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Marvin Williams Has Become the Backbone of Hornets

Pedro Portal/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire

I’m not much for celebrating former second overall picks that top out at being role players, but Marvin Williams deserves credit for his role as a stretch 4 on the resurgent Charlotte Hornets. While his style of play doesn’t lend itself to fanfare, he has been a consistent and crucial element to Charlotte’s success. Williams’ play, specifically his three-point shooting and work on the boards, has helped the Hornets become one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference.

From a cursory glance, it’s easy to overlook Williams’ contributions, but his stats are far from pedestrian. He is averaging 11.6 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and 1.3 blocks per 36 minutes. His numbers production becomes more impressive when one realizes that he plays out of position occasionally. According to Nylon Calculus, Marvin Williams spends 31.9 percent of his minutes moonlighting as a small forward.

Because of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s injury, the Charlotte Hornets lack wings capable of playing the 3 long-term outside of Nicolas Batum. To rest Batum, Williams has acted as the backup small forward at times, and although he has generally held his own in the role, he’s a bit overmatched there.

Williams is a tweener in terms of size and position; he lacks the speed to deal with most small forwards and isn’t big enough to be considered a traditional power forward. When he plays as a 3, Williams only averages 6.5 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per 36 minutes (through games played on Dec. 12).

Feb. 25, 2015 - Chicago, IL, USA - The Charlotte Hornets' Marvin Williams, top, knocks the ball away from the Chicago Bulls' Kirk Hinrich (12) during the second half at the United Center in Chicago on Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2015. The Hornets won, 98-86

Feb. 25, 2015 – Chicago, IL, USA – The Charlotte Hornets’ Marvin Williams, top, knocks the ball away from the Chicago Bulls’ Kirk Hinrich (12) during the second half at the United Center in Chicago on Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2015. The Hornets won, 98-86

In his true position as a small-ball power forward, Marvin Williams averages 14 points, 9 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.4 blocks, and one steal per 36 minutes. His shooting and rebounding, in particular, have been proven very valuable. While not being among the best in the league in three-point efficiency, his shooting helps unlock the Hornets’ offense. In general, the team scores 104.4 points per 100 possessions, but when Williams is on the floor, Charlotte has an offensive rating of 106.1, per NBA.com. He helps space out the floor and unclog driving lanes for perimeter players like Nicolas Batum, Kemba Walker, and Jeremy Lin.

Aside from his outside shot, Williams’ rebounding has also been key component to the Hornets’ success. He is hitting the glass harder than ever; he is currently grabbing 12.4 percent of the available rebounds when he is on the floor, per BasketballReference.com.

His uptick in rebounding has been especially vital to the team’s defense; Hornets’ opponents only secure 19.8 percent of available offensive rebounds – second only to the San Antonio Spurs, per NBA.com. Williams also appears to be the team’s best offensive rebounder, at least by percentages, according to Nylon Calculus.

His newfound offensive rebounding proficiency is interesting considering head coach Steve Clifford’s philosophy on them. Clifford is known for forgoing offensive rebounding in favor of limiting opponents’ transition scoring opportunities, and unsurprisingly the Charlotte Hornets rank dead last in offensive rebounding percentage.

This would suggest that he is possibly compromising the team’s transition defense with his offensive rebounding, but that’s not the case. Teammates Cody Zeller and Al Jefferson pursue offensive rebounds at a greater rate than Williams, but end up obtaining less.

Williams only has an offensive rebounding chase rate of 10.5 percent but ends up grabbing nearly 50 percent of the offensive rebounds he pursues (through games played on Dec. 12). It is rare that a ten-year veteran has such a jump in performance and production, but since we’re at the quarter mark of the season, this can’t be quantified as a fluke. Unlikely as it sounds, Marvin Williams has become an asset on both the offensive and defensive end of the floor for the Hornets.

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