When you think of Lou Willams, you think of a pure scorer who can erupt at a moment’s notice. Williams has always had a variety of tricks in his scoring arsenal, notably his near-unguardable jumper fading to the left and his affinity for drawing fouls.
Even though he is the third-leading scorer for the Clippers this season, Williams’ playmaking in recent weeks has been equally impressive for LA. Since returning from a four-game injury absence in December, Williams has assisted on 32.7 percent of the team’s baskets when he has been on the floor, a noticeable jump from his assist percentage of 28.0 prior to that. This is already the highest assist rate of Williams’ career, and he’s only getting better.
Williams has been much more efficient as a passer in this recent stretch, and that extends to taking care of the ball. His assist to turnover ratio was 1.92 before December 20; it has improved to 2.34 in the last 12 games.
Williams’s favorite target is Montrezl Harrell, and the two have had a strong connection on offense throughout the year. Over a quarter of the passes Lou makes go to Trez, and of Williams’ 182 assists this season, per NBA.com, 78 have gone to Harrell. Williams credits the familiarity in their second season as teammates to the work they’ve done together in the offseason.
“We do all our work in the summer. Trez spends a lot of time with me in Atlanta down in the summer, we work out together, we play Pro Am basketball together,” Williams said back in November. “We have a lot of chemistry, we put the time in, so I think it’s natural.”
Doc Rivers had a similar sentiment about his two best bench players. He said, “I think [Trez] and Lou have this little thing going. Lou can find him anywhere, it seems, when he’s going down the paint. It’s a great combination.”
Lou and Trez have continued to run a fantastic two-man game, and that pairing still accounts for about 43 percent of Williams’ assists. As the volume of Lou’s playmaking has increased, his backup backcourt mate Patrick Beverley has been another beneficiary. Beverley has hit two-thirds of his shots that come from Lou’s passes in the last 12 games; the Williams-Beverley partnership has had a substantial impact on helping Beverley regain his shooting form.
Williams has been particularly good at finding shooters behind the arc in recent weeks. For the season, Clippers are shooting about 40 percent from three-point range off of passes from Lou, and that has spiked to 51 percent since his return. Generally, the formula is pretty simple: Williams drives into the paint, generates a little extra attention, and hits one of his teammates in their shooting pocket.
I asked Tobias Harris this week if he knew that Lou had this level of playmaking before they were Clippers. He said, “Not really, not before I was his teammate. But as soon as I got here, I saw the way he kind of picks up on defenses just by coming off screen and rolls, and creating plays.... He does a really good job of setting himself up through his own offense.”
Ultimately, Williams’ ability to create for others is just another skill that makes him more difficult to contain as a scorer. Although he drew a lot of love for his clutch shots earlier in the year, Williams was only shooting 40 percent from the field, and 34 percent on 3-pointers, before he got hurt against Phoenix Dec. 10. Since then, he is canning half of his threes and shooting 48.5 percent overall. Generating offense for the team has been good for Williams individually as well.
The Clippers like to have Williams play the point down the stretch in fourth quarters, and he becomes a much tougher cover if opponents have to respect his passing ability. Lou’s capacity to affect the game in multiple ways has been a real boon for LA, and a cool example of how players continue to grow and evolve throughout their careers.