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Reggie Williams: Ridiculous Upside Realized

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Reggie Williams will go down as one of the best players to ever play on D-League courts.  Williams tore teams apart for 31 games in 2009-2010 with the Sioux Falls Skyforce, scoring 26.4 points per game and chipping in 5.5 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 1.5 steals.  

"Surgical" describes Williams's play perfectly; he only required 16 shots per game (and 6 trips to the free throw line) to create the offensive destruction he unleashed on the doomed defenses of the D-League.  His efficiency numbers tell an even more frightening story: a 67.6% true shooting percentage and a 118 offensive rating both ranked in the top 5 in the D-League last season.  Players just don't put up TS% numbers like that.  Only four players in all of division 1 managed it against NCAA defenses in 2009-2010.  Only three D-League players did.  

To truly put it in perspective, there isn't a single NBA player since the inception of the three-point line in 1979  to score as efficiently as Williams did with the Skyforce last season while using at least 24% of his team's possessions and playing 30 minutes per game.  The closest are Sir Charles Barkley's two best seasons, 1987-88 and 1989-90.  Those seasons saw Barkley average 26 and 23 points respectively on 58.7% and 60.0% shooting from the field respectively.

Reggie Williams hasn't become Charles Barkley with his call-up to the association, but he's become an important and efficient player for the Golden State Warriors.  

Between his stint to end the 2009-10 season and the beginning of the 2010-11 season, Williams has turned into a productive NBA player.  Through 54 career games (17 starts), Williams is averaging 13.0 points per game, 3.6 rebounds, and 2.2 assists in only 24 minutes per game.  His efficiency stats look even better.  Atlhough he's using fewer possessions (about 18%), Williams has a career 58.8 TS.  This year, that ranks him in the top 25 players playing 20 MPG and using 16% of possessions.  Remarkably, Williams has managed to keep much of the efficiency that made him arguably the best offensive player in the D-League last season.  Despite sacrificing some volume, Williams has still been an efficient scorer in the NBA, as this Google Motion chart below illustrates.

Click here for a larger version.

The horizontal axis shows game number, the vertical axis shows scoring efficiency as measured by TS%. The vertical axis shows points, or the Williams's scoring volume.  

His time in the D-League showcased the perfect combination of volume and efficiency.  Although Williams has had a few rough games since his move to the NBA, the efficiency loss has been about as small as one could expect.  The volume loss has been large, but that's what happens when minutes are cut and Williams is no longer the most talented player on the team.  Despite these factors, Williams is still scoring in double digits in a bench role.   A player with his three-point stroke and ability to create elsewhere has value to any team.  

Reggie Williams has cashed in on his Ridiculous Upside™ and has become a solid offensive player in the NBA.  By any advanced measure, Williams is at or near the league average in terms of overall production. Despite the negative connotations "average" has in our society, average in terms of NBA players makes Williams an incredibly valuable commodity . His production this year is on par with players like Ron Artest, Gerald Williams, and Caron Butler, players who perhaps don't qualify as household names but are well known to most NBA fans.  At only 24, Williams still has room to grow, too.  It was only a matter of time before an NBA team pounced on this wealth of talent.  By producing with the Warriors, Williams has not only realized his own potential, but also shown those around the NBA the potential of the NBA Development League and the reason for its existence.