Elliot Williams' story has been an interesting one, to say the least. Since he was drafted 22nd overall by the Portland Trail Blazers in the 2010 NBA Draft, Williams has played for five (well, technically six) NBA teams and two NBDL franchises. The name may ring a bell to Charlotte Hornets fans — Williams signed a 10 day contract with Charlotte last season, but never officially suited up for the team. Injuries mean he has seen limited time in the NBA, despite the fact that this will be his fifth season in the league. So what can fans expect from the enigmatic Williams?
2014-2015 was a roller coaster season for Williams. He played a total of just 19 games in the Association, splitting time with the Utah Jazz and New Orleans Pelicans on 10 day contracts. His statistics leave much to be desired — in 13 games, he averaged just 2.8 points on 37.8 percent shooting to go with 0.6 rebounds and 0.9 assists. He did shoot 44 percent from 3-point range, but he only attempted 18 of those shots. It's barely enough total shot attempts to put together a shot chart.
So why would the Hornets even bother bringing this guy back? Just look at his play with the Santa Cruz Warriors for the answer to that question.
Elliot Williams NBDL Regular Season Shot Chart
Elliot Williams NBDL Playoffs Shot Chart
There, in 29 games played, Williams averaged 21.3 points, 7.4 assists and 4.8 rebounds while shooting 47.4 percent from the floor and 37.4 percent from 3. Williams was named a NBDL All-Star, an All-NBA Development League Second Team member and MVP of the NBDL Finals, thanks to a 31 point, eight assist performance in Game 1 and 25 point, five assist, five rebound performance in the clinching Game 2.
If Elliot Williams wants to secure a spot on a NBA roster, he will need to improve his defense. In his four seasons in the Association, he has never had a Defensive Win Share (DWS) of greater than 0.3 or a Defensive Box Plus/Minus (DBPM) greater than -2.6. You do not need to be a major sports analysis to realize those numbers are bad. Williams has been better in the NBDL, but not by a substantial margin. In the Developmental League last season, Williams had a DWS of 1.6 and a DBPM of 0.1.
For comparisons sake, last season Lance Stephenson had a DWS of 1.8 for Charlotte (good for eighth on the team), while Jason Maxiell and Brian Roberts had DWSs of 1.2 (tied for ninth). In addition, Kemba Walker had a DBPM of 0.1 last season (good for eighth on the team).
Williams needs to show that he has greatly improved his defense when he comes to training camp next month, especially if he wants a spot on the roster of a defensive-minded head coach like Steve Clifford.
Taking the road less traveled
As mentioned earlier, Elliot Williams' story is far from the average NBA player. Williams started his collegiate career at Duke, but transferred to Memphis after his freshman season to be closer to his sick mother. After being drafted in the first round by Portland, he played just 24 games in his first two seasons due to knee and shoulder injuries. And that's before he missed the 2012-2013 season due to an Achilles injury. When he finally returned to game action, he suited up for the godawful 2014-2015 Philadelphia 76ers.
After bouncing between three NBA teams last season as a fringe player, he blossomed when he joined the Santa Cruz Warriors and their high-octane offense. He actually teamed up with former Hornet training camp body Aaron Craft (who was also the NBDL Defensive Player of the Year) to help bring Santa Cruz a title.
It would be a great story to see Elliot Williams stick with a team after overcoming so much, but that will much easier said than done.
What to expect
The odds are surely against Williams to make the roster. On top of his injury history and his lack of success in the NBA, he will have to battle the likes of Nicolas Batum, Jeremy Lin, Jeremy Lamb, P.J. Hairston and Troy Daniels for a spot as the 2-guard on the roster. Williams will need a very solid training camp, plus a very poor training camp by one of the aforementioned names (namely the last two) in order for Williams to make the squad. But if he did, it would a long overdue reward to someone who has paid his dues for years now.