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2014-15 Player Report Cards: Marvin Williams

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Marvin Williams was signed in the offseason to be the starter at power forward. How was his performance this season?

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Marvin Williams, heading into the season, was thought of as the starting power forward. That obviously changed during the year, as Cody Zeller's improvement was too strong to keep him out of the starting lineup when healthy, but Williams played a very big role on this team, even if it didn't necessarily feel like that all season long. He started 37 games, playing in 78 (second-most on the team), and he played the third-most total minutes on the team. Marvin Williams played an awful lot this year! So how did all those minutes help (or hinder) the Charlotte Hornets?

Performance

In my mind, the big thing that sticks out about Marvin Williams' play this season was his three-point shooting. That's not to say that he was great at it-- a .358 three-point percentage isn't anything close to spectacular, or even great, in today's NBA. That said, it was still the highest mark on the team for anyone who played over 300 minutes, and it was well above the overall team rate of .318. In other words: Marvin Williams, with his shooting ability, brought something to the team that they wouldn't otherwise have.

But how much did that really impact the Hornets offense? It's an important question, given that Williams' role on the offense occasionally ranged from "stand around the arc and wait for a pass" and "just kinda do somethin', Marvin, hell." The answer to that question, as best I can tell, is: minimally. The offense averaged 101.8 points per 100 possessions with Williams on the court, and 102.1 points/100 possessions with Williams on the bench (according to 82games.com). In theory, Williams' ability to hit the three helped the team space the floor like they couldn't do with him on the bench, and he provided a facet to the offense that wouldn't otherwise be there. In reality...yeah, it didn't really make a difference. Not to dwell on one stat entirely, but if there's no difference between the offense's scoring output with him and without him, that's not a whole lot of impact that he's making.

Moreover, staying on the offensive side of the ball, his presence on the court slowed down the offense in other ways. With Williams on the court, the Hornets' offensive rebounding fell even further (a huge problem, given their struggles with this as a team), likely due to his offensive positioning being almost exclusively on the perimeter-- Williams shot more threes than twos, and only attempted 77 shots at the rim all season, less than one per game. Also, Williams wasn't exactly a good passer (the only perimeter player with a worse assist rate was P.J. Hairston), and the ball movement really suffered with him on the bench. These two things, plus his shot selection, were probably enough to counterbalance his relatively strong shooting ability.

The defensive end wasn't any better for Williams. In fact, it was probably worse. Going by the points per 100 possessions rate again, the Hornets gave up 105.8 points per 100 possessions with Williams on the court, and 104.0 with him on the bench. So that's not a great number, but it's a telling one, and it backs up what the eye test should have told us all season. He's a power forward that's too small to guard big men, too slow to guard most threes in today's NBA, and both too small and too slow for a lot of stretch fours. That doesn't leave him with a whole lot of options. Thankfully, he picked up on Steve Clifford's defensive schemes really quickly, and he was able to hide his defensive limitations with smart play and good positioning. Hiding them, of course, is a relative term, as the team's defense still performed worse with him on the court. But it could have been a lot, lot worse, and some amount of credit has to go to Williams for his effort there.

Where he did have a substantial positive impact was with his versatility. Again, it didn't lead to great results with the defense, but it did provide a big help with the lineups that were put on the floor, and this was especially true during the multiple periods when the Hornets seemed to have two, three, four players unavailable due to injury. Williams played most of his minutes at the four, but the coaching staff could go many different ways with those lineups. A normal lineup? Sure. A shooting lineup? Yep. Smallball? Definitely. A big lineup (with Williams at the three)? That too. It didn't always work, but that had a lot to do with the facts that: one, this team wasn't going to be a strong squad with Williams having to shoulder so much of the load; and two, they didn't really have a choice but to play him so much. He filled the role of versatile veteran about as well as he could have, but he unfortunately was thrust into a role that required much, much more of him, and ended up hurting his chances of improving the team.

Growth

Did you guys know that Marvin Williams hasn't even turned 29 years old yet? He's nearly a full year younger than teammate Brian Roberts, but it seems like Marvin's about 32. Those are the benefits of coming out of school early and never being more than a role player, I guess.

Anyway, the growth section isn't going to be terribly long, because even though he's still 28 and not that far removed from the normal peak of the age curve, it's pretty apparent that he's on the down side of his career arc. His ability to score at the rim, or even get there with the ball, has absolutely divebombed since his peak in 2011-12. He's replaced those shots, and other close-range attempts, with additional three-pointers, which he's showed only some improvement in, rather than enough to justify the 500 threes he's shot over the past two seasons. Also, he's a good free throw shooter who's rarely getting to the line. These stats, along with what we've witnessed, are indicative of a player who's losing something physically. And, watching Williams on both ends of the court, it sure seems like he's lost a step since his days in Atlanta.

The good news is that Williams could prolong his usefulness by playing to his strengths. The bad news is that he has to improve those strengths quite a bit before he could resume being a net positive in a team's starting unit.

Top Play

You can tell that Marvin Williams is getting old because he uses the pump fake effectively. Here's a short compilation video of what's possibly his best move from the perimeter.

Off-Court

There's not a lot of rumblings about Marvin Williams' off-court demeanor, so that's probably a good thing. I assume he's a relatively-quiet (or, at the very least, low-key) type who tries to lead by example rather than vocally. As a first-year player on this team, without the reputation of a great player or a vocal leader, that's probably the right thing to be.

Also, his full name is Marvin Gaye Williams. That's AWESOME.

Future

I hate to be pessimistic, but Marvin Williams probably isn't getting better next season. Could he reverse some of the bad habits he fell into last season? That's possible, but it's going to take a lot.

That said, Williams has another year on his contract, so unless he's traded or unexpectedly released, he'll be on the team next season. His role is going to depend on both the health of the team come October in addition to the signings or moves they make over the summer. If there's no notable additions at either position Williams plays, we'll see something similar to what he had to do this season, but with fewer overall minutes played. I think it's very likely that the Hornets either draft or sign a small forward or power forward, to say nothing about Noah Vonleh, who will certainly play a much bigger role in 2015-16. So, needless to say, I think Marvin won't see as many minutes next year, because of the moves the front office will likely make. His role next season should be better suited for his skill set, thanks to the improvement of other players at his position(s). As far as whether he offers the same level of production or gets worse-- that, we'll have to wait and see.