 11th-most in the Association, surpassing names like Steph Curry, Damian Lillard and Paul George.
The secret to his box score wizardry? Confidence baby, confidence.
“I was just playing,” Williams said after scoring 40 points last January. “Playing with confidence. I was able to get off to a good start, make the first few shots, and you know it just goes up from there. I was just playing with confidence.”
His confidence has leaked into other aspects of his game. Not known for his passing, Williams has bumped up his assist numbers to a career-best 5.3 per game, signaling the defenses need to respect his scoring. The last time Williams averaged more than four assists per game was in 2010, running point guard for the Philadelphia 76ers.
Surely reported on the opponents’ scouting reports night after night, how is Williams this successful? His slight, six-foot-one frame is unassuming, especially in a league comprised of players built like freight trains and lighthouses.
By all accounts, defenders should be able to lock up Williams, but his craftiness tends to reign supreme. Confidence aside, much of Williams’ success can be attributed to his shooting stroke.
Water is wet and so are jump shots. In 2018, jumpers, almost more so than posterizing finishes and slippery handles are a hallmark of elite basketball. Curry and Klay Thompson have made a nickname of it, while DeMar Derozan’s new found shooting touch has inspired the entire country of Canada.
Diving into sortable stats, though, and Lou Williams’ numbers aren’t going to jump off the page. Among players shooting over 40% from the field and playing at least 30 minutes per game, Williams is just one of 89.
More important however is his usage rate of 29.5 percent. At 14th in the league, Williams has very clearly become the number one option for the Clippers, caught between their playoff hopes and free agency dreams.
Managing nearly 17 field goal attempts per game while under the direct scrutiny of the opposing defense is a task suited for only the most effective scorers. Considering over half of his 860 field goal attempts have come from at least 16 feet from the hoop, Williams’ fine-tuned shooting stroke defines his scoring prowess.
Williams’ shooting motion, to circle back to that water metaphor, is defined by an energy conserving fluidity that allows him to keep pace to score 30-plus any given night.
Just two of his 50 points at the Oracle Arena, Williams, shooting form is equipped for both scoring off the dribble as well as catch-and-shoot. Off of a DeAndre Jordan screen, Williams doesn’t bite off more than he can chew, adeptly choosing to stop short for a midrange jumper instead of forcing a three or assault on the rim.
While a Dave Hopla shooting textbook would find fault in not squaring his feet to the hoop, as Williams curls off the screen to the right wing he keeps his shoulders focused on the bucket and releases at the apex of his jump. Williams also doesn’t hesitate to shoot over the taller Wayne Selden, who was impeded by another meaty Jordan screen.
Another trademark of Williams’ shooting is his pocket, or lack thereof. Instead of catching the ball near waist level and raising it up towards his head, Williams initiates the catch around his midsection, limiting the amount of time spent before release.
And sometimes, he just gets lucky.
Though an uncertain offseason awaits the Clippers, 31-year-old Lou Williams is giving Clips’ fans something good to talk about. Barring another victim to the injury monster creeping up around the league, Williams’ extended stay in LA can help give a new identity to Lob City.
Thoughts? Let me know @bjtripleot on Twitter.