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.)
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.