Inside the Sixers: Do Sixers miss Lou Williams yet?

With Atlanta, Lou Williams is shooting better (42.7 percent) than his replacements with the Sixers, Dorell Wright and Nick Young. Williams spent seven seasons in Phila.
With Atlanta, Lou Williams is shooting better (42.7 percent) than his replacements with the Sixers, Dorell Wright and Nick Young. Williams spent seven seasons in Phila. (AP)
Posted: January 14, 2013

Just how are those players that the 76ers brought in to replace Lou Williams faring as the season nears its midpoint?

As we have heard from the Sixers ever since they traded for Dorell Wright and signed Nick Young, who are both in the final year of their contracts, the 76ers have in theory become a longer and better defensive team.

As GM Tony DiLeo said Friday, it is difficult to evaluate them because they were also brought here to be spot-up shooters who would be more effective in their roles with Andrew Bynum in the lineup.

DiLeo also said Friday that there is a "Plan B" in place in case Bynum never plays for the Sixers, and most of it revolves around having the necessary cap flexibility (which the Sixers should have) to woo free agents and make trades, which is crucial.

But there is also the matter of this season, which is slipping away but still salvageable if a rapid U-turn can be made. And Williams, if he were here, might be a better alternative than what the Sixers currently have.

The Sixers are not a better defensive team this season than they were last season. Although much of this probably isn't because of Williams - he's a spotty defender - Williams has not hurt the Hawks defense, which is better than it was last season.

The growth of Jrue Holiday as a promising point guard would not be stunted if Williams were here. In fact, now that the Sixers realize that Royal Ivey and Maalik Wayns are not the answers as Holiday's backup, in the heat of battle Sixers coach Doug Collins probably wishes he could glance down his bench and summon Williams.

Wright is averaging 8.4 points and shooting 37.8 percent from the floor (36.4 percent on three-pointers). He's been better in his seven starts, averaging 13.4 points and connecting on 41 percent of his threes. However, don't look for Collins to insert him into the starting lineup ahead of Jason Richardson, an 11-year veteran with three years remaining on his deal.

Young has been spotty. He leads the Sixers bench in scoring (10.1 ppg.) and, like Wright, plays better with extended minutes.

Williams, coming off the bench just as he did last season, when he led the Sixers in scoring, is third on the Hawks in scoring, averaging 15.1 points per game. He's shooting better (42.7 percent) that both Wright and Young, and his 3.7 assists are better than the 2.8 Wright and Young combine for.

But there is an intangible here that uniquely fits Williams, something that neither Williams nor Wright can speak of.

On the last year of their deals, Wright and Young have no connection to the city. Both are playing for their third team. They are basketball mercenaries who are open to playing anywhere they can get a contract.

This was not so with Williams, who spent the first seven years of his career in Philadelphia.

Williams, who came to the Sixers right out of South Gwinnett (Ga.) High School, spoke one day outside the Sixers' workout facility during the playoffs about how he felt a special connection to the team. He talked about not being ready for NBA predraft workouts, how he had a series of subpar performances, and how the Sixers saw enough from him to go ahead and invest in him with the 45th overall pick in the 2005 draft.

He ingratiated himself to the community - Williams came back here last season to run a camp after the Sixers opted against offering him a larger contract - and even though he is playing for his hometown team, returning to Philadelphia was his preferred option.

There is, of course, more than half a season of basketball to be played. But right now, with all-star voting shutting down this Monday, Williams, undersized and often the taker of ill-advised shots (who else was going to take them last season?) might not look so bad out there alongside Holiday and his old teammates.

Contact John N. Mitchell at Follow on Twitter @JmitchInquirer.

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