Lou was signed in the offseason to a 3-year/$15 million contract and immediately became a fan favorite. Not only was he from Atlanta, but he played the part well; he worked within the community and had the guys doing public practices in HS gyms. In about a month, he had probably done more in Atlanta than Joe Johnson did over a seven year span.
His first few games in an Atlanta uniform only added to his status. In his sixth-man role, he was ready at any time to become the team’s number one option on the court. Unlike the passive Johnson that he was essentially replacing, Lou let his emotions be seen on the floor and his fearlessness in the paint gave something that the Hawks desperately needed: a guy that could live at the free throw line. Unfortunately for Lou and the Hawks, his season ended about halfway through the year, when he tore his ACL in Brooklyn against the Nets.
While his per-36 numbers are great for a third option on a team, the overall outlook is sort of a mixed bag for Lou. In a way, the best way to summarize him is as a better version of the Jamal Crawford version that Atlanta fans were treated to a few years ago. Lou showed above-average efficiency in scoring and was one of the best at getting to the free throw line. However, unlike Crawford, Lou is much more capable of running an offense and wasn’t completely reliant on calling his own number to make plays for the team. While his defense wasn’t the greatest, he wasn’t a complete sieve like Jamal was.
The biggest surprise to me was his on/off efficiency differential being negative, but that can be explained in a myriad of ways. First, Lou was the sixth-man, meaning he was often the only scoring option on floor. While he may have been going up against the other team’s bench, it is still a lot harder to keep pace when you are passing to DeShawn Stevenson and Anthony Tolliver instead of Kyle Korver and Al Horford.
Secondly, the timing of his injury was extremely unique to this team. Before his injury, the Hawks had to deal with lengthy absences from Kyle Korver and Devin Harris. While these guys aren’t exactly superstars, they represented important spacing and ball-handling options that the Hawks dearly missed when they were out. Statistically, this is backed up by Korver and Harris having the two highest on/off efficiency differentials of the Atlanta regulars.
It wasn’t just Korver and Harris, either. One has to remember that Al Horford was still recuperating from his pectoral injury that he suffered in the 2011-12 season. Before Lou was injured, Horford was averaging just 15.5 points and 9.6 rebounds per game. After Lou-Will went down, those averages increased to 19.4 and 10.8. While this could just be seen as a factor of Horford inheriting some of Lou’s shots, it really wasn’t; Horford’s game completely changed when he appeared to be over his injury, and hesitancy on the court decreased.
One has to believe that if Lou would have been able to play with a fully healthy Horford, Harris, and Korver, the team would have been better off. (the playoff series against Indiana just screams this) However, because of the timing of Lou’s injury, it statistically looks like the Hawks were better without him. This isn’t true; the team was just (unrelated to Lou) better suited in the time after his injury and learned to play without the star sixth-man.
BEST GAME: December 29th, a 109-100 win against the Pacers. It was Lou Will’s first 20-point, 10-assist game of his career, which he accomplished through eight assists in the first quarter.
AVERAGE GAME GRADE: 6.4/10
SEASON GRADE: 7/10