Marvin Williams, the 11-year veteran forward, is having a banner year for the Charlotte Hornets. This is his second season with the Hornets and one in which Williams rediscovered a level of play he hasn't achieved since he was a member of the Atlanta Hawks. Moreover, he has surpassed even those levels of performance in ways the Hornets will need in their first round matchup with the Miami Heat and whoever else they might face should they emerge victorious from their first-round series.
Williams has truly had a career year. He set a career mark in made 3-point shots, 3-point percentage, blocks, and rebounds, and has been crucial to the Hornets' starting lineup this season by helping it stretch the floor on offense and putting in work on defense.
The pick-and-roll has worked for the Hornets this season thanks to the much improved duo of Kemba Walker and Cody Zeller. Williams and his 152 3-point makes this season are so instrumental in spacing the floor to allow Walker and his partner to work their magic.
Last season, Williams showed a glimpse of what he could do in this Charlotte system, posting a career-best 95 3-point makes on 35.6 percent shooting. Of course, he annihilated that mark this season, beating it by 57 makes.
Those 57 makes would have been a successful year for Williams by themselves in seasons past, but this year they are a marker to signify a new level of excellence. Williams is now a 40 percent 3-point shooter who is averaging eight rebounds and 1.2 blocks per 36 minutes, meaning that Williams is giving the necessary spacing for a deadly Walker pick-and-roll.
Frank Kaminsky is supposed to be the rangy big man of the future for Charlotte, a big with excellent fundamentals and the ability to shoot from the arc. His arrival was somewhat muted this year because they didn't rely on him thanks to the outstanding play of Williams, who went from 37 games in 2014-15 to 81 games in 2015-16.
The case is already made in the things that Williams has done and it is fair enough to say that he needs to continue to perform at the same level he has all season for the Hornets to have success.
Charlotte was going to have a tough series no matter who they ended up facing in the first round of the playoffs, but for Marvin Williams the Heat are a preferred matchup.
In four games against Miami this season, Williams has averaged 31.2 minutes and put up numbers higher than his season averages. In fact, Marvin put up his season high in points, 27, when playing against Miami in February. But Williams is doing more than just scoring against the Heat.
If you look at how the Heat have fared when Williams has been on the court in their four matchups this season, the Heat are -15. Miami has the misfortune of playing without Chris Bosh, a key player whose absence is not lost on anyone. With Bosh unavailable, Williams will likely find himself locked up with a variety of Heat players. He could lineup with Joe Johnson, though he spent a lot of time locked up with Luol Deng in the last meeting between the two sides. His versatility on defense will be important, though, so don't be surprised if he isn't left to hang out with Deng and instead gets the chance to work against Goran Dragic from time to time.
The great offensive success that Williams has experienced against the Heat this season will be valuable in their effort to take out Miami, and his defense will prove to be valuable against both guard and forward positions. If you're looking for something less obvious than points and rebounds, watch for the spacing battle. With Williams able to draw a power forward out of the paint all the way to the 3-point line, it should open up the lane for Walker to work with Zeller or Al Jefferson to attack the rim by drawing Miami block specialist Hassan Whiteside out of his comfort zone where they have been able to find baskets and draw fouls this season.
The game plan to beat the Heat is real, but it all hangs on Williams doing his part to create space and punish from deep.