What Mo Williams Means for Portland


Apr 9, 2013; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz point guard Mo Williams (5) controls the ball during the second half against the Oklahoma City Thunder at EnergySolutions Arena. The Thunder won 90-80. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

2 years, $5.6 million, with a player option for the second season; that’s the contract Portland offered free agent point guard, Mo Williams. That should have a smile on everyone’s face. Mo was paid $8 million last season (remnants of the deal he earned in his LeBron era Cleveland days), and was certainly on the market for much less this season. Because of a serious thumb injury, Mo was forced to miss nearly half of the 2012-2013 season, dropping his price right into the Blazers ballpark –err, basketball court.

This means several things for Portland. Most immediately, it means the departure of Terrel Harris. Harris was a remora on the belly of Robin Lopez in the 3-team trade that brought them to Portland. His contract was not guaranteed, and after a recent drug related suspension was announced, many Blazer fans won’t cry for him. I said, myself, that: “[…] there is no real reason for Portland to let him go unless they have a suitable replacement in mind,” and the Blazers more than found one.

This also means that Allen Crabbe and Will Barton will have to struggle even harder for minutes. Don’t be surprised if Crabbe is merely a face on the bench this year. Between Lillard, Williams, McCollum, and Matthews, the bulk of playable minutes are spoken for. Earl Watson will also take more of a reserve role, but that is what we expected from him in the first place.

Here is where things get tricky. What happens with CJ McCollum? Does he play predominantly point guard or shooting guard? Mo Williams can play the 2, a la 2011-2012 with LAC, but he is first and foremost a point guard. He is also 6’1” to McCollum’s 6’3” and makes a lot more sense up top where he can be slipperier to defend. So does this mean that McCollum will not be expected to facilitate after all?

Maybe, but they are both “shoot first” point guards. One could make the case that Damian Lillard falls into this category as well, but I like to think he’s pretty smart about it.  McCollum will most likely find his home behind Wesley Matthews. Either way, the Blazers are now absolutely stacked from the 3-point line (something Jason and I agree is very important). This will make it extremely tough for teams to manage Portland’s spacing, and hopefully allow whichever player sees minutes at reserve PG to be a better play maker.

MARCH 29, 2013; Portland, OR, USA; Utah Jazz point guard Mo Williams (5) shoots the ball during the first quarter of the game against the Portland Trail Blazers at the Rose Garden. Mandatory Credit: Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

-2012-2013 3-point percentages-

Damian Lillard: 36.8%

Wesley Matthews: 39.8%

Nicolas Batum: 37.2%

Mo Williams: 38.3%

Dorell Wright: 37.4%

*CJ McCollum: 51.6%

*Allen Crabbe: 39.9%

Anywhere above 35% percent is respectable, anywhere above 37% is good. Assuming McCollum and Crabbe are able to carry over their success from the college 3-point line, the Blazers are anticipated to have seven legitimate 3-point threats this season.

Mo Williams is the cherry on top of the Blazers’ stellar free agency period. You’ve heard me list the improvements before, but you may now enjoy them in their completion, as this marks the probable last of Portland’s offseason moves. To replace Luke Babbitt, Nolan Smith, Jared Jeffries, Sasha Pavlovic, Eric Maynor, and J.J. Hickson, General Manager Neil Olshey brought in Thomas Robinson, Robin Lopez, Dorell Wright, Mo Williams, Earl Watson, and some solid rookies (McCollum and Crabbe).

Perhaps the most important change with the addition of Mo Williams is Portland’s projected playoff position. Jason stated just this morning (prior to signing Mo) that: “While I personally give the edge to the Timberwolves and Nuggets, it is well within the realm of possibility for the Lakers and Blazers to be squaring off for a final playoff spot at the end of next season.” I think in one fell swoop, the Blazers shifted the landscape ever so slightly.

Mo would be a starting caliber point guard on a few other NBA teams (the Utah Jazz just last season, for example), and I believe his presence in the Rose City puts Portland right on par with Minnesota. Playoff contention just got a lot tighter in the West, and the shift was pleasantly in Portland’s favor for a change. The Blazers now boast an impressive arsenal of young, hungry players and experienced, crafty vets to go along with their already strong core. Mo Williams, mo’ playoffs.

[1] – Other acceptable puns of equal cheesiness include: “Please sir, I want some Mo,” “What Mo could you ask for?” and “Slow Mo better than no mo.”

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