The Charlotte Hornets are getting closer and closer to their training camp beginning. Currently, as the roster stands today, there are 14 guaranteed contracts, leaving one spot open to be won at training camp. One of those players that has been invited to camp is Elliot Williams.
Williams is one of two players (Aaron Harrison being the other) that has received a non-fully guaranteed contract from the Hornets that already has NBA experience. Even though he is only entering his fourth year in the league, Williams has already been a journeyman to some degree.
Williams was drafted in the first round of the 2010 draft by the Portland Trailblazers after playing for Duke and Memphis in college. Born and raised in Memphis, TN, Williams transferred to the Tigers to play close to home during his senior season. Unfortunately, after being drafted by Portland, Williams suffered a leg injury that kept him out of the entire 2010-11 season, meaning he would make his debut in 2011-12.
Williams didn't get much run with the Blazers, only appearing in 24 games and playing just above six minutes a game. he struggled with injuries in that season as well, dislocating his shoulder and then eventually tearing his achilles which effectively kept him out of the entire 2013-14 season. In just three years, Elliot had already missed two season and only played in 24 games.
Williams signed with the Philadelphia 76ers right before the 2013-14 season started, definitely the best year of his career thus far. Averaging 17 minutes per game and appearing in 67 games, Williams averaged six points per game while shooting 41.5% from the field and 29.6% from three. Those numbers obviously won't overwhelm you, but as a player you would hope to build on this success into the next season. Unfortunately, that never happened for Williams as he only played 13 total games in 2014-15, eight with the New Orleans Pelicans and 5 with the Utah Jazz. Williams spent the rest of the year bouncing around from the D-League to several NBA 10-day contracts.
With how little of a sample size Williams' statistics are coming from, basically only being one season, it is better to look at the 29 games he played in Santa Cruz last year for the defending D-League champion Santa Cruz Warriors, affiliated with the Golden State Warriors. In those 29 games, Williams averaged 21.34 points, 7.4 assists, and 4.8 rebounds per game, shooting a very respectable 47.4% from the field and 37.4% from three. He played on the wing and showed a lot of promise as a secondary playmaker on the wing, making reads in the pick and roll very nicely.
The shooting stroke improvement in Santa Cruz is also a very promising sign for someone who hadn't shown the ability to knock down threes at the NBA level. The Warriors' system obviously produces a lot of open threes, meaning that Williams was able to cash in those open looks at an above average rate.
Williams is probably best when he gets out in transition ahead of the pack, where he can use his length and athleticism.
His previous injuries may be a concern, but he seems to have recovered nicely from those injuries, not having any problems in the past two seasons. It is nice that we now have a handful of data and film to look at for him, but it still isn't a big enough sample size to really make a definitive opinion on whether or not he has been able to have success. His D-League play was nice, but even then it was only a limited amount of games.
If the skills that Williams showed in Santa Cruz are able to translate to the Hornets, then he should probably be their choice for the final roster spot. The Hornets need for spacing isn't a secret, and any shooting is welcomed. They've done a good job this offseason of bringing in players who should be able to provide that floor spacing from the perimeter, but even then guys like PJ Hairston, Jeremy Lamb, and Nicolas Batum have had track records of inconsistency shooting it from deep. Williams isn't the exception to that, but adding him would increase their chances of adding a guy who can spot up and knock down shots.