Matt Stroup

Roundball Stew

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The New Lou

Friday, December 28, 2012

When Lou Williams signed with the Hawks, there was reason to expect a nice boost in scoring as he joined a team looking to replace Joe Johnson’s 18.8 ppg. To date, however, Williams’ stats look quite similar to what he did last year with the Sixers:

2011-12: 14.9 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 3.5 apg, 0.8 spg, 1.3 3s
2012-13: 14.5 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 3.3 apg, 1.3 spg, 1.7 3s

Yes, it’s nice to see an increase in steals and 3s, but most of us were probably expecting something closer to 17-18 ppg (as opposed to a slight decrease in scoring from last year). Which raises an important question: Is this, statistically speaking, what Lou Williams is? A guy who’s going to get 15 or so points with some steals, 3s and a few assists? Is that pretty much his ceiling at this point?

Not so fast. As you probably know, Williams has started two straight games heading into the weekend (his first two starts since the 2009-10 season), and in those games he has averaged a cool 17.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 5.0 apg, 1.0 spg, 1.0 bpg and 2.5 3s (including an 18-8-7 line in 48 minutes of a double-overtime win Wednesday night).

So is this the new reality for Williams – locked in as the Hawks’ starting two guard, finally ready to reach a new tier of statistical upside?

Unfortunately, the answer, once again, is not so fast. Though the Hawks are 2-0 since the move – and though Williams should be getting at least one more start with Devin Harris (foot) out again on Friday – Larry Drew has shown a tendency to shuffle his starting five based on matchups. Which leads us to a couple quotes from Drew, printed in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution prior to Williams’ second start on Wednesday.

The first quote, discussing the Jeff Teague-Lou Williams backcourt: “Being smaller, it has its advantages and disadvantages. The way we feel we need to play we want to go a little smaller with the quickness. He had a really good game our last game. With he and Jeff in there it makes us a lot quicker, a lot faster and it puts us in a more up-tempo style. We had success with it our last game and we are going to go with it again.”

Despite the mention of “advantages and disadvantages,” this quote has to be considered a positive in terms of Williams getting more looks as a starter. But before we get too excited, let’s look at the second quote, in which Drew discusses Williams more directly: “He’s been a guy who pretty much came off the bench his whole career and, at least I can tell, he understands his role but he embraces the fact he won’t be pigeon-holed as a guy just coming off the bench.”

It’s the phrase “understands his role” that makes me think Drew isn’t yet sold on Lou as a full-time starter, and would actually prefer to use him off the bench when possible. The good news is that Williams should get at least one more chance to make his argument Friday night. And even if the worst-case scenario happens (Williams returning to a bench role), he’s still a solid fantasy option in that role, and he’ll remain just one injury or one coaching decision away from a significant boost in value.

Follow me on Twitter: @MattStroup

In other hoops-related matters…

I think Kawhi Leonard’s upside has been overstated. First, let’s talk about the positives: He’s locked into a starting job, shoots well (though not a lot) from the field and free throw line, helps a lot in steals (2.3 spg) and some in 3s (1.1 per game). With that said, when I look at his numbers in points (10.8), rebounds (5.4) and assists (1.4), I really don’t see all that much reason for excitement. Fact: In 90 career games (including playoffs), Leonard has topped 20 points exactly one time. He has hit double figures in rebounding eight times. He has had more than three assists in a game just twice. Yes, he’s young (21) and obviously still improving, and he is a useful fantasy contributor right now, but I don’t think it’s realistic to expect him to be a consistent plus in points, rebounds or assists this season.

I won’t be running to add Hakim Warrick off waivers. Yes, it’s notable that he posted 18 and nine in 38 minutes on Wednesday with Byron Mullens (ankle) potentially out a month. But it’s important to keep in mind that Warrick has a long track record of mediocre production. The 30-year-old has started at forward 94 times in his NBA career, and in those games he has averaged a yawn-inducing 14.4 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 1.1 apg, 0.7 spg and 0.5 bpg. Bottom line: He may put up some decent scoring and rebounding numbers while he’s starting, but given the lack of production in other categories I would personally stay away outside of deeper leagues.

Jared Dudley is on fire right now, but I’m still not buying in for the long run. In his last eight games, Dudley has posted 19.4 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 4.4 apg, 1.8 spg and 2.1 3s. The only problem: We’ve seen this act before. To cite one recent example, from March 1st to March 16th last season (10 games), Dudley averaged 18.5 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 0.7 spg, 0.8 bpg and 1.9 3s. Over his next 16 games, he posted 10.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 0.6 spg, 0.2 bpg and 0.9 3s. Quite simply, he’s streaky. And though there’s nothing wrong with taking advantage of the production while he’s hot, you need to be ready to sell high now, or at least get him benched at the first sign that he’s cooling off. Because as good as he is right now, Dudley during his cold stretches will flat-out hurt your fantasy team.

Meanwhile, we have a Lamar Odom sighting (sort of). I’m not saying it’s time to add him in standard leagues, but Odom is beginning to get in shape, beginning to get more minutes (25 per game in his last nine), and though he’s not scoring much, he’s starting to compile stats: 5.0 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 2.3 apg, 1.7 bpg in his last nine, including a 6-10-4 line on Xmas and a 4-13-5, four-block effort in a blowout win on Thursday. Again, he’s more of a deeper league play at the moment, but he’s carving out a more consistent role in Vinny Del Negro’s rotation, and if productive free agents are hard to come by in your league, you could do worse than stashing Odom in hopes that he can get 25-30 minutes per game going forward.

Spencer Hawes: putting up some interesting lines lately; still doesn’t have my trust. Hawes broke out a somewhat monstrous 20-point, nine-rebound, three-steal, five-block box score against the Grizzlies on Wednesday, raising his average in his last nine games to 14.2 ppg, 6.8 rpg and 1.3 bpg. Not bad, but the problem with Hawes (as always) is his wild inconsistency. Prior to his five blocks on Wednesday, he had three blocks total in his previous six games, and prior to his three steals on Wednesday, he had one steal total in his last 13 games. He is in the midst of his best stretch of the season, and certainly has some value in deeper leagues, but he’s a 7-foot-1, mullet-wearing headache in standard formats.

Things to Do This Weekend! (End of 2012 Edition)

1) Grow a Spencer Hawes mullet;

2) Get together with close friends, share favorite (and overly sentimental) memories of 2012 while listening to Green Day’s “Time of Your Life” on repeat. First person to laugh or ask to have the music turned off is the loser;

3) Instead of waiting until just before midnight on Dec. 31, begin counting down the seconds until 2013 this weekend (as of Friday night at midnight, there will be 259,200 seconds left in 2012).

(Note: After further consideration, counting down from 259,200 seconds sounds like an absolutely awful idea. Might be better to start Saturday at midnight with 172,800.)

See you in 2013.

Matt Stroup covers basketball, baseball and football for You can find him on Twitter here .
Email :Matt Stroup

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