Last night, in Monday’s 104-84 thrashing of the Detroit Pistons in Charlotte, Marvin Williams — in 28 minutes of action — slapped up another double-double: 14 points (6-8 from the field), 12 rebounds. The win helped improve Charlotte’s record to 12-8, which is good for the No. 5 spot in the surprisingly good Eastern Conference. Not a bad first quarter of the season for a team who lost their best defender — Michael Kidd-Gilchrist — during the preseason.
The Hornets are winners of seven of their last nine games — and one of those losses came against the 22-0 Warriors, so I’m not even really sure if it should count. Additionally, four of those victories have come against teams that are either locks for the playoffs in the East, or will at least contend for a berth, including two straight over the Bulls and aforementioned Pistons — both of which came without low-post offensive hub Al Jefferson, who’s currently dealing with a strained left calf suspension likely due to–how do the kids say–training with Danny and Gerald Green? (Get better soon, Big Fella!)
The effort from Williams on Monday evening was his fifth double-double of the season, and he’s been a major reason why the Hornets are currently one of five teams who can boast both a top-10 offense and defense: Golden State, San Antonio, Cleveland, Indiana and Charlotte. Decent company, eh?
There’s been a lot of credit passed around for the Hornets improved play so far this season — and much of that is well-deserved. Coach Steve Clifford has opened up the offense (playing at a faster pace, shooting way more threes, which, finally), but also managed to maintain a top-10 defense, too, which is his calling card.
Kemba Walker is having by far the best shooting season of his five-year career; no one will ever confuse him for Steph Curry, but 36.6 percent from deep is damn good, and hopefully sustainable (fingers crossed). Here’s his shot chart, courtesy of NBA.com:
Offseason acquisitions like Nicholas Batum, Jeremy Lin and Jeremy Lamb have been major contributors, too. Batum has dusted off a sluggish 2014-15 season, and been the player general manager Rich Cho remembered from his time in Portland. He’s hitting 40 percent from deep, and dishing out nearly five assists per game.
And the Double J’s — Lin and Lamb — have propped up a what is now explosive bench unit. According to NBA.com, when those two guys share the floor together, Charlotte is outscoring opponents by 11 points per 100 possessions, which v good, you guys.
This is a fun team playing entertaining hoops for the first time in…eh, I dunno how long. Perhaps the most pleasant surprise for Clifford’s squad, though, has been the play of Williams, who’s averaging 10.2 points per game. He’s currently posting a career-high in true shooting percentage — 57.2% — and he’s shown a deft touch from deep, where he’s 32-85 (37.6 percent). The former UNC Tar Heel is also shooting 89 percent (23-26) from the free throw line, which would rank top-10 in the league if he had enough attempts to qualify.
Williams, who is third on the team in minutes, launches 4.3 threes per game, which means around 51 percent of his shot attempts come from deep — slightly down from last year when 53.5 of his shots came from beyond the arc. Regardless, this is exactly what you want from a guy who’s playing a lot of time as a stretch-four in an offense that’s putting greater emphasis on shooting threes.
With Williams on the floor, Charlotte is scoring 105.1 points per 100 possessions, according to NBA.com, and giving up only 99.3 points per 100. That offensive rating would rank as the No. 3 offense in the league. And when Williams dips and hits the bench, Charlotte scores 101.1 points per 100 — a difference of four points. This isn’t insignificant, man.
The No. 2 pick from the 2005 draft is featured in all four Hornets five-man lineups that have played 40 or more minutes together this season and have positive point differentials, including their most heavily used lineup: Marv, Kemba, Nic, Big Al and P.J. Hairston. In 162 minutes, this group has scored 111.2 points per 100, and outscored opponents by nearly 11 points per 100 possessions, per NBA.com.
Williams has scored fairly well around the tin — he’s 26-39 on shots inside the restricted area, according to NBA.com — but his best use has come in the pick-and-pop game. Look at his accuracy from ATB on the left side of the floor. Of players who have run 25 or more possessions as a roll man in a pick-and-roll, according to NBA.com, Marvin ranks fourth in points per possession (1.32) — between rim-run monsters Hassan Whiteside and DeAndre Jordan. On jump shots alone, Williams has a true shooting percentage of 67.5 — which, again, is really good.
Most of these lineups are set when Clifford throws on his lululemon and decides to get stretchy with Marv at the four — giving guys like Walker, Lin and Batum room to operate and create; however, a lineup with a front line of Spencer Hawes, Cody Zeller (two seven-footers) and Marvin (playing the three here) — along with Lin and Lamb as the backcourt — has given up only 90.7 points per 100 possessions. This would rank as the No. 1 defense in the league, and is a testament to Clifford’s scheme.
His catch-all stats are fantastic, too. Williams currently ranks 36th in the league in real plus-minus (2.78) — above studs such as Marc Gasol, John Wall and Chris Paul. Yo! Per to Basketball-Reference.com, Williams ranks second on the team in offensive rating: 117 points per 100 possessions. The only player with a better metric on the Hornets this year — Tyler Hansbrough — has played only 42 minutes all season. So yeah.
This kind of production is great for a veteran making $7 million this season; Williams is in final year of his deal with Charlotte, and he’s hooping like he wants another nice payday when he again hits unrestricted free agency next July. The Hornets will have a decision to make then, but that’s a ways from now. Until then, enjoy the goodness and run to the playoffs.