Mar 8, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard L. Williams (12) drives inside for a layup against the Utah Jazz during the fourth quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: E. Williams-USA TODAY Sports
Lou Williams only arrived in February this season, but made immediate contributions for the Houston Rockets off the bench.
From sometime during the 2015-2016 campaign until a fateful trade in February of 2017, Houston Rockets fans lobbied to get Corey Brewer off the team. The Drunken Dribbler was great for H-town for a time, but regressed a couple of years ago and never bounced back. To solve the issue, GM and deadline guru Daryl Morey struck up a deal with the Los Angeles Lakers.
In late February, Houston sent Brewer and its 2017 first round pick to LA in exchange for veteran guard Lou Williams. At the time, Lou led the league in bench scoring, set to make an impact for the Rockets right away.
Long story short, Williams has been one of the Rockets’ most electric scorers since his arrival. He has been the spark plug, causing his team to win games they wouldn’t have won without him. Especially in the playoffs when James Harden struggled at times, Sweet Lou kept the ship afloat.
Let’s continue our season recap series and take a look at just how good Lou was for the Houston Rockets this season.
Next: Stats/overall impact
May 1, 2017; San Antonio, TX, USA; Houston Rockets shooting guard Lou Williams (12) drives to the basket under pressure from San Antonio Spurs shooting guard Jonathon Simmons (17) during the second half in game one of the second round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Lou’s scoring dipped a bit upon joining the Rockets, but he consistently stepped up when needed most.
It says a lot about Lou Williams that he scored 27 points in his very first outing with Houston. On February 23, he had never practiced with the Rockets and didn’t know any of their plays, but that didn’t stop him from lighting it up with seven threes against the New Orleans Pelicans.
Over the rest of the regular season, Lou was a hot-or-cold scorer for Houston. On some nights, he managed just five points in 20+ minutes. Other times he would be the best player on the court for an entire game, like when he personally torched his former Lakers squad for 30 points.
Despite his streakiness, he and Eric Gordon combined to make one of the league’s most intimidating bench duos. For me, the most fun part of any game was when the Beard sat. Those were the times when Houston would often build a big lead–nobody could keep up with Lou and EG.
Williams averaged nearly 15 points per game in Houston this season to go along with 2.5 assists and three boards. He shot a surprisingly low 32% from three point land compared to 38% with the Lakers before the trade. Like Ryan Anderson, he often struggled shooting the ball at the Toyota Center.
Lou’s playoff stats this season were similar to that of the regular season. But, he happened to play a few of his best games in the first round. Without him, Rockets would not have beaten OKC so handily. He scored at least 21 points in three of the five games in the series, all of which were decided by six or fewer points. His scoring was clearly necessary.
There’s an intangible amount of value attached to players who are reliable when the going gets tough–that’s Lou. His late-game heroics dug the Rockets out of a hole several times this year, and I’m excited to see more of it in 2017-2018.
Next: Best moments of 2016-2017
Mar 26, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard Lou Williams (12) attempts to dribble the ball around Oklahoma City Thunder forward Andre Roberson (21) during the second quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
When a player is as streaky as Lou Williams, it makes for some great highlight reels.
Sweet Lou didn’t play well in his fair share of games this year. When he struggled, he really struggled. But when he got hot, not one player in the league could stop him. He’s just that type of player.
My favorite moment Lou Williams performance of the year was his 31 points against the Oklahoma City Thunder in March. It was clear at that point that they would be the Houston Rockets’ opponent in the first round of the postseason, and Lou set the tone for the would-be series.
He missed only one of his eight three point attempts that game and shot a blistering 73% from the field. The Thunder didn’t have an answer, ceding 137 points to the Rockets. I was in full-fledged Slander Russell Westbrook Mode at that time, which made it even sweeter watching Sweet Lou make easy work of the presumed MVP and his team.
As far as individual moments go, the best one from Lou’s short time with the Houston Rockets was something Red Nation is used to: getting fouled on a three pointer. James Harden drew more fouls on triples than several teams (!!!). Very rarely, though, does the Beard make the shot attempt in those situations.
On February 27, the Rockets were down by five to the Indiana Pacers with one minute left to play. Lou caught a pass from Harden and got Myles Turner up in the air with a shot fake. To the crowd’s delight, he then proceeded to knock down the long bomb.
Williams ended up squandering the four-point play opportunity, just as the Rockets squandered their opportunity to win. However, the greatness of the shot shouldn’t be overlooked because of what happened afterwards. There were many great plays courtesy of Lou this season and there will surely be more in the future.
Next: Improvement areas for 2017-2018
Feb 27, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard Lou Williams (12) shoots the ball during the second quarter against the Indiana Pacers at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Lou Williams will be a part of the Houston Rockets for at least one more season, and there are two primary areas where he could improve.
It’s no secret that Lou Williams isn’t good at defense. The veteran guard finished with a better defensive rating than only 23% of the league, putting him well below average. He isn’t too slow or uncoordinated to play defense, it’s just never been a part of his game. He’s what lots of commentators call a “professional scorer.” He exists on the court to put points on the board in a hurry, and that’s about it.
The Houston Rockets weren’t nearly as bad at defense as they were expected to be, but they weren’t elite either. If they want to be able to compete with the likes of the Warriors and Spurs, they’ll have to get better on that end of the floor.
For Lou, that means he’ll have to be disciplined. A good part of defensive ability comes from the mental side of things, and that’s something he lacks at times. It’s not uncommon to see him gamble for a steal and end up on the wrong end of a highlight reel or simply pay no attention to his man on defense for a play or two. He just has to focus.
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The other area for improvement is even more crucial to Houston’s success: three point accuracy. The Rockets attempted more threes than any team in history this season and they don’t show signs of slowing down. Lou has to shoot better than 32% from deep.
Some players are just streaky shooters. I don’t know what causes that trait but it’s very real. For Lou, he either makes everything or throws up nothing but bricks. If he wants to compete for Sixth Man of the Year again in 2017-2018, he should spend a good chunk of time in the gym this summer working on his shot.
It’s especially imperative that he and James Harden work together this offseason. With the Beard running point, lots of Lou’s shots are of the catch-and-shoot variety. He’s been a shot creator for most of his career, but shouldn’t have a hard time adjusting.
Lou Williams was one of the best midseason acquisitions this year, and he has potential to prove his worth again in 2017-2018. He’ll be 31 by the time preseason’s over but his game should allow him to age well. Lou’s future with the Houston Rockets looks bright.
Unless otherwise noted, stats are from the 2016-2017 regular season.