Getting Mo Williams Involved Should Be Cleveland Cavaliers' No. 1 Priority
Over the last few days, I've read some really interesting blogs and analyses about various things the Cavaliers should try to do to close out the regular season strongly.
Then there was fellow B/R featured columnist Bob Evans' article about which Cavaliers need to step up come playoff time.
One common thing springs up in all of them: Find a way to get Mo Williams more involved in the offense.
Mo is one of the streakiest guards in the NBA. When he is on, his jump shot is falling, his passes are crisp and on the money, and even his defense becomes...well, it's tolerable.
When he's not playing well, you get a repeat of the '09 Eastern Conference Finals: missed jumpers, bad decision-making, and defense that gets exposed almost every possession.
Since the acquisition of Antawn Jamison, Mo has become the third option offensively. This isn't necessarily a bad thing—a streak shooter like Mo should be the straw that stirs the drink, instead of one of the main ingredients.
The problem is, Williams still hasn't found his niche in the offense. He hasn't yet grasped when to facilitate or when to look for his shot.
One of the reasons for this is Mike Brown's constant tinkering of the rotation. Granted, the Cavs have dealt with injuries and have been incorporating new players into the rotation for the last two months; they haven't been 100 percent since Mo hurt his shoulder on Jan. 19.
But Brown has been changing the philosophy of the Cavs' lineup as well. When O'Neal went down, he used a smaller, quicker lineup to push the pace. Now that Z and Leon Powe are back in the rotation, Brown is using a much bigger lineup, especially when he rests LeBron.
And even when he wasn't shooting, he was distributing the ball well within the offense.
But in the bigger lineup, he doesn't seem comfortable.
One of the reasons is that, in the last few weeks, Brown has been experimenting with playing Antawn Jamison at the small forward position in the second quarter, when LeBron generally sits for about half the period.
Like Brian Windhorst said in his blog, the results haven't been disappointing; Antawn is posting players up and scoring at will. He's had 30 second-quarter points in the last two games against San Antonio and Sacramento.
But the second quarter used to be Mo time. It was his turn to run the offense and look for his shot.
Recently, he hasn't even been looking for his shot. He's averaging less than eight FGA per game in the last six contests. He hasn't hit a three-pointer in three of those games; he was only scoreless from behind the line in six of the Cavs' first 43 games.
If Mo's not looking to score, or if he's not a real threat from behind the line, it hurts the other Cavs' perimeter players as well.
Anthony Parker, who is also a great spot-up shooter, has also been in a slump recently. When Mo is connecting, defenses tend to scramble out to the perimeter to close out on him. The extra pass is almost always open, and Mo and LeBron are great at finding the open guy.
That's usually Parker, and that's when AP is at his best.
Delonte West is a strong back-to-the-basket player. He often plays with Mo since they are great complements to one another; they can both handle the ball well, distribute in the offense, and score going one-on-one.
But if Mo isn't aggressive, it doesn't free up the low-post game for Delonte.
Mike Brown, I know you read my articles religiously. Who could blame you? So here are a few tips to get Mo going before we hit the playoffs.
Pick-and-Roll with Antawn Jamison
Like I said earlier, the second quarter used to be Mo's time to run the offense. Recently, Jamison has turned into the No. 1 scoring option.
That's fine. That's all well and good. In fact, we should be embracing that.
But instead of posting up Jamison, let's get him going in the pick-and-roll a bit. Send Antawn to set two or three picks for Mo per possession.
Even if Mo doesn't get open looks, he'll be the one with the ball in his hands a majority of the time. As long as he's not dribbling out the clock and taking bad jumpers, this is a good thing. It'll help his confidence and that's instrumental for Cleveland's long-term success.
Play Small Ball
I don't have any problems with the Cavs going a little bigger. If they're stuck in a half-court game in the playoffs, having a lot of length inside will be extremely helpful defensively.
But at the end of the first quarter and in some of the third quarter, the Cavs should really consider getting back to a smaller lineup.
Maybe something like Mo, Delonte, Jamario (is he still alive?), LeBron, and Varejao (when he returns)? In this lineup, Mo is the second-best offensive option and can develop a bit of a rhythm heading into the fourth.
Or Mo, Delonte, AP, LeBron, and Jamison? In this situation, Mo has got two potent offensive scorers and two good shooters surrounding him. Running the offense and getting open shots should be a breeze.
Run Some Damn Plays for Him
Maybe the most novel concept of all.
How hard would it be to just run a few plays for him every now-and-then? Maybe swing the ball opposite to LeBron, then have Mo fade into the back corner so LeBron can hit him with a cross-court pass?
If memory serves me right, that play worked about three times in the second half at Boston last month, when the Cavs dropped 60 points on the vaunted Boston defense.
Get him in some pick-and-rolls.
Move him off the ball, set some screens for him to open up a baseline shot, a la Rip Hamilton.
Find a way to get him in the lane so he can throw up that patented "Mo Flo" runner.
Or start fast breaks more often so he can find some pull-up jump shots.
Whatever way necessary, Mo has to get going offensively, or Cavs fans could be seeing flashbacks to 2009 real quick.
When the offense has LeBron (a capable scorer from anywhere on the floor), Jamison (a difficult cover for undersized small forwards or unathletic power forwards), and Mo going at the same time, they have options from all areas of the floor.
Add that to a defense that's tied for fourth in points-per-game allowed, and that's a potent combination.
When Mo's flashing that goosey and playing with confidence at a high level, the Cavs are awfully difficult to beat. Ask the Lakers, when Mo dropped 28 on Christmas Day and L.A. had no response.
Or ask the Celtics, when Mo combined for nine three-pointers in two losses to the Cavs.
Come playoffs, it'll be the LeBron show, no doubt about it. But Mo will go a long way in determining how far the Cavs can go.
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