Lou Williams isn’t a 2018 NBA All-Star, but the fact that he even got close to his first-ever berth is pretty amazing. Williams is 31, has been bouncing around the league for years, and has almost never been a regular starter, this season included.
Williams has always been what folks call a “professional scorer.” He’s the guy who comes off the bench and starts firing, carrying the less organized second-unit offense just with his ability to hit difficult shots.
With the Clippers — and hopefully beyond, if he ends up elsewhere — Williams has reached a new level. Over a decade into his career, he’s playing over 30 minutes per game for the first time, and occupying a more featured role in the offense. Instead of simply saying “run around until you get the ball, then shoot or whatever,” the Clippers are putting the ball in Lou’s hands and letting him create for himself and others. Doc Rivers has made particularly clever use of Lou’s signature left-fading jumper by running him through tight left-ward handoffs from hard-screening big men:
That handoff gives Lou the inch of space he needs to release a jumper, and if the defense collapses to contain him, he’ll drive hard to his right or dish to someone cutting backdoor.
It’s paying off! Williams averages over 23 points per game — he led the entire NBA in points in the month of January — and adds over five assists each night. Even before Los Angeles traded Blake Griffin, Williams was their leading scorer. In another year, those might be All-Star credentials, but Lou was juuuuust snubbed of a career first in a talented Western Conference.
It’s rare and wonderful that a career role player gets to assume a primary role after 13 itinerant years. It took a while to get there, but Sweet Lou is a star.