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A Dangerous Premise


After reading the intro to Bernard Fernandez's piece on Philly.com this morning, I had to take a very deep breath.

Here it is, verbatim (under the headline, "Williams knows right combination to help Sixers.")

There are times - admittedly, not as many as 76ers fans would like - when Lou Williams looks a little like Allen Iverson, and not just because, at 6-1 and 175 pounds, he has the same scrawny, bag-of-bones physique.

OK, this is a problem for me. The absolute last thing we want Lou Williams to aspire to be is Allen Iverson. It's questionable whether the original ever helped his team win (I believe he did, but there are credible arguments that say he was always bad for team success). If Lou sets his mind on playing like Iverson, this team's second unit is going to continue to blow leads, he's going to continue to shoot in the 30's from the floor and he's never going to develop.

Luckily, I read the rest of the article and calmed down. The lead had me worried, but Fernandez reeled it back in as he went. Basically, the story is about Lou's evolving (if you're generous) or undefined (if you're critical) role for this team off the bench. Is he a 1? Is he a 2? Is he both? Is he neither? All valid questions. The scary thing is that we don't have even the inkling of an answer 68 games into the season.

Let's deal with the facts. When Lou is in the game, he plays the point more often than not. Even when Andre Miller is on the floor, the bulk of the time, Lou is bringing the ball up, he's intitiating the offense from the top of the key, and mostly, he's dribbling on the perimeter way too much. He dominates the ball, he kills ball movement and he dribbles himself into more jams than he's capable of getting out of. We've talked ad nauseum about his penchant for jumping in the air then trying to find someone to pass to.

This road trip aside, his time at the point has been an abject disaster this season. You cannot have a guy running the point for 23 minutes/game who owns a 1.59 assist/turnover ratio. You cannot have a guy with a .430 eFG using up 28% of the team's possessions for 23 minutes/game. Actually, in this respect Lou is doing a fine Iverson impersonation. Take a look at Iverson's advanced stats from 2003-2004 (when the Sixers finished 33-49).

As far as I'm concerned, the problem isn't strictly with Lou. Someone is allowing him to dominate the ball like this. Someone isn't punishing him for poor play. Someone is enabling him by making comments like, "Don't forget, he also gets to the foul line a lot." The problem with that statement is that it's implying that he does something else well on the basketball court. This season, he simply hasn't. It's easy to blame Tony DiLeo, but this problem started before he took over. All the strides Lou made last season disappeared right around the time he signed his contract and was told he was "a scorer" for this team.

Whether the problem is Lou himself, or the role he's asked to play, or the team's complete lack of offensive cohesion as soon as one or both Andres leave the floor, I'm not sure. At some point, however, someone's going to have to sit down and ask himself whether having a guy with the third-lowest eFG on the team (Only Ivey and Evans are lower than Lou **corrected from comments**) shoulder such a disproportionate load of the shooting makes any kind of sense.

So what role should Lou play? I have no idea. I do know that if he's going to be a point, he can't do it with the mentality of a volume shooter. It hurts everyone on the floor. And if he's going to be a shooting guard, he can't dominate the ball like he does right now. He needs to be running his man off screens, knocking down the occasional jumper and making much better decisions not only on his passes, but on his drives as well.

Yes, Lou is only 22 years-old, and while some people will use that as an excuse to say he'll grow into something more, I say if you don't teach him now, he's never going to learn. The biggest issue I have with Lou's performance is that he doesn't seem to see it as a problem, and neither does anyone in the organization, at least publicly.