The New York Post blog reports that the Golden State Warriors have acquired point guard Marcus Williams from the New Jersey Nets for a lottery protected first round pick in 2011.
It's the perfect move for the Warriors as fans are starting to see the makings of a strong team concept in Oakland for the first time in over a decade.
Williams was drafted by the Nets with the 22nd pick in the first round of the 2006 after falling a bit due to concerns about his conditioning and character. However, what he actually did on the court at the University of Connecticut is what should have Warriors fans excited.
He showed the ability to score and make plays for others with an outstanding feel for the game to go with top notch ball handling skills. Most importantly, he played with a confidence and toughness that has defined the Warriors' 2008 off-season moves.
Williams should be a nice fit at point guard for the Warriors as he has the size to guard bigger point guards that Monta Ellis doesn't. And tutelage from Jason Kidd can't exactly hurt a young point guard.
And although his NBA career has been less than stellar, there are still plenty of reasons for Warriors fans to be encouraged by Williams' potential.
Williams Produced In Starter Minutes
Coming out of college, Williams had a ton of potential, especially considering his surprisingly low draft position. ESPN.com's John Hollinger's draft rater showed that based on college statistics, Williams had a projected 3rd year PER of 15.55, which is right about the average. That projection is similar to the projection of other young point guards you might be more familiar with: Mike Conley, Deron Williams, and Rajon Rondo. Those are favorable comparisons for Williams and perhaps demonstrates that with bigger minutes, he could be a very productive point guard
We often judge a player by his overall statistics, but for a player like Williams, it's also helpful to judge him by when he got consistent minutes and the opportunity to find a rhythm. Williams started in seven games last season for the Nets and showed a lot of promise as an NBA point guard. It's not a huge sample, but it's another example of how the Warriors have stockpiled potential at every position.
Williams' numbers in his seven starts are solid, but might not immediately impress: 11.1 ppg, 6.3 ast/3.0 tos, 4.0 rebounds, 1.14 steals. However looking deeper into the starter numbers, two statistics stand out: his pure point rating and his assist percentage. While neither looks that impressive as a reserve, he definitely stepped up his game as a starter.
Pure point rating is a statistic developed by Hollinger to improve on the obviously flawed assist to turnover ratio, which benefits guard who don't commit turnovers because they don't take risks. Pure point rating adjusts for the actual value of assists and subtracts turnovers from that number to estimate the value a player brings to the court as a play maker per minute.
Williams pure point rating as a starting point guard was 3.89. He averaged 30 minutes per game as a starter so to put this number in perspective, it puts him right in the range of Maurce Williams and Rafer Alston among point guards who played similar minutes. That's not bad for a player who the Warriors intend to bring off the bench to keep the tempo high.
Another interesting statistic from John Hollinger is his assist ratio, which essentially looks at the percentage of player possessions that end in an assist. Again in starter minutes, his assist ratio was 31.1%, meaning he created an assist for a teammate on almost one third of the time he had the ball in his hands. That number ranks similarly to noted distributors, such as TJ Ford, Jason Williams, Raymond Felton, Chauncey Billups and Kirk Hinrich -- two of which the Warriors were rumored to be interested in.
Williams' shooting percentages were not that impressive (41% FG as a starter), but he has shown three point range (35% as a reserve, 50% -- 13 of 26 -- as a starter). What we see here is a player that improved his numbers across the board when his minutes increased.
It's likely that Williams will not see starter minutes any time soon for the Warriors and a more accurate assessment would be of what he did in 20 minutes per game like he played after the all-star break. But looking at three tiers of minutes (16, 20, and 30) we see that his efficiency numbers across the board increase when he gets more minutes. When you consider the type of system the Warriors run and how friendly it is to point guards who can shoot the three and make plays, Williams stands to be an outstanding fit.
A Small Move With Huge Breakout Potential
This is a great deal for the Warriors because Williams has room to grow and comes extremely cheap -- since the pick is lottery protected at worst their spending a 15th pick on him and that's about his value anyway. An early look at Williams statistics support his strong potential to have a breakout season if given a bigger role. It's also worth noting that the Nets didn't just throw the guy away because he's bad; they just acquired Keyon Dooling and that probably made Williams expendable behind Devin Harris and Dooling
But there is also reason for caution -- if rumors of poor conditioning are true, then consistent minutes over a longer period of time will not yield higher production. It's likely those consistent minutes will at least initially be as a backup to Monta Ellis, earning around 20-25 minutes per game. Yet in an uptempo system like the Warriors, Williams' conditioning will be a major factor.
The Warriors have publicly committed to Ellis playing the point as Don Nelson believes that his greatest potential is as a point guard. Even if Williams develops a starter quality game and the Warriors get tempted to start him at point guard with Ellis at the off guard spot, it's unlikely that he'll crack the starting lineup with veterans Corey Maggette and Stephen Jackson pegged as the starters at the 2 and 3. Nevertheless, this should be a great career move for Williams as he stands to see an increase in minutes as the play maker the Warriors have lacked.