Years in the NBA: 14
Position: Combo guard
Weight: 175 lbs.
Key Stats: Scored 20-plus points per game for the second time in his career and second year in a row, averaging 20.0 ppg, while also averaging a career-high tying 3.0 rpg, a career-high 5.4 apg and 0.8 spg in 26.6 minutes. During his second season with the Clippers, Williams appeared in 75 games (1 start) en route to his second consecutive Sixth Man of the Year trophy and third of his career. His shooting splits were: 42.5/36.1/87.6.
Contract Status: Signed 3-year, $24 million extension with Clippers in February 2018. Final year is guaranteed $1.5 million.
A model of consistency, Williams put up nearly identical numbers in 2018-19 as compared to his previous season in LA. His shooting splits, for example, were within a single percentage point or less in all three areas. Of course, it led to a second consecutive Sixth Man of the Year trophy — and he did it in nearly 6 fewer minutes per game.
Williams is going to be exactly who we think he will be: a “professional” scorer, playmaker off the pick-and-roll, and a no-nonsense leader. He embodies the Clippers mentality because he is now one of the longest tenured players on the roster and because he is a quiet, cool leader that ups his intensity at just the proper moment.
His makeup reminds me a lot of Caron Butler. During his first year with the Clippers, then head coach Vinny Del Negro had a few reporters around him just talking casually and he asked “Who do you think the guy on this team is that everyone is afraid of?” Remember, this was a team with intimidating physical presences like Reggie Evans and Kenyon Martin; intimidating vocal presences like Chris Paul; and others who would spout off at random intervals like Mo Williams and DeAndre Jordan. Reporters guessed, stating the obvious candidates, but they all overlooked Butler. Del Negro laughed and said that everyone was wrong. The guy everyone, according to Del Negro, both unanimously respected and feared, was Butler.
Lou Williams carries himself in a similar, but even greater way, whether it’s his fourth quarter iciness or the empowering way he talks about his teammates in off-the-court interviews or the way he has sort of galvanized them with his actions.
On the court, Williams will serve as a closer while still starting the game among the reserves. Despite the upgrades of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard to the starting unit, there is no reason to believe that Williams won’t be counted upon in the final minutes of a game alongside them. We all saw the picture of the presumed closing five at media day, and while it’s going to be awesome, Williams is still focused on the team before everything else.
“I think we should just stay in the mindset of just continuing to build continuing to grow,” he said. “Having depth isn’t an issue for us. Obviously, everybody’s just kind of going into the season with the mentality of just putting stats and putting records and history and all of that stuff aside if it’s not for the for the benefit of the team.”
The expectation will be that the Clippers will have three playmakers on the floor in the waning moments of any game that matters. You could slide in Landry Shamet or JaMychal Green for the purposes of spacing, but Williams will undoubtedly be among the three full-time closers. The concern would, of course, be that Williams will falter with fewer opportunities, fewer shots available, etc. But he likely won’t. Whether he’s taken 12 shots per game or 17 shots per game, he has managed 1.3 points per attempt through much of his career. Besides, if history has told us anything about him, Lou Williams will live up to whatever role comes his way just as he has for more than a dozen years in the league.