Monday, June 01, 2009

2008-09 Season Review: Marvin Williams

Is Marvin Williams just a useful role player (albeit an improving one) or is he (like Al Horford) an underutilized offensive resource that might fuel future Hawks teams?

The bulk of the evidence of 2008-09 season suggests that he is the former. If this is the case, Williams' future with the team extends only as long as his cost remains relatively low. The Atlanta Hawks can't afford to/won't spend a lot of money for slightly above average production from a small forward. However, two games in February hint at the latter and lend support to the argument for moving the Hawks' offense away from Joe Johnson and his apprentices and toward a Williams-Horford-Johnson trident.

On February 4th in Minneapolis, Marvin Williams missed both of his three-point attempts and made just three of his seven two-point jump shots, but scored 23 points on 13 shots by converting three of four attempts at the rim and getting to the free throw line 14 times, making 11. Williams didn't win the game single-handedly (Mike Bibby, Josh Smith, and Kevin McHale each helped) but he (atypically) used more possessions than any other Hawks player, used them very efficiently, and, in doing so, led the Hawks, playing without their best player, to a rare road victory.

Two nights later he did it again in Charlotte against the seventh-best defensive team in the league. Williams struggled from the field: He made one of three three-point attempts, two of six attempts at the rim, and two of six two-point jumpers but made up for his unusually poor shooting* by getting to the free throw line 20 times, making 18 and thus scoring 29 points on 15 shots.

*Williams was a 49.2% shooter on two-point attempts, a 35.5% shooter on three-point attempts on the season.

Over the course of two games, Williams, a guy who typically used 13 possessions in 34 minutes a game, used 50 possessions in 82 minutes of playing time, scored 52 points on those possessions and led Atlanta, without Joe Johnson, to two of the 16 road victories they managed over the course of the season.

It's also just two games, and, who knows, maybe the lesson to be taken from them is that Mike Bibby was even more essential to the offense than already assumed. I strongly suspect that Marvin Williams isn't a guy a successful team builds its offense around but that doesn't mean he should settle for scraps especially considering the attacking options his inside/outside game* would give a head coach who treated options as useful tactical tools rather than a gift from The Giant Purple Snorklewacker.

*Williams attempted 34 free throws in those two games as the primary offensive option. 34 free throw attempts would constitute 9.4% of Joe Johnson's season total. Death to fall-aways! Long live free points!.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I really thought that Marvin was starting to blossom at the end of last year until he was hurt. And although an injured Williams killed any chance the Hawks had of beating the Cavs (and helped to make the Miami series tough to watch), in the long run this could turn out well for the Hawks.

Chances are they can resign or match a low offer to keep him (still growing into a player at 24), but if he had gone crazy at the end of the season they couldn't/wouldn't afford him.

If he improves from the three point line this offseason as much as he did last offseason, he could be a dangerous weapon for the Hawks next year. And Woodson might even call a couple of plays for him...