Shawne Williams Is Smart Choice as Starting Power Forward for Los Angeles Lakers
With Pau Gasol moving back to center this year, the positional battle at the 4 was one of the more interesting storylines of the preseason. However, Mike Trudell of Lakers.com reports that Williams will get the nod on opening night:
Lakers starters tonight: Steve Nash, Steve Blake, Nick Young, Shawne Williams and Pau Gasol. Same line up as final two preseason games.— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) October 29, 2013
This was not a foregone conclusion with experienced options like Chris Kaman, Jordan Hill and some others fighting for a spot. However, Mike D'Antoni's decision will pay off dividends throughout the year.
Williams provides something that the other men on the roster cannot: an above-average shooting ability.
D'Antoni's offense is based upon quick movement down the floor as point guard Steve Nash penetrates into the lane and finds open shooters on the outside. Last year, Gasol struggled to fit into this system as the power forward, and the entire offense suffered.
However, Williams has proven the ability to fit into what the coach is trying to do. The former first-round pick out of Memphis had his best season two years ago with the New York Knicks while playing for D'Antoni. That year, he averaged 7.1 points in 64 games while shooting 40.1 percent from behind the arc.
His numbers were about the same during the preseason, although you can expect him to improve upon his 33 percent outside shooting once he gets comfortable in the offense.
Bleacher Report's Kevin Ding also quoted the head coach in his assessment of Williams:
Strong endorsement of Shawne Williams from D'Antoni: "The guy can play. ... He's going to be tough, and he's going to make 3's."— KEVIN DING (@KevinDing) October 23, 2013
With the lineup as currently constructed, scoring could be an issue for the Lakers this season. Kobe Bryant remains out for an indefinite amount of time, and the team will have to manufacture points in his absence.
This will force the team to rely on the system rather than individual playmakers. Guys like Nick Young and Williams will give the offense the scoring it is missing by simply hitting open shots.
The Lakers are likely counting on plenty of production out of Kaman this season after signing a $3.2 million deal over the summer. However, he has been limited in the preseason with an illness. This will keep him out of the starting lineup, although he did proclaim that he will be available:
Nothing is going to stop me from being on the court for the game opener! #Lakers— Chris Kaman (@ChrisKaman) October 29, 2013
Still, the fact remains that he is not the best option for this starting lineup. He does not spread the floor like Williams does, and he would likely clash with Gasol down low.
Who will get the most playing time this year at power forward?
Meanwhile, the one advantage Kaman has would be with his rebounding ability. Unfortunately, even that attribute has dropped in recent years, as the veteran averaged only 5.6 rebounds per game last season with the Dallas Mavericks.
If the team needs a more efficient low-post player on the floor for matchup purposes, Hill would likely be the best option.
Either way, Williams remains the person who should be in the lineup the most. He helps provide the squad with more offense while allowing the other players more space inside, as his size at 6'9" allows him to defend inside as well.
D'Antoni might have made this decision out of necessity, but it is the best one for the team going forward.
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