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Do the Clippers Have A Lou Williams Conundrum Or Are We Overreacting?

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The best bench scorer in the league for the third straight year consistently brings elite level offense but has shown more flaws than usual this season in other areas. Is this cause for concern or are we overreacting to a few bad Clippers losses?

New York Knicks v Los Angeles Clippers Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images

Anger is not an emotion I feel often. It is usually resigned to when I’m stuck behind a slow walker on these busy NYC streets, when I ask for no tomato on something and receive one, or when the Clippers lose games. That’s pretty much it. Oh, and I guess when Bleacher Report tweets out their fifth Alex Caruso video of the week instead of posting about Nikola Jokic nearly scoring 50 or something. They really sold their soul for the clout. Any-who, anger is not really a part of my daily life.

You want to know the last moment that made me angry? Two days before Christmas (impeccable timing) our good friends over at Clipperholics posted a story titled “Why the Clippers should consider trading Lou Williams”. This made me angry. When tweeted out, this story was ratio’d to death by Clipper fans calling for the removal of the writer (you can read the piece here) and related vitriol including this tweet which procured a chuckle from my dead soul

Now, I really try not to be a headline reactor — I hope you don’t do that with this article — but you know the type. These are the people that see a headline and then start typing furiously on whatever social media they prefer to attack whomever is at “fault.” So yes, while I was mad at that headline, I tried to maintain a sense of calm and actually read what was jotted down. Benefit of the doubt is typically a double-edged sword with consequences ranging from “I told you so” to “ah, I actually learned something.” After reading this piece, the needle was moved towards the middle for me in reactions.

Yes, the headline was intended to draw attention, but the words made sense. Points were made for both keeping and trading Lou as well mock trades that I didn’t particularly agree with (some of them were BAD), but that’s OK. Remember, this is just someone’s opinion. However, all of the talk about Lou’s November and December slump, his trade value, and the betterment of the team potentially without him had me thinking...Do the Clippers have a Lou Williams conundrum on their hands? Or, is all of this pontificating just an overreaction to some bad losses the Clippers have had recently? I’m leaning towards the latter but let’s take a look at why this could be a story for the rest of the season.

Lou Will’s defense is bad but not as bad as you think

This is beating a dead horse, truly. We all know that defense is not Lou’s specialty and that he mostly saves his energy for the other end. I don’t need to write a lot about this for you to get the point, just watch a game.

However, here are some positives: Lou’s defensive rating is the best it’s been since the 2014-15 season (106.6), he’s in the positive for defensive win shares (0.9), and his defensive box plus/minus (while still in the negatives at -2.0) is his best since the 2012-13 season.

Now, this might be due to having a great defensive team around him to help mitigate some of his bad tendencies on that end. However, numbers don’t lie. Lou is doing at least as well as usual on this end, if not better, at 33 years old, and does seem to be trying more and more as of late. He’s not playing his patented olé defense as much and is always a menace in passing lanes. So, while his defense is still not swell, it’s not garbage juice either.

The unforced turnover problem

Here is something that can’t be scrubbed or defended, really: Lou Williams is averaging the most turnovers of his career at 3.2 a game. That places him at 17th in the league. This is coming on his lowest usage percentage (28.4% — still high) as a Clipper and is the lowest among the guards that rank in the top 20 in turnovers per game in the league.

When watching Lou play, it’s not uncommon for him to try to force passes where there aren’t any to be made. He also tends to float passes cross-court and jump while passing. When the opening gap closes on the pass, and Lou is stuck in the air, a lot of times it results in a turnover. Another aspect of this is the carelessness that he displays when he is the lead ball-handler at times. We have seen tons of instances this season of Lou babying a pass and it getting easily stolen, or making a quick pass to try to get the ball back, only for the defender to receive a gift in his hands.

Yes, your lead ball-handling guard will have turnovers throughout a game. It can’t be dismissed that Lou is also averaging a career high in assists by a significant margin at 6.3 a game. However, Lou’s turnovers have been costly. Most come when they are completely unnecessary and unforced. I think this is a side-effect of new teammates and the injuries incurred so far this season, and that it will be improved upon with more time. However, it’s been a concern so far this season.

Tendency to ball stop

Most of the time, Lou on the floor is a double-edged sword. He bleeds points defensively but is also a walking bucket. He will go 1-12, then hit the game winner. He will let his dude score three times in a row, then pick his pocket and start a run. He truly is one of the more fascinating players in the league, both on and off the court. One part of the sword for Lou offensively this season is the way he iso’s the ball and tends to ball-stop. This was way less of a factor last season, surprisingly, when Lou had less talent around him. The Lou-Trezz pick-and-roll was one (and frankly, still is) the most dominant play in basketball and was an immediate jumper cable for the offense. This year, we have seen less of this and more of Lou trying to maybe do too much on this end.

Where last year the Clippers were the cardiac kids — fulfilling multiple 25+ point comebacks and making history in the playoffs with a comeback — this year they are on the receiving end of some very frustrating losses due to the other team pulling off a big comeback. What happened? With the talent added, one would think this would never happen. Well, A: hen you have the injuries the Clips have had, and little practice time, these things do indeed happen. But also B: when you have the talent they do, these guys are used to creating offense for themselves. Isolation for stars is typically their bread and butter and Lou is no different.

Teams like the Bulls, Thunder, and Rockets have made big runs while Lou is on the court. Obviously, defense again is a concern. But also the way the offense can stagnate when teams key on the Lou-Trezz PnR, leaving Kawhi, PG, and Lou to do everything themselves. That’s when the offense goes through lulls and gets sloppy. Lou is the main culprit in this, shooting early contested shots, forcing passes, and not really running much semblance of an offense. Nobody should really be too mad at the Clippers stars shooting or attempting to create their own offense — they’ve all shown their prowess at this for years — however, it is effecting the flow of the offense and if Lou could harken back to last season a bit, it would help dramatically.

Let’s talk

So, do the Clippers have a conundrum with Lou Williams on their roster? Should they consider trading him? I think that this is a question that frankly can’t be answered by the time the trade deadline comes. This is a Clipper team that is still gelling and far away from where they will be in April, when the playoffs start. Lou is still putting up eye-popping numbers at 33 and is still such a valuable member of this team. He saves more games than he kills. I mean, dude has a net rating of 4.8 for crying out loud, his highest since his first 6MOY campaign in Toronto. Selfishly, I hope Lou retires a Clipper, as he has easily been my favorite player on the team since Blake was traded away. However, if the Clippers flame out of the playoffs and a lot of the same problems we are seeing right now — stagnant offense due to isolation, turnovers, lack of consistent defense — rear their ugly head, Lou will more than likely be the first player the front-office looks at as a possibility to move. He will have an expiring contract next season and will be 34. Again, I don’t want (or think) this will happen, but with all this talk about Lou’s flaws recently, let’s celebrate how dope this dude is and how good he has been in a Clipper uni. He continues to eat this season and looks to be having a hot January thus far. Let’s cool it on the Lou related vitriol folks.

What do you all think Clips Nation? (Soon to be 213 Hoops ;))