Name: Lou Williams
Years in NBA: 13
Key Stats: Averaged 22.6 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 5.3 assists in 32.8 minutes per game (79 games played, 19 starts). Shot 43.5% from the field, 35.9% from three (6.6 attempts), and 88.0% from the free throw line (6.2 attempts).
2017-2018 Salary: $7,000,000
Future Contract Status: Signed a 3 year, $24 million extension mid-season, with the final season guaranteed for only $1.5 million
Not much more can be said about Lou Williams’ 2017-2018 season than what has been written already. He saved the Clippers’ season almost single-handedly, dragging a team largely devoid of other ball-handlers or shot creators to an over .500 record. He had one of the best seasons ever for an NBA player primarily coming off the bench, perhaps the best. Lou was spectacular. He dazzled the Staples Center crowds on a nightly basis, quickly becoming a fan favorite who received more cheers than anyone else on the team but maybe DeAndre Jordan. There was no lead too large to be safe from a patented Lou Will spurt.
A seeming throw-in to the Chris Paul trade, most Clippers’ fans expected Lou to be the first player traded off the team in the inevitable fire-sale after the Clips began sliding in November. He was good enough to get a nice return, but not an essential part of the Clippers’ present or future. That began to change after a strong December, and completely shifted following an incendiary January where Lou lead the entire NBA in scoring at over 28 points per game. Instead of a trade, the Clippers began to work on extending Lou, and eventually were able to secure a very favorable three-year extension with him. Clippers’ fans were overjoyed, and rightfully so. Sweet Lou is now a key Clipper, and presumably will be until he leaves.
Lou Williams is one of the best and most dynamic scorers in the NBA. And on nights when his outside shot is falling and he’s playing within himself, he’s absolutely an All-Star if not All-NBA level player. Every scouting report in the league knows he wants to go left. Every player who is guarding him knows he wants to go left. And. It. Doesn’t. Matter. Because Lou goes left anyway, and very few players can stop him from doing so. While his three-point shooting fell off over the second half of the season, he has improved from out there, and can hit truly ridiculous threes off the dribble, shots that only a select few (Steph Curry, Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving) can make regularly. That ability to create his own shot any time he wants is invaluable, but what makes him special is his willingness to shift off-ball as well. He doesn’t demand the ball as frequently as might be thought, and despite his reputation as a gunner he is a willing and skillful passer.
In fact, probably the biggest surprise of Lou’s game this season for Clippers’ fans was not his incredible scoring, but his superb playmaking. He is supremely good in the pick and roll, developing better connections with the Clippers’ big men than any other ball-handler on the roster. He was able to feed Jordan and Montrezl Harrell numerous lobs, lobbing the ball up for them while making the pass look like a floater or layup. Lou perfected the art of pocket passes on the roll as well, forming a special connection with Harrell in particular. When running the pick and roll, his combination with the big men was so dangerous that the rest of the defense often fell asleep on their men, and Lou was correspondingly able to find cutters easy layups. He ran the Clippers’ offense more often than not, and it finished as the 7th best in the NBA despite severe injury issues and therefore a lack of shooting, shot-creation, and simple ball-handling.
In addition to his scoring and passing, Lou became a leader in the locker room. He was the head of the Clippers’ deadly bench unit, and it suffered immensely whenever he was moved to the starting lineup. His never say die attitude was taken up by other Clippers’ players, especially the youngsters, and became the driving force behind the Clippers’ season. His capacity to score 10 points in just a couple minutes and change the entire outlook of a game is second to none, and inspired the Clips to a handful of shocking come-from-behind victories. When people think of the 2017-2018 Clippers, they will think of Lou Williams. He should have been an All Star. Sixth Man of the Year is great, but it’s just not enough recognition for what Lou did this season.
Defense is not Lou Williams’ forte. He’s not abominable on that end, but he’s pretty bad, and everyone else has to cover for him to some extent when he’s on the court. On offense, Lou is prone to some awful turnovers at inopportune moments, mostly late in games when he’s tired. Sometimes he gets a little too shot happy as well, miring the offense in isolation basketball. On rare occasions, all these weaknesses can combine for truly putrid performances, but thankfully, there were only one or two of these all season.
The real issue with Lou this season was that his play (specifically his shooting) took a massive dip during the second half of the season. His three-point shooting, which was unbelievable in the early months of the season, declined in January, and then fell straight off a cliff the rest of the season. March in particular was a dark month, as even Lou’s normally reliable free throw shooting suffered. Lou’s patented floaters and running shots were a bit better than his threes, but still nowhere near as effective as they were early in the season. Lou had never seen such a heavy workload before in terms of minutes and offensive load, and he couldn’t sustain it. Fortunately, the Clippers will hopefully never have to put him to such extremes again, and this weakness was more of a one-time thing.
Future with Clippers:
Lou is one of the few Clippers under contract beyond next season. That’s obviously no guarantee that he will be in LA for the full length of his contract—if the Clippers start heading into a rebuild at some point, Lou will definitely be on the trading block once more. But for as long as the Clippers want to win games, Lou should be safe on the roster (barring his inclusion in a deal for a true superstar), as he is one of the team’s best players, and is incredibly cheap for three more seasons. The value he provided this season was far beyond $8 million, and even as he ages he should be worth more than that contract for the next two years at least. Simply, Lou is the best at what he does – scoring off the bench – in the entire NBA. He is an incredibly potent weapon, is beloved in the locker room and by the fans, and just fits in Los Angeles. Hopefully Clippers’ fans will be watching him score 30 off the bench with ease for quite a while longer.