Lou Williams has always been a good player. He has been more than solid in his bench role and has been a great addition to each of the many teams he has played on. But this year, at the age of 31, he appears to be ready to make the jump from Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams, to All-Star Lou Williams.
All-Star Lou Williams Has Arrived
The L.A. Clippers had one of the worst starts in the NBA this season. After an auspicious four-game winning streak, they quickly lost 11 out of 12 games and fell to the bottom of the Western Conference. As brutal defeat after defeat piled up, there was speculation that it was time to end this era of the Clippers and begin a rebuild. In the last month, however, the team has been resurrected, winning eight out of the last 11 games and clawing their way back into the Western Conference playoff race. This miraculous revival has been due in large part to the emergence of Williams.
Across the box score, Lou is averaging career highs, which is especially striking considering he had 12 productive years in the NBA before now. He is also among league leaders in many categories, including points per game and usage rate. Not only does his All Star résumé include an incredible amount of scoring, but also his ability to make his teammates around him better as well as the remarkable individual moments that make up his fantastic season.
Despite injuries to many crucial players, the Clippers have had no lack of offensive potency this year. They are currently 10th in the league in offensive rating, which is due in large part to Williams’ huge amount of point production. In addition to scoring a career high 22.9 points per game, which is good for 16th in the league, he also has an effective field goal percentage of 54 percent, his highest yet.
This year, Williams has added a new weapon to his scoring arsenal: the 3 point shot. He jumped from his previous high of 37 percent in 2013, all the way up to 41 percent this season. He is also taking one and a half more three point shots this year than any other year, and this jump in both efficiency and attempts is making a huge difference in his point production. So far this season, he has made 113 three point shots, which puts in him in seventh in the league. Williams has made just 3 less three point shots than Stephen Curry, the three point king himself.
It is also worth noting that Williams has been strong from the free throw line this year. He is currently shooting 91% from the line, which is good for eighth in the league, under a high volume of attempts, 236. Only nine players have attempted the same amount or more free throws thus far this season. Combining his three point efficiency with his ability to get to the free throw line, Williams is playing in a manner reminiscent of his ex-teammate and All Star lock, James Harden.
William’s success this year is not just meaningless stats in the box score. He is actively making his team better when he is on the floor. His offensive plus minus is 5.8, which puts him at sixth in the league above star players like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kevin Durant. William’s dynamic scoring, through both long-range shooting and drawing fouls, forces defenders to work hard while guarding him and opens up the floor for his teammates.
In addition, he is helping the Clippers get wins, something they desperately need. The one game he missed this season resulted in a blowout loss to the San Antonio Spurs. Granted, this is a small sample size, so it is more productive to look at win shares. He is 25th in the league in win shares, above All Stars like DeMarcus Cousins and Chris Paul, and sixth in the league in offensive win shares.
Perhaps the most important indicator of William’s importance to Clippers is the words of his teammates. Blake Griffin, per Broderick Turner of LA Times, said “He is a locker room guy. He is a leader for us. When he speaks, everybody listens.” His veteran leadership off the court is certainly benefiting the Clippers during such a trying season.
No All Star pitch is really complete without the highlight-reel plays or monstrous games. It is these moments that make a player stand out from the crowd that give them that extra bit of excitement to boost their votes.
One of his most unforgettable plays this year undoubtably came when the Clippers faced the Washington Wizards on December 9th. With 8.6 seconds left on the clock, the Clippers were down by two. Williams caught the ball of the inbounds pass from Wesley Johnson and ran to the top of the key. He promptly shot over Bradley Beal, knocking down a three to seal the win for his team.
More recently, he led his team to accomplish that ultimate goal of modern NBA teams: beating the Golden State Warriors. In his incredible 50 point performance, Williams made eight three pointers and shot 100% from the free throw line. Only four other players have had 50 point games this season and they are Harden, Beal, DeMar DeRozen, and LeBron James. All of these other players are going to be All Stars this year, so why shouldn’t Williams?
Looking at their injury report, the Clippers should not be in the playoff race right now. They are missing six important players, including All Star Griffin. But seemingly by sheer force of will, Williams is galvanizing his team to victory. With his efficient scoring, leadership on and off the court, and remarkable performances, he has earned himself a spot in the All Star Game.