For years Lou Williams has been one of the NBA’s best coming off the bench while quietly being one of the league’s most underrated players.
Those days are gone as Williams has posted a career-high 15.8 points per game for the surprising 26-20 Sixers, who lead the Atlantic Division over the heavily favored Boston Celtics and New York Knicks.
Philadelphia is headed to the playoffs, and if it can hold Boston, as the East’s No.4 seed, and the sixth-year pro is starring in a leading actor from an unlikely place: the bench.
Williams has started just 38 of his 437 career NBA games. He has been the definition of a bench player since the Sixers drafted him in the second round of the 2005 draft from South Gwinnett High School in Georgia.
In fact, Williams hasn’t started a game in two years. Those 38 starts came way back in the
Since then, “Sweet Lou,” as he’s referred to by fans, has been the scoring spark off the bench for veteran coach Doug Collins. In 75 games off the bench for Collins last year Williams averaged close to 14 points in just around 23 minutes of action per game.
This season Lou has been even sweeter for Collins and the 76ers. Williams leads the teams second unit, nicknamed the “Night Shift,” which also includes fellow pine rider Thaddeus Young and earlier this season Evan Turner. While Turner has moved on to the starting lineup, his mates haven’t missed a beat on the shift. The Sixers lead the league with 42.5 points per game off the bench. Philadelphia’s bench production is a main reason why the team has found themselves atop the Atlantic for almost all of the season.
But the man behind the Night Shift is Williams, who is always the first man off Collins’ bench. He’s shooting a career-best 37 % from behind the arc, all the while hitting big shot after big shot in the clutch. It’s rare for a team and coach to trust a player when the game is on the line who doesn’t even get the handle off the opening tip, but that’s what makes the Sixers and Williams so unique.
The Sixers are built around a team concept in every sense of the word. No player averages more than 16 points per game, they have six different players who average double-digits per game but boasts it’s leading scorer in Williams off the bench. Philadelphia plays team ball on defense, leading the league in scoring defense at a shade over 87 points per game.
While the Sixers play light-out defense, the offense hasn’t been quite as outstanding. Philadelphia lacks a true “Superstar,” ala a Dwight Howard or Kobe Bryant. They rely on getting contributions from numerous players on offense, but without a go-to guy, the team sometimes slips into lulls on offense.
Those lulls end once Williams steps on the court.
He isn’t afraid to take, and make the big shot, just ask Kobe and his Lakers. Williams is among the league’s top scorers off the bench, and with former Sixth-Man winners Manu Ginobli, Lamar Odom, Jason Terry and last year’s winner Jamal Crawford having down years, the award could be up for grabs.
But the reason that Williams should take home the hardware is because of how important he is to the success of the Sixers. Doug Collins relies on his bench to give him around 40 points a game, and Williams nearly gives half of that total himself. If he didn’t, the Sixers would be scoring closer to the 87 point mark that they’re allowing on defense, which would result in far fewer W’s in the win column.
Williams should win because the Sixth-Man is about impacting the game from the bench, putting a stamp on it, and then sitting back down. And nobody is better at doing that this year that Lou Williams.
And if you don’t think he should win, well, I heard that he can be pretty persuasive.
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