Paulao Prestis, Nick Calathes, Goran Dragic, Jared Jordan, Alexander Johnson, Bernard Robinson, Matt Bonner, Sam Clancy, Sean Lampley, and Jabari Smith. What do these 10 names have in common? They are players who were picked 45th, 5 years before and 5 years after the 2005 draft.
In the 2005 draft, the Philadelphia 76ers selected Louis Williams from South Gwinnet High School in Snellville Georgia. I don't follow a lot of high school basketball recruiting so usually only know the big names, but Williams was a McDonald's All-American and this historical practice recap has some recognizable (to NBA fans) names on it aside from Williams.
I didn't know what to make of Louis Williams when the Sixers drafted him. Why was this high school kid coming out when he was a projected second round pick. He was short, he was skinny, but just two years earlier in 2003 the Sixers had acquired Willie Green (41st) and Kyle Korver (51st) in the draft, so maybe (I thought to myself) the Sixers folks know what they're doing.
I have never been a huge Louis Williams fan. I have always thought he was, at best, a bench guy who could score, but doesn't do much else. Others have had a greater appreciation of Williams' game, and some overly enthusiastic blog readers seem to think he could be an MVP if given the chance.
In this two part series, I'll lay out my case for how best to best use (and not use) Louis Williams to maximize his contribution to the Sixers while minimizing his detriment. In part one, I'll lay out my reasons for calling Louis Williams "Allen Iverson Light." In the second part, building on the first, I'll lay out more information as to how specifically to use Louis Williams (and how no to) during games.
The first thing I did in writing this article was to take a look at the numbers to see if my perception of Louis Williams as Allen Iverson Light would bear out after looking at the facts. Using the basketball-reference.com player comparison tool, I compared Louis Williams (in his sixth season) to the first six seasons of Allen Iverson.
Looking at gross stats between the two players in their first six seasons would be foolish. Iverson entered the league as a 40+ MPG player and Louis Williams, to this point, has only started 38 games, so I started with a look at the per 36 stats and then moved on to the more advanced metrics which allow for a more apples to apples comparison.
Anyway you look at it, through six seasons, Louis Williams is a better shooter than Allen Iverson. FG%, FT%, 3PT%, TS%, eFG%, whichever shooting stat you want to use, Louis Williams has a better number than Allen Iverson, some only by tenths of a percentage (FG%), some by multiple percentage points (FT%, TS%). Iverson was a volume shooter, everyone knew that, and it was Iverson's team when he was here, so it's no surprise that per 36 minutes, Iverson took over 40% more shots than Williams, but I think one could argue that given the same amount of shots, Louis Williams would probably score as much (if not more) in overall points than Iverson did.
Of course, there's more to basketball than just the points you score, so these factors have to be looked at as well. Per 36, Iverson had more free throws so one could infer (techs, illegal defenses aside) that Allen Iverson drew more fouls on players, which is important (to me) for a scoring guard; getting to the line and getting the other team in foul trouble. Rebounds and assists per 36 are basically the same, but Iverson had more steals than Williams, but Iverson also turned the ball over more. Iverson's A:TO ratio through six seasons was 1.6, Williams is at 2.0 (but later I'll still make a case that Williams should never be used as a point guard.)
Moving on to the new statistics, let's start with everyone's favorite (kidding) single number comprehensive stat, PER (Player Efficiency Rating), Iverson 21.0, Williams 16.7. For reference, a PER of 15 is considered average by its creator John Hollinger. We've already examined the shooting percentage issues where Williams exceeds Iverson. The rebounding numbers indicate Iverson better on the offensive glass and Williams better on the defensive glass (and to me, defensive rebounding is more important than offensive rebounding, but that's a preference), but they are, again, both pretty close. Unsurprisiingly, Iverson's usage rate (32.6%) is much higher than Lou's (24.1%). What this leads to is that even though they had the same amount of assists per 36 and Lou had less turnovers per 36, Iverson has an assist rate 20% higher than Williams and Williams turnover rate was 8.5% higher than Iverson's. In lay terms, Louis Williams turns over the ball much more frequently than Allen Iverson and creates for his teammates much less frequently than Allen Iverson.
Defensively is where Louis Williams tends to fall behind. Iverson had a reputation as a gambler on defense, his steal rate was 3% through six seasons, Lou's is at 2.2%. Some felt this was actually a flaw in Iverson's defense because it made him too much of a gambler. Williams seems slightly better on the defensive glass than Iverson but when you look at two 'comprehensive' numbers, Williams falls behind. Offensive rating, Iverson at 104, and Williams at 110. Using the total 'win shares' listed I calculated a per 48 minute defensive win shares for both Iverson (.0548) and Williams (.038) and Iverson's number was 44.2% higher. Comparatively, the offensive win shares contribution to the over all win share contribution had a spread of 19.8% (Iverson .0776, Williams .06476).
Conclusion - Louis Williams is Iverson Light
So, after taking a look at these numbers, I become much more comfortable with my Iverson Light appellation for Louis Williams. It seems to me that anyway you look at it, through six seasons, Louis Williams is a better shooter (and perhaps a better scorer as well?) than Allen Iverson. Give him the minutes (and the same rep as when Iverson entered the league), it's likely that Louis Williams would have averaged more points per game than Iverson. However, Iverson seems to hold the edge over Williams in most other categories through their first six seasons: Iverson held onto the ball better, created for his teammates more, and contributed more on the defensive end than Williams has so far through 13 games into his sixth season.
As always, interested to hear what people have to say about the opinion expressed within this article and my methodology as I'm still learning. In part 2 of my Louis Williams examination, we'll look at some rotational data to indicate that not only is Louis Williams not a point guard, but he really has to play with a true point guard to contribute positively.
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