FanPost

Can you name 4 better back up PGs than Mo Williams?

Is Mo Williams the best back up PG in the NBA? That’s the question I asked myself after the recent comments from Dwight Jaynes:

"But as of Thursday morning, Williams' net off-the-court rating -- a combination of his offense and defense -- is the highest on the team. Again, those stats say there is no player on the roster the team plays better WITHOUT than Williams. He has a bigger positive impact on the game for the Blazers when he's off the court than anyone else on the team!"

Mo Williams had a very outspoken and honest response on twitter:

"This is comedy. The only stat I care about is being the best in the west. Enjoy the ride and stop trying to find a negative in every situation. Lol, you name 4 back-up PGs better than me.....don't worry, I'll wait."

While I’ve definitely enjoyed Williams throughout his career, I have been disappointed by his play a few times this season. However, we’re talking about a 10+ year veteran that primarily plays with bench players (with the exception of the Lillard/Williams lineups) so I expected that his numbers wouldn’t be a sparkly as those who spend most of their court time with at least 3 starters on the court. Ben does a great job highlighting the offensive and defensive splits, as well as some of the aforementioned lineup splits. However, when you look up and down NBA rosters Mo has a serious point. There is either a dearth of backup PGs in the NBA right now, therefore bringing the average ratings down, or we are incredibly lucky to have Mo. I’m more apt to lean towards the latter more than the former.

I scoured the interwebs, otherwise known as basketball-reference.com, and began loading up every single "backup" PG in the NBA into my own spreadsheet. While the plus/minus, off/def ratings of on/off court are great- I also wanted to see the raw numbers, the "old" statistics if you were to get a solid grasp of how Williams compared to the rest of the NBA. The results, to say the least, were a bit astounding. Mo was in the top percentiles across the board, and I began to realize that, while this may be the age of the PG- it is definitely not the age of the backup PG.

Take a look at this chart below, ( I apologize for the terrible image quality, my CSS skills are still on the rookie level) and you'll see that there is a fair amount of red. Red is not good. Green, super green (yes that's the queue for the Fifth Element Chris Rock images to pour in) is really what we're striving for. You'll notice that there are only a few players who stay in the green across the board. Most players hover around the average for each category (yellow), while there are a few who consistently hang around the orange to red regions.

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After looking at this chart I was a bit shocked that the play of back up point guards felt like it was so sub par. Also I wanted to share some of my findings and expound on them with a bi of analysis, so here goes.

Mo Williams has played every game but one, and that one game was DNP-Suspended. So durability has not been a concern for him. With the amount of injuries we’ve seen over the course of the season so far- especially the recent run on injured PGs this is something I don’t think can be overlooked (imagine Earl Watson getting Mo’s minutes… let that sink in.) I believe the most of us would consider Williams a score first PG- operating under that premise consider this, the only backup PGs in the NBA to outscore Mo; Tony Wroten, Reggie Jackson, Darren Collison, Nate Robinson, Jarret Jack, and Ramon Sessions… that’s it. So he’s durable and he’s filling his role as a scoring point guard, however the thing that I would suspect a lot of folks are glancing past- Williams leads the NBA for players off the bench in assists. Reggie Jackson, who has been filling in for the injured Russell Westbrook, has played almost 100 more minutes, plays alongside the NBAs most dynamic scorer, and in a fast paced offense, has scored 139 more points but has 36 less assists. Now OKC doesn’t have the shooters around the court that presents the same options as available for Williams- however Mo isn’t on the court with premier 3-point shooters all the time.

Now, it isn’t all sunshine and lollipops with Williams’ game this season. He is by far and away the leader among backup PGs in fouls at 105, the next highest is Jerryd Bayless at 72. That’s a pretty staggering difference and I would contend leads to that deficient defensive rating. Williams is in the upper level of steals for the backup crew- however he’s not on the level of Darren Collison (Williams 28, Collison 42).

As you scroll up and down the list of backup PGs and see what they’re contributing to their teams it’s a bit eye opening. There are really only a handful of what most of us would call capable backups; Jarrett Jack, Reggie Jackson, Darren Collison, Aaron Brooks, Lou Williams, Nate Robinson and our own Mo Williams. Cases can be made for the likes of Luke Ridnour, Patty Mills, and JJ Barea, but beyond that group you start running into players that have noticeable lapses in their game; the inability to hit the 3, turnover prone gunners, young and inexperienced, and/or incapable of running a team and set in the half court. While Mo Williams might not be the absolutely best in every category he’s clearly at the top in the vast majority- and without any major deficiencies, while making slightly above the league average $2.332 million for backup PGs at $2.652m. That, in and of itself is a tip of the cap to Neil Olshey and his team for finding a player that fit within the system they wanted to create at or near the average price for a backup, while also getting a player that performs at or near the top of group in nearly every noticeable category.

After all is said and done, while Jaynes may be correct in assessing a net-negative with Mo Williams on the court, the honest truth seems to be that we could be much worse off if we didn’t have Williams. I believe it’s human nature to always want more, to perform better- especially in the sporting arena, but much like the game of LaMarcus Aldridge maybe we should appreciate what Mo brings to the Blazers a bit more before we want to put him to the fire. As far as I see it, I don’t think you can name 4 backup PGs in the NBA that perform at or near the level of Mo, especially if you factor in all the variables; team fit, leadership, cost, role, etc. The only player I can see fitting in Portland that meets the above criteria and could be considered at or near the level of Williams’ play is Darren Collison.

When it comes down to it, I'm more inclined to side with Mo's claim- "The only stat I care about is being the best in the west. Enjoy the ride and stop trying to find a negative in every situation." Considering where the Trail Blazers are at this point and everything that has transpired this season, I'm absolutely thrilled to have Mo Williams on this team.

Thoughts, ideas, beliefs, etc. Please feel free to discuss below- and because no post is complete without a poll... I'll add that in as well.

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