How Does Lou Williams In Houston Affect The San Antonio Spurs
This week Lou Williams was traded to the Houston Rockets. Could the potential Sixth Man of the Year be a problem for the San Antonio Spurs come playoffs?
If the regular season were to end today, the San Antonio Spurs could play the Houston Rockets in the playoffs. This semifinal would feature one of the league’s most prolific offenses and one of its stingiest defenses. But while the Spurs are the same team they were last week, the Rockets added even more firepower to their offense.
Before the trade, Houston was already second in the league in points per game (114.5), first in three-pointers made (830) and had one of the league’s top sixth men (Eric Gordon). Lou Williams provides them with yet another offensive weapon Mike D’Antoni can utilize.
Williams is netting career highs in points (18.7 per game) and three-point efficiency (39.4 percent) this season, and will make that Sixth Man of the Year race even more interesting with his new teammate Gordon.
Now Houston has even more options when it comes to perimeter guys to send out with superstar James Harden. With Gordon and Williams providing shooting/secondary playmaking, and Patrick Beverly and Trevor Ariza on defense, the Rockets have a lot of flexibility when it comes to matchups.
This means the Spurs could have to game plan for three playmakers being on the court at once for Houston. Before Lou Will was on the roster, you could help off of Beverly or Ariza and use a strong closeout to defend them. This strategy would allow the Spurs to hide Tony Parker on defense. Now, should all three scorers for the Rockets be out there, head coach Gregg Poppovich will have to make a decision. Does he take Parker out, or potentially let his point guard get cooked?
What’s The Plan?
The Spurs have always played great team defense, so it won’t necessarily be a free-for-all on TP in these situations. But for the first postseason in 19 years, it won’t be Tim Duncan on that back line rotating over. It will be LaMarcus Alrdidge and Pau Gasol — not quite as comforting.
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Another silver lining, the Spurs have other guys they can go to when this trio is in for Houston. Patty Mills (quickness), Manu Ginobili (length) and Jonathon Simmons (quickness and length) could all be better options defensively. Pop will use Mills and Ginobili more because they can run point, but Simmons could see valuable minutes when the offense is “everyone watch Kawhi do stuff.” In a Game 6 or 7, that SHOULD be the plan a lot of the time.
Some may argue that we won’t see a lot of Harden-Gordon-Williams because of the defensive troubles it will cause Houston. This is true. A Rockets lineup without Ariza or Beverly on the wing would not get a lot of stops.
But at the end of the day, this team might not care. They have built themselves on being able to outscore any team, because that could be the only way to beat the Golden State Warriors. Coach D’Antonio could very well say, “Yeah I’ll put those three in, and you’ll score 120…but we’re going for 130.”
This Williams trade could very well be a real threat for the San Antonio Spurs in the postseason. The team will need to have a plan for this type of lineup, and be able to stick with it when Houston gets going. But if there’s any team to put money on to build a defensive game plan…it’s these guys.