With the trade deadline fast approaching and the Hawks dealing with more injury troubles, Lou Williams could potentially be a name worth shopping. He’s struggled, teams could look at him as a buy-low option and Atlanta is very desperate for some help because of injury troubles that have aided in the Hawks losing six straight games. But in reality, if Atlanta were to trade Williams now they’d be doing themselves more harm than good.
What the Hawks desperately need at the moment is not a major shake-up of any means, but some more depth with players dropping like fruit flies in bug spray. Williams’s contract is by no means a very destructive one. It expires at the conclusion of the 2015 season, with Williams earning about $5.3 million per year. Even in this down season, players of similar (or worse) production are earning even more than Williams – names such as J.R. Smith, Richard Jefferson, Caron Butler and Derrick Williams.
The bench help doesn’t necessarily have to arrive through a trade either, as exemplified by Cartier Martin’s signing this season. There are viable options still on the market if need be, as well the option to turn to the D-League.
Besides, Williams doesn’t hold much value at the moment. The Hawks in all likelihood would not receive much in return, said Zach Lowe of Grantland in his Trade Deadline primer:
“Danny Ferry, true to Spurs form, is radio silent, and Lou Williams’s decline has robbed him of a once intriguing piece.”
Williams’s points per game, field-goal percentage, PER and true-shooting clip are all at career-worsts since his sophomore season in 2007. Combine this with his usual defensive shortcomings and the Hawks are 4.4 points per 100 possessions better when Williams is on the pine. However, Williams is bound to bounce back to his career form, as indicated by past ACL-tear victims.
It’s no secret the main cause of Williams’s poor play has been the lingering effects of his ACL tear last season. Usually, players’ first years back from this injury are disappointments, with a more tangible return to normalcy happening in the season following.
Al Jefferson tore his ACL in February of 2009, returning the year following to a 4.1 decrease in his PER despite a 4.6 dip in his usage rate. The season after – despite a new team and system to adapt to – Jefferson’s PER increased by 1.1, then by 2.7 the year after that. In the case of David West, his PER slumped by 3.6 upon his return from an ACL tear, only to bounce back up by 3.3 the season after. As Ken Berger of CBS stated in his article on a string of ACL-related injuries:
“The Clippers’ Jamal Crawford, who tore his ACL in 2001, said he returned to play eight months later but didn’t feel 100 percent for more than a year.”
Point being, this stuff takes time. Lou Williams is only 27 years old, after all. So if there were any time to trade him – if there were even a real need to – wouldn’t it be next year?
Chances are Williams will be somewhat back to himself next season, thus he’ll have more value. An expiring contract who’s a strong bench player? It’s plausible contending teams would surrender a first-round pick plus a player in exchange for a Williams who is returning to strength.
Trading Lou Williams at this juncture would not only bring little benefit to the Hawks, it would effectively hurt their season. Beyond his value as a trading piece and how good he’ll be on the floor next year, his individual struggles scoring the ball this season haven’t exactly hurt the Hawks on that end. His ball-handling ability and threatening three-point range have actually bolstered the Hawks offense by 4.3 points per 100 possessions when taking the floor.
Right now, Atlanta’s best move in relation to Lou Williams is to not make a move at all.
Numbers provided by Basketball-Reference and NBA.com/stats, salary information from ShamSports.