Apr 27, 2014; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers guard Mo Williams (25) looks for a teammate to pass to against Houston Rockets in the first half in game four of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at the Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

On Mo Williams: When decent is better than horrible

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The Monday afternoon signing of Mo Williams came out of the blue, for the most part.

Officially, the Timberwolves still have plenty of guards (J.J. Barea, Alexey Shved, Zach LaVine, Corey Brewer, Kevin Martin, Chase Budinger) on their roster, but a signing such as this clearly signals changes to come, likely for the first two names in the above list.

Williams is still somewhat of a sexy name, as far as Wolves’ free agent signings generally go, but his on-court production tells a different story. He spent the 2013-14 season as Damian Lillard‘s primary backup in Portland, and it was arguably the worst season of Williams’ career.

As a starter for much of his career, Williams was forced into a role that consisted, almost exclusively, of initiating the Blazers’ offense as a sixth-man of sorts. Earlier in his career, Williams was able to play off the ball a lot more, whether it was with LeBron James in Cleveland (which led to his accidentally making the All-Star team in 2009) or in what is now Jamal Crawford‘s role for the Los Angeles Clippers.

Last year, Williams was forced to play with what was largely a lackluster grouping of bench characters, and saw his turnover rate stay far too high while his shooting numbers and already-poor defense suffered. That’s the bad news.

The good news? That’s easy. He’s not J.J. Barea.

Yes, 2013-14 was easily the worst year of Barea’s career, save for possibly his rookie year in Dallas. But still, outside of his career-year (also, his contract year), which was the year he helped propel the Mavericks to an NBA Finals victory over Miami, Williams has consistently been a better player than Barea.

Let’s agree that last year was the worst year of both Williams’ and Barea’s respective careers. Now take a look at the head-to-head numbers. (For explanations of each of these stats, click the column name and they will link to the respective sites that I pulled the data from.)

 
Barea0.024-2.74-0.29-0.066
Williams0.056-3.22-0.60.033

Yeah…neither of those guys were very good last year. Pull any number you’d like. It isn’t pretty. Oh, and if you hate these new-fangled numbers, here are some “traditional”, per-game values.

Ugly, isn’t it? But note the sharp difference in three-point shooting percentage (31.6% for Barea, a worst-since-the-2006-season 36.9% for Williams), and then consider the rate that J.J. jacked up those long-range bombs — to the tune of 5.7 per 36 minutes. At a 31.6% clip. Yuck.

Turnover rate and rebounding are really the only things that Barea has any edge on over Williams, but the huge jump in long-range shooting ability is enough to justify the move to swap out backup point guards. Both are bad defenders, but at least Williams is a bit bigger and could play off the ball better than Barea because of his shooting ability.

If the Wolves had given anything more than one-year, $3.75 million to Williams, well, there’d be a some question as to whether or not it’s a good move. But on a one-year contract, and replacing the weakest link in the Wolves’ rotation from a year ago? Absolutely the proper move.

Throw in the experience/leadership card, and there’s probably some more positives there, too. There is really nothing to complain about with this move, as the Wolves are clearly a better team today than they were yesterday.

Replacing horrible rotation players with passable ones can facilitate a sizable jump in the ‘wins’ category over the course of an entire season. As it stands, if the Wolves can replace Barea and Shved’s minutes with Mo Williams and a healthy Chase Budinger, things are looking up.

Turns out, going from bad to less-bad is an upgrade, albeit modest. But an upgrade, nonetheless. Every. Single. Time.

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