Hawks

Sweet Lou Shining in Home Sweet Home

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It hasn’t been a kind season to the Atlanta Hawks, injury-wise.

Yet they somehow find themselves 5th in the Eastern Conference, with an effective two-game advantage over the Celtics and Heat.

The Hawks really bolstered their roster during the 2020 off-season, and their endless depth has been a vital part of their success. Adding veteran presence and versatility; Solomon Hill, perimeter shooting and shot creation; Bogdan Bogdanovic and Danilo Gallinari, and defense; Kris Dunn and Onyeka Okongwu.

Travis Schlenk and Co. also added Rajon Rondo. But after just 27 games in a Hawks jersey, the front office were forced to make moves at the deadline, leading to the welcomed return of Lou Williams.

With the Hawks trying to claim a playoff seed and avoid the play-in, just how important has the Lou Will pick-up been for the Hawks?

Trade recap

Atlanta Hawks received: Lou Williams, two future second-round picks and cash

Los Angeles Clippers received: Rajon Rondo

Prior to the deadline, there was only one move I hoped for as a Hawks fan– to move Rajon Rondo. I even theorized about a potential straight-trade for Lou Williams. So to get an additional two second-round picks was an unexpected bonus.

Rondo’s time as a Hawk

Rondo’s regular season impact was even worse than fans anticipated. Using EPM (estimated plus-minus), Rondo was in the 15th percentile of all players (at -3.7), with a negative impact on both sides of the floor.

Using the eye test, this was clear, too. Rondo suffered most with inconsistency, and as a high-usage, pass-first point guard, the offense suffered with him. In his worst form, Rondo’s playmaking was passive, stagnating the offense and putting little pressure on the opposing defense. This was most noticeable late in quarters. These plays went one of two ways: Rondo killed the shot clock to kick sideways to a contested shooter, or Rondo favored an isolation play that often resulted in a midrange or deep dribble pull-up.

Though not his game, he did somewhat redeem himself by hitting 38.1% of his pull-ups from three (all open or wide open) – and 37.8% of threes overall while in Atlanta. His playmaking was at his best when he was aggressive, attacking the rim and keeping his dribble live. This was also a big offensive trade-off, though, given Rondo’s fifth percentile finishing at the rim (46.8%).

Why it was time to cash in on Rondo

I don’t want this to exist as a Rondo critique piece, that would be unfair. He still has desirable NBA qualities. Those notable are his playmaking, basketball IQ, veteran guidance, and playoff experience. But, since they weren’t a playoff lock at the time of the trade, the Hawks couldn’t afford to wait out for ‘playoff Rondo’. With a 22-22 record mid-March, Atlanta’s season was fragile, especially considering their injury-riddled roster. Considering that Rondo is guaranteed $7.5 million next season and still has significant trade value to a contender, cashing in at the deadline was the best option available.

Lou’s impact

Hawks boast a 14-5 record when Williams plays.

Since Trae Young entered the league, the Hawks had previously failed to find a capable point guard to steer the ship in his absence. While Lou Williams isn’t a pass-first point like his predecessors Rondo or Jeff Teague, he has had the best offensive impact of the three.

Amongst Hawks fans, there’s now an unprecedented sense of enthusiasm and belief even when Trae is off the floor. Is that entirely on Lou Will? Of course not. Sweet Lou has been very hot and cold, but his approach has complemented Bogdan Bogdanovic and Kevin Huerter‘s recent form. The Hawks have seen recent success implementing an egalitarian offense, with a number of players progressing the ball. Lou Will, Bogdanovic and Huerter each have great passing ability if they can’t find a look off the pick and roll. With Trae out injured, we’ve seen this egalitarian system work in David-and-Goliath-esque wins over the Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat.

We’ve also seen early signs of a Lou Will/Onyeka Okongwu relationship in the pick-and-roll, or with Okongwu cutting to the dunkers’ spot. Prior to Williams’ arrival, Okongwu had yet to really flash his offensive potential as a roll man.

Don’t forget Lou’s fourth-quarter magic. In a win over the Bucks, the Hawks overcame an eight-point deficit going into the fourth, courtesy of a Lou Will hot streak. He finished the quarter with 15 points (5/5 made attempts, with four threes). With such a deep roster, outsiders may overlook contributions from Williams, but his offensive impact on the Hawks shouldn’t be understated.

Check out his patented jump shot to cap-off this huge comeback victory:

A win-win trade?

The addition of Lou Williams has been a great fit for the Hawks. He’s an additional spark plug and fits Atlanta’s system when Trae is off the floor. But to give Rondo his credit, his fit with the Clippers has been mutually beneficial. Since his move to LA, he has played his best ball of the season and has filled some of the Clippers playmaking needs. The extended absence of Patrick Beverley only amplified this need, making this trade a win-win.

 

About Elliott Godfrey-Clark

Writer for Hawks Lead. Huge fan of Hawks basketball, despite being 4000 miles away. Born and raised in Bradford, United Kingdom. I have a social science background with an MSc in Social Research and Evaluation and have recently started a career in analytics. Follow me on Twitter for more NBA/Hawks takes @ElliottGClark

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