Lou Williams has only played in 47 games for the Atlanta Hawks, but more importantly only eight games in new Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer's system. Due to his ACL tear back in January, the Hawks front office and coaching staff hasn't had the opportunity to fairly and accurately determine whether or not Williams will fit in the Hawks new system long-term.
Williams spoke to Hoopsworld NBA writer Lang Greene over the summer about a multitude of things, but what he had to say about how Budenholzer wants to use him was very telling, " I spoke to [coach], he wants me to play very similar to like he had Manu Ginobili in San Antonio."
The Ginobili comparison for Williams isn't new by any means, but it's still worth trying to decipher whether or not this is a fair comparison to make for both sides. In the mental sense, you can definitely make the case that Williams and Ginobili are similar because both have been perfectly fine being the first guy off the bench for the majority of their professional careers. It's led to a lot of success and notariety for both players so mentally they are definitely similar.
However, Williams on-court style can be better described as more Jamal Crawford-esque more so than Ginobili. Ginobili's passing ability, getting to the free-throw line consistently, defense, and shot selection sets him apart from Williams very distinctly. Perhaps Budenholzer is optimistic Williams will make the necessary adjustments to his game to become more Ginobili-esque. Although Williams has been in the league eight seasons now so it seems unlikely he is going to make that much of an adjustment to his game at this point in his career.
To continue with the assertion that Williams is more of a poor man's Crawford than a poor man's Ginobili that begs the question of whether or not the Hawks should invest in a player with Williams' skillset long-term. The Hawks are sitting at 11-10, third-best record in the Eastern Conference, and they're in the top half of the league in both ORtg and DRtg. To go a little bit deeper the most effective five-man unit the Hawks have trotted out this season has been the unit of Teague-Martin-Korver-Millsap-Horford. In 29 minutes on the floor together this season that unit has a +/- of +25, per 82games.com. That's really really good and it's also not surprising.
The Spurs signed Marco Belinelli this offseason to bolster their perimeter depth after Gary Neal was not re-signed by the club. Granted, it is still very early in the season but Belinelli has had a huge impact on the team. The Spurs most efficient five-man unit so far this season has been Parker-Green-Belinelli-Diaw-Duncan putting together a +/- of +31.
Those two units are very similar and they're both very lethal. Both Parker and Teague are playing some of the best basketball of their careers and in these units they're surrounded by their team's best 3-point shooters. They also have the benefit of having very efficient big men to dish the ball to if the perimeter is well defended. It's just a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses.
Perhaps the Hawks best course of action going forward isn't investing in a poor man's Crawford in Williams. May trying to package Williams and DeMarre Carroll for a 3-and-d player like an Arron Afflalo or Iman Shumpert to pair with Korver on the wing would work. With Williams' minute restriction appearing to be coming to a close it should mean Martin's minutes will start falling. Maybe the five-man unit of Teague-Williams-Korver-Millsap-Horford will be more effective as Williams gets back to full strength, or the former becomes more apparent and the Hawks will look to find a different wing to pair next to Teague and an aging Korver.
With the Brooklyn Nets being in complete disarray the opportunity for the Hawks to find that future 3-and-d role player could be in the 2014 NBA Draft -- thanks Billy King! Kentucky guard James Young, Australian combo guard Dante Exum, or even the 6-foot-7 Croatian star Mario Hezonja all could potentially fill the role Williams currently occupies with a potentially higher ceiling. Either way the Hawks should have a very good pick and depending on who is available the best way to spend the pick is a wing with an extremely high ceiling.
If the ultimate goal is to a win a championship in the near future settling can't be an option -- even if the player is still an above-average talent. The Hawks are in a very good position going forward, especially with Brooklyn's recent struggles, so it's not as if Williams is someone they need to move as soon as possible. He's probably their most tradeable asset with his current contract and should have a pretty significant role on the team for the rest of the season if he can remain healthy.
Williams is still a talented basketball player who adds a lot to the Hawks, but they just simply need more.