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2020-21 Clippers season in review: Lou Williams

The underground GOAT exited Los Angeles with a bang.

LA Clippers v Washington Wizards Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

Welcome to our annual Clippers season in review series. Every day until the end of July, we’ll be taking a look back at the players who ended the season with the Clippers (apologies to Malik Fitts and Mfiondu Kabengele). Today, we’re making an exception for Lou Williams.

Key information:

Name: Lou Williams

Age: 34

Years in the NBA: 16

Key stats: Williams started the season with the Clippers, playing 42 games for the team. He averaged 12.1 points and 3.4 assists in 21.9 minutes per game. He shot 43.7 percent on twos and 37.8 percent on threes.

Future contract status: Williams just finished the three-year, $24 million extension he signed with the Clippers in 2018. He is an unrestricted free agent.

Summary:

Williams’ role declined a bit in his fourth season for the Clippers. He was no longer relied upon to be the second-unit creator as Ty Lue staggered his superstars, putting the ball in either Kawhi Leonard or Paul George’s hands for almost the full 48 minutes.

The sixth man wasn’t as effective as he has been in past seasons, but his real value came when his role was expanded on the nights when the Clippers were missing some of their other rotation players. Williams remains nearly as durable as ever, missing only two games with a hip injury and one for scheduled rest. When the Clippers needed him to ramp it up a little bit, Williams was ready to go.

He helped propel the Clippers to some critical shorthanded wins, including two over Miami. On the final night of his Clippers tenure, he hit 15,000 career points before being traded the next day to Atlanta.

Williams found some success back in his hometown, complementing the team’s young core and playing a key role in beating former coach Doc Rivers’ Philadelphia 76ers to get the Hawks to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Strengths:

Williams is the coolest dude in any room. The young players love Lou Williams. He was the veteran they turned to in the locker room for advice, and he was an emotional leader on and off the court. That type of presence is hard to replicate.

Williams is still a bucket. He might not be the most efficient scorer anymore, but he still draws fouls on his jumper going left. He’s an above-average playmaker, even after having to develop familiarity with new pick-and-roll partners. He also did some good work off the ball as a spot-up shooter from above the break since his usage was down this season.

Williams got a little feistier on defense this year with a steal rate of 1.8 percent, placing him in the 71st percentile of combo guards.

Weaknesses:

Opposing teams target the hell out of Williams on defense. If he were in the rotation, the Clippers wouldn’t have been able to adequately switch in the first round of the playoffs — even Patrick Beverley was too small to contend in that series, imagine how poorly Williams would have fared.

Despite his ability to get to his spots, Williams’ midrange efficiency (which is his favorite part of the court) has steadily declined. There is value in being able to create a shot on any given possession, but Williams can’t be spending so many possessions in the midrange (55 percent of his total shot attempts) if he’s making fewer than 40 percent of his looks.

It’s hard to think about efficiency and optimizing possessions though when Williams goes on one of his heaters like he did in Game 5 of the conference semifinals in Philadelphia or Game 4 of the conference finals with Trae Young out. Few players in the league are capable of going on sustained scoring binges like that.

Future with the Clippers:

Theoretically, Williams could return to the Clippers on a minimum deal and see out the end of his career. However, it’s unlikely that he’d want to come back to a team that sent him away and prioritized Rajon Rondo ahead of him.

Williams was a beloved Clipper who rightfully earned the adoration and support of the fans in Los Angeles. His tenure with the team ended on a high note, as he hit a scoring benchmark in a blowout win. Hopefully, he continues to find success for as long as he chooses to play in the NBA.