The 2015-2016 campaign has been nothing short of a roller coaster ride for the Charlotte Hornets. After a white-hot start that saw the team holding the two seed in the Eastern Conference, the Hornets have stumbled to a 23-25 record and now are on the outside of the playoff picture looking in. The team has not been without its fair share of memorable performances though, the majority coming from Kemba Walker.
Lost in this season, with its injuries upon injuries upon injuries upon injuries, Kemba Walker's career season, the rebirth of a new age Linsanity and realization of the offense coach Steve Clifford dreamed of when he first took over (even if it was only for the first month or so), has been the career resurgence of Marvin Williams.
In a season full of inconsistencies, Marvin Williams has been the closest thing to a consistent Charlotte has had. He has evolved into the player the franchise hoped he would be when they signed him last season, and then some, and it could be argued that he is having the best season of any Hornet not named Kemba Walker.
2015-2016 is the best season Williams has had since leaving the Atlanta Hawks following the 2011-2012 season. In the three season prior to this one (two of which were spent in Utah and one in Charlotte), Williams had been averaging just 7.9 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.2 assists with a shooting line of .429/.350/.757 in 25.1 minutes per game.
This season, Williams has been a man reborn, averaging 10.1 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.4 assists with a shooting line of .419/.370/.872 (his current career highs in 3-point percentage and free throw percentage, respectively, are .389 and .845) while playing an average of 29.4 minutes per game, his highest since 2009-2010. With Walker missing Wednesday's showdown against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Williams will become the only Hornet to play in every game this season.
Defensively, Williams has completely changed his game this season. His versatility to guard small forwards and power forwards remains important part of coach Clifford's defense, but Williams has become the team's inside force as a blocker. Through 48 games, he has already set a career-high in blocks with 51 — his previous high was 46 blocks in 81 games with the Hawks in 2009-2010 — and leads the team in that category by a significant margin.
In fact, as of this writing, Williams is the only player in the National Basketball Association (minimum 30 games played) to lead their team in both 3-point percentage and blocks.*
*The honor will not last much longer, as Troy Daniels, who has played in 26 games, is shooting .500 from deep, but I felt the stat was still worth pointing out.
While the Hornets play has been trending downhill lately, Williams' has been skyrocketing. The month of January may have been a depressing one for the Charlotte Hornets team, but it has the best month of the season for Williams, who averaged 11.8 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists while shooting .442/.408/.816. Prior to the Hornets' last game — a victory of the Los Angeles Lakers, Williams had been averaging 16.7 points over his last three games, per the team, and that was before he dropped 19 points and 12 boards on the Lakers.
Williams' offensive game has evolved, as he is taking more and more shots closer to the basket to complement his range. Through 48 games this season, he has already taken 118 field goals within 8 feet of the basket, including 90 shots in the restricted area and 49 shots in the paint (non-restricted area). In 78 games last season, Williams took just 106 shots within 8 feet of the basket, 86 shots in the restricted area and 37 shots in the paint (non-restricted area). His ability to hit shots 10-16 feet from the basket in particular has dramatically improved as well. After shooting an abysmal 29.4 percent on such shots last season, Williams is en route to a career high on such shots (61.1 percent).
Williams has remained the glue that has done all it can to keep this team together as losses and injuries continue to try to tear the team apart. He has never been a star in the Association, and more than likely will never be one. But he has become an essential role player that every team needs. Williams could become a very tempting trade target for teams come the trade deadline, but the Hornets would be wise to keep Williams around for as long as they possibly can. He has built a solid niche in Charlotte and the team is beginning to reap the benefits of it now.
All stats from Basketball-reference.com and NBA.com.