Oh Sweet, Sweet Lou

Don’t let the nickname fool you, because on the hardwood Lou Williams is anything but sweet.

‘Sweet Lou’, as he was endearingly coined back in his Philadelphia days, is the definition of the shoot first, think later player prototype. In fact, Lou may stretch that out to shoot first, second, third and then think. He is a professional gunslinger, who has unfortunately been a gun for hire for much of his NBA career.

After falling to pick 45 in the 2005 draft, Lou struggled out of the gates as his weaknesses were exposed against NBA caliber talent. At 6-foot-1 he was considerably shorter than the prototype shooting guard, his defense left much to be desired, his shot-selection was poor and his decision-making as a playmaker was even worse. He took the court in only 30 games of his rookie season and averaged a measly 1.9 points, albeit on an average of just under five minutes of game time.

Slowly but surely, and with the void opened by the departure of Allen Iverson, Williams started to earn more minutes and with it, more opportunities to unholster his gun and do what he does best. The shooting percentages made for ugly readings at times, but Lou managed to crack the double-digit scoring barrier off the bench and was in perennial conversation for the Sixth Man of the Year Award.

After averaging his highest scoring tally (14.9 points per contest) in the 2011-12 season, Williams was traded to the Atlanta Hawks and his journeyman career officially began. After spending his first seven seasons with the 76ers, he has pulled on five different jerseys in his last six seasons. After averaging just under 15 points through the second half of the season with the Rockets last year, Lou was traded to the Clippers as part of the Chris Paul deal.

To say Williams has taken his game to the next level this season wouldn’t do his phenomenal performance justice. With the Clippers never-ending injury curse, Lou has been left to shoulder much of the offensive load for Doc Rivers men. That’s a lot of pressure on the shoulders of a slender 175-pound man, but for Lou it just means more of an opportunity to shoot the ball. Something he has very willing obliged.

Lou Williams is averaging 23.1 points per game. He leads the Clippers in scoring and at the half-way mark of the season sits 16th in scoring across the league. With his recent 50-point outburst against the Warriors he joined Harden, Beal, DeRozen and LeBron as the only players to crack the 50 plateau this season. The only players to have notched more than five 35-plus-point games this season, Harden, Cousins, DeRozen, Davis and wait for it, ‘Sweet Lou’.

He is not just taking more shots, but he is making more shots at a career-high efficiency. His field goal percentage of 44.8% is the second-best clip of his career, surpassed only by his three-ball mark of 41.4%, which is the only time in his career that he has cracked the 40% barrier. Add a strike rate of just under 91% from the line and a True Shooting percentage (considers two-point, three-point and free-throw accuracy) of over 60% and you have one of the league’s premier efficient scorers.

Lou has not just developed into an elite scorer by chance or situation, rather every performance is an exhibition on how to merge the ball with the nylon. With so many different methods of attack, Lou is a defender’s nightmare from the second he crosses half-court.

Lou has always had the ability to attack the rim with a variety of crafty finishes.

Some of them bordering on plain ridiculous.

He also has a beautiful touch on his floater, which has allowed him to avoid the league’s tall timber despite his size.

Once again, don’t let the ‘Sweet Lou’ nickname fool you.

Lou loves to fade from his left, with an incredible ability to straighten his body and the ball trajectory while moving laterally.

After struggling from beyond the arc early in his career, Lou has developed into a knock-down shooter from three-point land. He has made 122 three balls so far this season, which has been bested by only four other players (Harden, Thompson, George and Eric Gordon).

With the Clippers point-guard brigade (Beverly, Teodosic and Rivers) all missing lengthy stints through injury, Lou has been forced to become the primary ball handler in many situations.

He is averaging a career-high 4.9 assists this season and has formed a rim-rattling connection with DeAndre Jordan on numerous occasions.

Lou really hasn’t changed over his career. Yes, his skill-set has developed as he’s honed his craft, but the core fundamentals of his game haven’t changed. He is still a lack-luster defender, still under-sized and still makes silly decisions at times. What has changed is how the league and his team have accepted and utilised him. Because for all his deficiencies, Lou has developed into a genuine All-Star candidate and Sixth Man of the Year front-runner.

While in all honesty he is unlikely to make the All-Star team in a stacked Western Conference, his recent play makes a fine resume that stands its own against the league’s best.

In his last 13 games, Lou is averaging 30.1 points per contest. Over that stretch the Clippers have lost just three games and have finally evened up the win-loss column, sitting just one game outside the playoff bracket. While others have contributed to the Clippers rise, much of the credit should fall on Lou’s shoulders.

However, as the trade deadline approaches, rumours still swirl around Williams future at the Clippers. Not because he isn’t good enough, but rather he may be too good for the future path the Clippers want to take.

So, despite his incredible season, ‘Sweet Lou’ may still be a gun for hire.

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