Lou Williams is missing in action. The one time dynamic offensive threat has not seen the floor in the past three games.
Williams played 25 minutes and scored 15 points on 3-7 shooting against the Phoenix Suns March 2. The following game Lou found himself on the bench for most of the game, including the entire second half, logging just over five minutes in a loss to Portland. Since then, he hasn’t seen a minute of playing time.
But why is Williams not playing?
“All year we’ve been working on different groups that can help us,” coach Mike Budenholzer told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. “Lou has done a ton of good things and he has helped us through the year. Tonight, we gave some other guys some minutes and some opportunities. Playing a little bit bigger is important to us. But Lou has been very good for us all year. It’s one of the hardest parts about coaching. You can’t play everybody.”
Last season, Williams bursted onto the scene in Atlanta, establishing himself as a possible sixth man of the year candidate. He played half a season before suffering an ACL tear causing him to miss the second half of last season and a little bit of this season.
Williams averaged 14 PPG and shot .422 from the field. This season Williams only averages 10 points per contest, and shoots a mere .382 from the field.
Williams says he is completely over his injury, but the stats indicate there might be more to that. Last year he would take the ball to the rim more (like in the video below), but instead this season, we are witnessing a more scared and timid Williams. He settles constantly for long jumpers and rarely takes the ball to the hole.
When coach Budenholzer implemented this new Spurs-like offense, Williams was asked to be the Manu Ginobili of the Hawks. It seems like he has just simply struggled to fill those shoes.
In this new offensive system that coach Budenholzer has implemented, it has allowed many average players to thrive into good player such as Forwards Demarre Carroll and Mike Scott. It’s a good system that seems to work for everybody…. Well maybe not everybody.
Is it the injury or is it the system? Regardless of why, the fact remains that the Hawks are a worse team with Williams on the floor. Since the beginning of February, Atlanta has played 14 games. In those 14 games, Williams has had a negative plus-minus rating in 13 of the 14. His last three games he has had a plus-minus rating of -14, -22 and -10 respectively.
With this in mind, it might not be just a lack of offensive production from Williams but also a lack of defensive production.
Williams has one more season left on his contract, which will make him 5.45 million. That’s completely affordable and a good price for the Williams of old, but not for the 2013-2014 Williams we have seen.
With the development of rookie Dennis Schroeder, the emergence of Scott and the steady play of Shelvin Mack, don’t be shocked to see Williams shopped in the offseason.