The Sixers newest starting point guard, Lou Williams, is up today in the Predicting 2010 series. After the jump we'll talk about how extended minutes, a new role and the Princeton offense could/would/should affect Lou's game and his numbers.
Lou's minutes are going to jump, and probably jump significantly. I'm confident in this statement both because everyone associated with the team has said so and I've actually looked at the roster. There's no other viable option for the minutes.
Is more of Lou a good thing? That depends. I've talked about Good Lou and Bad Lou ad nauseum. It's a pretty simple premise, when Lou plays a moderate offensive game, picking and choosing his spots and getting his teammates involved, he can be a dynamic force and help this team quite a bit. When Lou plays with nothing but scoring on his mind, more often than not, he's hurting the team. Now, he's not Willie Green bad when he's shooting too much, he still contributes in other areas, and he's also more than capable of dropping 20 points in a quarter when the team really needs it, but generally in the past, Bad Lou has meant way too much dribble, way too many shots, way too many turnovers and not enough ball movement.
So which Lou am I expecting this season? Well, a little bit of both, most likely, but I'm also expecting a major change in Lou's overall game. Let's get to the stats early and then talk about my reasoning after.
Along with the dramatic increase in minutes, will come a dramatic increase in shots. Too many shots for Lou, in my opinion, but he's going to do more with them. You'll notice the drop in free throw attempts, and there's a reason for that. I think we'll see far less of Lou pounding the air out of the ball at the top of the key, that's just not a staple of the Princeton offense. Williams is extremely proficient at getting to the line, and that's absolutely not a bad thing. Neither is the drop in FTA I'm predicting here, though. It's simply a byproduct of playing the two and three-man games within the PO and fewer drives into the teeth of the defense.
I expect a much more respectable shooting percentage from Lou as well. In 2009 I believe his percentage was killed by forcing the action, taking bad shots with a hand in his face, etc. Pretty much all the bad results that follow along with dribbling too much, not enough ball movement and driving into a crowded lane, simply killed Lou. Again, the PO should cut down on most of that. When he had his feet set in a catch-and-shoot situation, Lou seemed much better to me. Like a competent shooter. If the PO works at all, a much higher percentage of his shots should be of the under-control variety.
Assists are up, but mainly as a direct result of the minutes played. I don't see a huge boost in his assists/36 minutes number because I don't see the role he's playing as a typical PG. It's going to be very similar to his role from last season. Bring the ball up, initiate offense, but very few drive and kick situations. I think the bulk of his assists will come on pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop plays with a big. Another reason for the mediocre assist totals is who he's sharing the backcourt with. Check out this article for a glimpse into Andre Iguodala's role this season. He's talking about spending time at the point. This is an excellent idea, as far as I'm concerned. Iguodala is the team's primary playmaker. He's the best at setting up his teammates, the best at finding open teammates. The PO may not need a traditional point all the time, but someone still has to handle some of the duties a traditional point would. To me, Iguodala seems better equipped for those duties and his presence in the backcourt will only help Lou.
Ask not what your teammates can do for you....actually, yes. Ask that. It's a very, very good question. When we say the word raw in regards to Lou, typically we're talking about his skills. That's not relevant here. Instead, I want to talk about his raw athleticism and his raw speed. The Sixers starting five is going to be a stout defensive unit. They have plus athletes at every position, two shotblockers, probably the best wing defender in the league and excellent rebounding up front. Lou's superior athleticism will be on full display on both ends of the floor. He'll be in the passing lanes creating turnovers and finishing above the rim at the other end.
All told, the PO may not be a perfect offense for Lou, but it is a perfect offense for Lou to break into the starting lineup this year, with this team. I don't think he could've handled running a traditional team as the one and only PG, in the PO, he won't have to. The team success absolutely will not be dependent on big numbers from number 23. The pessimist in me is dying to say all he needs to do is avoid killing the team with bad shots and silly turnovers. I'm in a positive kind of mood this morning, though, so I'll say that Lou can bring a dynamic scoring threat to the starting five and a slight improvement in his jumper could lead to a solid season from our young PG.
Thoughts in the comments, as usual. Full series here.