I’m having a little fun with the title – this column is not going to discuss the potential of Lou’s budding rap career.
Lou’s season so far has been a little, well, odd. The raw numbers look pretty decent: 13.7 points per game in less than 24 minutes, with greater than a 2:1 assist to turnover ratio. Since Lou’s been our backup point guard all year, and his best asset is his scoring ability, those totals reflect positively on his impact. After all, scoring that much in that little time shows that Lou’s been efficient.
Well, actually, it doesn’t.
While Lou’s points per minute stat is highly impressive, his shooting percentages show that Lou has been inefficient from the floor this season. Lou is shooting 40.7% from the floor this year (up from 39% under two weeks ago) and 34.7% from behind the 3-point line in about 3.5 attempts per game. Those both fall below the NBA average, the FG% especially so.
So Lou’s been very inefficient this year then? Well, we might want to think this idea over a bit.
See, I’m not sure how to answer the last question. Lou shoots poorly from the floor, but has a PER (that is, a Player Efficiency Rating) of 18.5, which is second best on the Sixers (behind only Elton Brand), and well above NBA-average. Also, Lou shoots and makes a lot of free throws, making around 4 of 4.8 attempts per game, more attempts and makes than any teammate. This makes his TS% (for a primer on this stat click here) around mid-pack in the NBA, which would indicate that while his overall field-goal numbers are inefficient, his free throw proficiency makes him an average offensive option.
Earlier this year, eight games into the season (with a 2-6 record) I wrote of Williams in my first SNS column:
- “Collins hoped to maximize his value offensively and hide his deficiencies on the defensive end of the floor. So far, it’s working. Lou’s currently averaging 17.9 points/game, a career-high if he can maintain it. His percentages aren’t great but also aren’t terrible (43.8% FG/ 38.5% 3FG) and he’s shooting 87.5% from the line, which is great especially since he’s shot 54 free throws in 7 games, averaging almost 8 per game. He’s putting up these numbers in only 25-26 minutes per game, which is remarkable. That also means that his usage rate is very high, that he’s the number one option offensively when on the court. Considering that he’s the only pure scorer on the team, that’s a good sign and a smart move by the coaching staff. The scoring and free throw totals I’d expect to come down, since 18 points in 26 minutes is a little extreme, but hopefully the rates of production are legit.”
I’ve been keeping an eye on Williams’ efficiency all year, if only because I thought, given our roster, he was probably the best scoring option on the team. Last year, he shot 47% from the floor and was probably the most impressive member of the Sixers roster offensively last year. His defense was another story, as he was probably one of the worst defenders in the NBA last season. While he has defended much better this year (for example, I’ve never seen him try as hard to defend as he tried in the San Antonio game), his offense has actually taken a step back.
Essentially, in the 54 games this year, Lou has lost production compared to last year. The main cause is easy to find – taking too many jumpers, especially long 2’s and threes. Lou drives the lane much less often these days – he’s content to shoot perimeter jumpers, while his pump-fake* allows his to get the line often despite this. His late-game offense, meanwhile, only exists if others create it for him. Anything he tries to create himself usually ends with a brick.
*Regarding the pump-fake, I honestly don’t know how Lou does it. His pump-fake looks horrible, and he constantly uses it to the point where I’d pretty much expect it coming, but game after game he gets defenders to jump at him, allowing him to pick up cheap fouls. I’d guess they believe his shot should be easy to block given his height, but he’s usually covered by defenders almost as small as him. It’s a mystery to me.
In order for Lou to be productive, he has to take higher percentage shots. While he’s been moderately effective at scoring, he could be much more efficient and truly become a late-game scoring option, not just the best choice in a selection of sub-par scorers. Lou Williams could be a boss – he’s just not quite there yet.