Now at 28 years of age (December 19th, 1982 - Mississippi), standing 6-1, and 195, Maurice Williams has experienced an interesting, and a somewhat distinguished NBA career of over-achievement. His college career consisted of 2 solid years at Alabama, helping take an SEC regular season championship before entering the famed 2003 NBA draft at 20 years old. The 1st round included the vaunted star players LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, & Dwayne Wade, and other notables Chris Bosh and David West (Chris Kaman at #6 overall, and Brian Cook at #23 also checked in). In the 2nd round, Mo Williams would end up being drafted at #47 overall by the Utah Jazz, but the 2nd round also featured plenty of would be NBA sharp shooters in Steve Blake (38), Matt Bonner (45), James Jones (49), and Kyle Korver (51).
In his rookie year with Utah, he would see an average of a little over 13 minutes of court time, playing in 57 games. However, his underwhelming on court numbers and overall potential must not have impressed the organization because they released him the following year (Wonder if he has any good Jerry Sloan stories?). After his brief stint in Utah, he found a home in Milwaukee, where he'd get time filling in for the oft-injured T.J. Ford, and impressing enough after two years to convince the team to trade Ford away in the summer of 2006, clearing the way for Williams to become a starting point guard in 06-07, where he put up numbers of 17.3 ppg, 6.1 apg, and 4.8 rpg, in 36 minutes, and was rewarded with a 6 year/ 52 million contract in the 2007 offseason, which the Clippers have now taken on.
Over the last couple of years, it's fair to say that Williams has been well acquainted with the highs and lows of NBA reality with his Cleveland Cavaliers enjoying big Eastern Conference success as the team's 2nd best player (or scorer) in 08-09, and 09-10, only to be spurned by LeBron James' "decision" last summer, and left with one of the lowliest NBA rosters in recent history. In the end, Williams and his teammates were unable to give LeBron enough support to reach, let alone win the NBA finals, so LeBron decided to move on while Williams mourned, and then reportedly became more of a vocal leader in Cleveland, even if by default.
Now that Mo Williams has been sent here to L.A., and Baron Davis has headed to Cleveland, the gist of the group think has been we'll get more shooting and less of everything else. Judging by their career numbers, that appears to be more or less on point, but the question is how much of each? Two more servings of shooting, and one less of the rest is an improvement, but if reversed the Clippers could be worse off, assuming the extra money saved on the deal isn't spent, or spent correctly in free agency.
The obvious reasons for optimism with Mo is that he's capable of being the teams best pure shooter and should be the teams best play-maker in one package. By looking at his career shooting history he has better averages than the team's best current shooter, Eric Gordon. This would provide the Clippers with a 2nd plus shooter from range, and more importantly a more potent 3rd option with a significantly higher TSP than Baron Davis. The Clippers lack of perimeter shooting has been a big weakness that was unfortunately not properly addressed in the off season, and Williams shooting also figures to be more advantageous with plenty of defensive attention drawn inside to Blake Griffin and Chris Kaman, a situation Williams knows well, having played alongside LeBron James for two full season's to the tune of over 43% from behind the arc on over 5 attempts per game, an amazing stat that has to have TSP% lovers salivating. Also on the plus side of the ledger, Williams does have more recent playoff experience than Baron Davis, and has also advanced deeper in to the playoffs.
To highlight the level of shooting Williams achieved alongside LeBron, in the 2008-09 season Williams netted shooting averages of above 180 for combined FG%, 3P%, and FT% - an elite level of marksmanship previously discussed on ClipperBlog. In that season he would average 46.7% from the field, taking 14 shots per game, 43.6% from beyond the arc, and 91.2% from the free throw line for a combined score of (181.5). For his career he is (169.6). To put this in appropriate Clipper perspective, during the same 08-09 season, Steve Novak received the most playing time of his career, averaging 16:23 minutes per game in 71 games played, and posted shooting numbers of 44.4, 41.6, & 91.3 for a score of (177.3). The best EJ has done is 169.9 in his rookie year, hovering between the low to mid 160's since. Before getting too excited about these numbers however, you have to consider LeBron was one heck of a ball distributor in his own right, certainly better than the prominent ball handlers who Williams figures to play with as a Clipper in Griffin & Gordon, but I think we'll gladly take something between Williams career numbers and what he put up alongside LeBron.
Now, for what we lose. Filling out the stat sheet (as compared w/ BD's career averages), we'll be likely to have 0.67 less rebounds (per 36), get half the steals and blocks, see about 2 less assists per game with an assist/turnover ratio dip from 2.6 to 2.17. Some intangibles might also be missed in BD's leadership, toughness, size/strength, tutoring, and of course - style points. Overall team defense remains to be seen, as Williams was a starter for a good defensive team in Cleveland, and with a good defensive backcourt counterpart in Gordon, and with a solid and improving front line of Griffin/DJ/Kaman, we are likely a strong SF defender away from being pretty good on that end. Jamario Moon?
Durability is also a concern we should have, and this looks pretty even as Williams has averaged 68.4 games per season in his career, v.s. 68.0 for Baron, excluding this year for both, in which Williams has played in 7 less games.
With all the above considered, Williams is set to join a much more exciting group of players than what he leaves behind, with arguably the league's most popular and celebrated player in Blake Griffin, another top scorer and recent USA basketball gold medal winner in Eric Gordon, and not to mention talented centers DeAndre Jordan and Chris Kaman, who also shares the all-star title with the caveat of being selected as an alternate. It'll be interesting to see what he can do towards helping the Clippers win games and compete for a playoff birth next season if he's to stick around. The ups and downs have to have been dizzying for the guy, but as I recently heard on 710 radio, for once a player has got to be happy to be traded to the Clippers. His sharp shooting inspires some optimism, along with his history of clutch shooting, which is something the Clippers have undoubtedly lacked since the departure of Sam Cassell.