In the summer of 2014, Lou Williams was on the path to a career of NBA obscurity. A bench scorer who came out of high school in the second round of the 2005 NBA Draft, Williams was far from a known commodity when his hometown Atlanta Hawks chose to dump his salary.
The Hawks decision to release Williams proved to be the spark to relevance for Lou Will, who left his hometown Hawks for a breakout role as the sixth man for the Toronto Raptors. An experience that turned Williams into a recognized talent for his scoring ability.
Williams won Sixth Man of the Year with the Raptors. Gaining further notoriety for his legendary role in the Drake track ‘6 Man’ with a hook referencing the scoring abilities of Lou Will, along with the urban legend of Williams’ two girlfriends at the time.
Williams averaged 15.5 PPG that season with the Raptors and helped the team win a second straight Atlantic Division title. Unfortunately for Williams, his added scoring punch failed to get the Raptors over the first round hump and he wasn’t brought back after his lone season with the team.
Shipped out by a second team in consecutive seasons, Williams headed to Los Angeles to play for a young Lakers team and continued to showcase his scoring touch in an increased role. With even more opportunity to showcase himself on a rebuilding team, Williams continued to add to his burgeoning reputation as a scoring asset off the bench.
The time spent in Los Angeles led to a trade to the Houston Rockets last season, where Williams would spend 23 regular season games and contributed multiple 20+ point performances in a first-round series win over the Oklahoma City Thunder before a second-round loss to the San Antonio Spurs.
While the Rockets were stopped by a veteran Spurs squad, Williams had his best individual playoff run of his career. Including a fourth-quarter performance in Game 5 against the Thunder where Williams helped put some of the final nails in the coffin against MVP Russell Westbrook and co.
Despite the strong stint in Houston, Williams’ would once again find himself in exile from a playoff team in the postseason exit this summer as one of the pieces sent to Los Angeles in the Rockets deal with the Clippers for Chris Paul.
So far, the trade has been exactly what Williams needed in a contract year. With injuries to Austin Rivers and a season-ending injury to Chris Paul-replacement Milos Teodosic, Williams’ has had an elevated role in the Clippers backcourt and has answered the challenge.
Showcasing leadership and poise few associate with a player who has spent the entirety of his career as a Sixth Man gunner, Williams has played the best basketball of his career over the past 90 days.
On Nov. 27, Williams scored 42 points in a win against the Lakers. Not to be outdone with a big performance against his former team, Williams followed that up with a game-winning three-pointer in a 35 point night against the Wizards on December 9.
Now, entering 2018, Williams has upped the ante. He scored 40 points on New Year’s Eve against the Charlotte Hornets and followed that up with the night of Lou Will’s career against the Golden State Warriors at the Oracle.
Last night, Lou Will dropped a cold 50 points on the defending champions on their own floor.
Fifty. Fiddy. Five-Zero. 50.
It was the defining moment for Williams and a game that showcased all of the things that have turned Williams from a solid bench scorer to a household name across the NBA. An array of off the dribble jumpers doomed the Warriors throughout the night.
By the time the final horn sounded at the Oracle on Wednesday night, Williams had outduelled Kevin Durant and overshadowed a night where KD reached 20,000 points. Williams final shot, from deep and with the seconds ticking away in garbage time, secured the perfect number of 50 and an impressive 125-106 win for a Clippers team that Williams is keeping alive in the playoff hunt.
At 31, Williams is supposed to be on the decline and is instead playing himself into the best situation he has been in during his long NBA career.
Williams has had good runs on good teams in the past few seasons to get to this point, but he has never looked as good as he has during the past few months with the Clippers. Whether it is the responsibility of an increased role or the experiences he has had in Toronto and Houston, Williams is playing like a veteran leader along with his usual role as a scorer who can get hot on any given night.
Whether the Clippers should pay Williams is up for debate. At 31, he may not fit the Clippers rebuild that ought to happen at some point after the departure of Chris Paul that brought Williams to Los Angeles.
If the Clippers do decide to finally commit to a rebuild, giving Williams the money he will command after a career season may not be the best idea. Even if Williams has shown a trend of aging like a fine wine, there is always a risk in committing to a player who relies on their scoring ability deep into their 30s. Especially a player who uses explosiveness and quickness off the dribble like Williams does so effectively.
The best fit for Williams is on a playoff team that is in need of a scorer. Similar to his role on the Raptors and Rockets that he fits so well and a role that a playoff team will now be more likely to increase for Williams if he can sustain his current hot run of form.
The downside to a return to a playoff contender for Williams is the likelihood that contending teams wouldn’t be as able or willing to pay the type of money the Clippers or another non-contending team could offer. A factor that could keep Williams in Los Angeles with the Clippers or on another rebuilding team that needs a veteran scorer to fill a role.
Whatever happens this offseason or at the trade deadline, it seems to be a guarantee that Williams is set to receive a generous amount of moment for his monster year with the Clippers. After last night – with a 50 point night in a win over the greatest team of all-time – it deserves to be this way as we are all living in Lou Will’s world at long last.