Friday, November 13, 2009

Perspective on Marvin Williams Through Eight Games

Marvin Williams has unquestionably been tough to watch through eight games. He's appeared generally out of sorts and has shot poorly while limiting himself or being limited largely to a spot-up shooter role. I think it's important not to overstate his struggles, partly because he's been such a small part of the team's offense thus far. Just by virtue of his lower usage rate and his playing fewer minutes per game so far this season, his raw numbers are going to look far inferior. In the interests of perspective, let's a look at some of his rate stats compared to last season.

First, shooting and scoring...

Year2PTFG%3PTFG%FT RateTS%Pts/36USG%

Williams is a couple of slightly higher-usage, hot shooting games from being essentially the same offensive player he was last year.

Rebounding, passing, ball-handling, and defensive box score stats...


As for on/off defensive stats (in terms of team Defensive Efficiency)...


A negative differential being good in this case, the Hawks, despite being a slightly worse defensive team in the early days of this season than they were last season, have been better than last season when Williams is on the floor.

Overall, when put in context and acknowledging the extremely small sample this season provides, Marvin Williams isn't off to a slow start so much as Jamal Crawford and Maurice Evans are off to hot starts.
Should Crawford and Evans continue to play at the high level at which they've begun this season that may mean that Williams, even if he matches last season's production on a rate basis, will not match last season's playing time* but more Hawks being as productive as Williams was last season isn't exactly a recipe for disaster even if it is a recipe for Williams to post superficially disappointing individual stats.

*On a per game basis, that is. One hopes for better health for Marvin this season.


thirdfalcon said...

Good stuff, My whole thing with Marvin is that we have better offensive options this year compared to last year, so he should be finding other ways to contribute. It appears he has to a certain extent, but I would really like to see his rebounding numbers come up.

And while I think that moving Marvin to the bench could help the team in the long run, things are going really well right now, and it's probably better to wait till the team starts struggling a bit to shake things up in that way.

I also think Woody would have to be very careful with such a move. It's one thing to have one player that could easily start coming off the bench. Two starting caliber players starting the game on the pine would be playing with fire a bit, no?

Bronnt said...

I hadn't looked that closely into it. It's easy to get caught up in the poorer shooting %, but his ability to get to the line serves as a balance for that.

I'm really surprised to see the defensive on/off: I know he's a good defender, but I think it's been hard to see that because Joe Johnson has been really bad defensively alongside of him.

Bret LaGree said...


I think Marvin's usage rate will go up as Crawford and Evans cool off. That has to be something of a positive for the team. They aren't 6-2 because everyone is playing well out of the gate.

As for Marvin's rebounding, the team is rebounding better thus far and with the sample size I don't want to make any firm judgments about individual rates.


For whatever reason, Marvin has defended 4s much better than 3s so far and Joe Johnson has defended 3s much better than 2s. Something to keep tabs on, for sure.

thirdfalcon said...

I'm not 100% sure that your right about his usage rates. I think that Crawford will play more minutes than Flip did last year, and our Froncourt has been productive to the point that they demand more shots.

I think Mo's usage rate will probably go down, but Bibby figures to get more shots as the season progress as well. So that's probably a wash as far as Marvin is concerned.

It seems to me that he's right back to where he was at North Carolina. He's capable of more in theory, but not capable of more in his current circumstances.

Bret LaGree said...


That's fair. I'm definitely not 100% sure about most stuff I write here. Crawford's usage rate is actually a touch lower than Murray's was last year due (mostly) to fewer turnovers.

In general, your description of the situation is thoroughly sensible and accurate.

Unknown said...

@Bret & TF,

If we get away from the statistical component of this (and I love stats and yield to their value), I think the bigger question is - what's Marvin's potential as a NBA player and what's Marvin's potential as a Hawk? I think when you look at it from the point of what he's done while he's here - we may limit our ability to see whether or not there's more we should look for from Marvin and whether it's a slump based on last year, slump based on NBA potential, or slump based on Hawk potential.

If it's a slump based on last year, you're right - not much to worry about. If it's a slump based on NBA potential, well - that may have to do with the Hawks scheme and therefore, you'd have to determine if limiting him in certain ways is for the good of the team. Now, if it's a slump based on his Hawk potential, then the question needs to be raised - WHY is that and what should be done to fix it? This last question is the question that I think is most important. My expectation of Marvin Williams is that he should be a 13 ppg/7reb player and a lockdown defensive player - trending toward 40% 3pt shooting, 80% FT, and 45+% FG. That would be a valuable piece worth what we're paying him.

If he isn't doing that, my question would be 'is it because the scheme doesn't allow for it or is he just not playing well?' Right now, I think it's a combo of both. I think he's not comfortable in the role of spot up shooter. Most NBA players thrive when they know their role and realize that that role fits their skill set. Osh Smith is a prime example of that - I think his start is 100% attributed to realizing his role and accepting it. I think Marvin isn't in a place where he sees his career trajectory as simply a Maurice Evans clone and therefore, his lack of comfort on the basketball court as a starter for this team.

Long winded, but - thoughts?

Bret LaGree said...

I think Marvin's discomfort so far this year has been due in part to an uncertainty as to where spot up. While Josh Smith consistently moving toward the basket is unquestionably a good thing, it does change the geometry of the half-court offense and there may be an adjustment period. Those Josh Smith-centric possessions are also non-ISOJoe possessions. This could be the reason that Williams and Bibby have been the players to see their usage rates decline most significantly in the early days of this season.

I suspect Marvin's NBA value is slightly higher than his value to the Hawks because of his versatility. (This also being why I think he'll never be a lockdown defender, his combination of size, strength, and quickness causes matchup problems for defenders but also makes guarding most 3s and most 4s something of an awkward proposition for him.) He can score inside and out. You can run a reasonable number of plays for him and expect a reasonable return of points at the cost of few turnovers or you can let him score in transition and as a spot-up shooter all the while he's an average-to-above average defender and defensive rebounder.

Right now, the Hawks could get away with a cheaper, more specialized small forward along the lines of Mo Evans with little productive difference. Marvin's contract is probably smaller than his value in the abstract so, this summer, he could serve as either an attractive trade target for other teams, or as a young, in-house replacement for some of the departed Joe Johnson's production whose contract won't hamper the club's pursuit of a franchise player.

If I missed answering anything you really wanted me to answer, forgive me.

Unknown said...

On a lighter side, based on size and athleticism, there is only 1 player that can "attempt" to guard Lebron James and Paul Pierce on this team and that is Marvin. For that alone, he is a valuable member of the team since we hope to see Lebron and Pierce a lot this season. Especially in the playoffs.
Heck! if they can pay Shaq 20 m just to be the Dwight Howard stopper, Marvin's deal is worth it despite his production.

thirdfalcon said...

I agree with Karibo. He's overqualified for his role, but that's a good problem to have. He can go a long way to help replace almost anyone on the team's production should we need him too.

It's ok that he's underutilized right now since we have players that can do all the things he does better. He just has to be ready to step up when the time comes. Sort of like a trump card we have up our sleeve.

The biggest problem I see with this is if he becomes disgruntled, but I've never seen anything from him that makes me think that could become a problem.

It's also important to remember that he just signed a big contract, and we would be extremely naive to think that he isn't going to have a dip in production this year. That's a trend that transcends individual players, and is even consistent in other sports, and life in general.