Have you noticed a trend in tight games this season for the Los Angeles Clippers? Have you noticed that even when he is having an off night, Lou Williams has the ball in his hands almost every possession. How, despite not being the leading scorer on the team, the late game offense is entirely run through his hands? This is because time after time, Williams has failed to disappoint in these situations.
Whether this is the wild, floating game winner against the Milwaukee Bucks despite shooting only 4-for-14 before, or scoring the Clippers final ten points of the game, all in overtime, against the defending NBA Champions in the Golden State Warriors despite only going 5-for-18 the whole game, this man has proven that having the ball in his hands late is usually the right call.
This does come with trepidations, however. The Clippers have fallen into a little bit of a bad habit late in games playing too much iso ball: Danilo Gallinari on the high post trying to make something happen, Tobias Harris forcing a drive too deep and turning the ball over, or Williams forcing shots over taller switches. This does stagnate the offense a bit and leads to some teams getting back into game. The Warriors game should never have gone into overtime, the Thunder never should have mounted a huge comeback, and the Rockets should never have been within three points back in October. However, when you need a play made, no matter the situation, who does Doc Rivers and company turn to? Sweet Lou.
Originally a kick-in for the Chris Paul trade, like his fellow bench star Montrezl Harrell, Lou has truly cemented a place for himself within this current team, and in all-time Clipper lore. After having by far the best season of his career last season (and being an All-Star snub), averaging 22.6 points, 5.3 assists and 2.5 rebounds a game on 43.5 percent shooting, not a lot of people thought that Lou could replicate this type of success. Of course, we knew that Lou would get buckets and still be a valuable member of this team. But with the budding stardom of Harris, a healthy Gallo, rookies Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jerome Robinson coming in, re-signing Tyrone Wallace and retaining Milos Teodosic, was there enough ball to go around? To be completely honest, I thought that Lou’s points per game were for sure going to take a pretty mean dip to about the 14 PPG range, but boy was I wrong.
Can you blame me though? Look, the man is 32, and his name is constantly swirling in trade talks with his team friendly contract and ability to score from Pluto. With the Clippers presently in “win now AND prepare for the future” mode, Lou is not safe from a potential trade, especially with stars Jimmy Butler and Kawhi Leonard expressing interest in coming to the City of Angels. However, Lou has once again proven everyone wrong by scoring at a feverish pace and being perhaps the most important guard on the roster.
Currently, Lou is averaging 19.1 points, 4.2 assists and 2.3 rebounds a game on 41 percent shooting. He is second on the team in scoring, tied for first in assists, second in offensive rating (110.9), first in net rating (7.3), first in usage rate and last but not least, first on the team in assist percentage (24.6). So far, Lou is doing everything right: he has been the focal point of a team with a huge chip on their shoulders, and is the leader of the best bench in the NBA.
Lou embodies what it means to be a Clipper in 2018. L.A. is Lou’s sixth team and fourth in five seasons. He has been traded a few times, and underpaid and underutilized in the past. But now that he has an opportunity to shine, he’s taking full advantage. The Clips are a rag-tag team that is without a true “big star.” However, this is a team that will be in every game, fight and claw for every possession and surprise people. With only three (!) nationally televised games this season, they will no doubt fly under-the-radar (as they did last season) and be an afterthought for some. With reports coming in that the Clips are becoming a potential free-agent destination, the time to shine could be coming soon. Just like how Lou got a second chance to be a star, his franchise could do the same.