Point guard Kemba Walker is the most spectacular Charlotte Hornet. Small forward Nic Batum is the most versatile.
But if you measure a player’s season on the dead-solid consistent scale, it would be tough to top power forward Marvin Williams.
In his 11th NBA season – a time when many veterans would be winding down a career – Williams is posting some career numbers. This has been his best rebounding season (6.9 per game) and his best 3-point shooting season (39.0 percent). His scoring average (10.9 points per game) is his highest in seven seasons.
But those are just numbers. To grasp what’s been so solid about Williams, ask the coach.
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“He’s used his (long-)range shooting to spread the defense out and help his teammates play better and shot the ball extremely well,” said coach Steve Clifford. “At the other end of the floor his individual and team defense has been exceptional.”
Williams was no lock to start this season at power forward with lottery picks Cody Zeller and Frank Kaminsky also available. But at 29 Williams so outworked every other Hornet last summer that he entered training camp in exceptional condition.
That gave him a head start and he’s started all 61 of the Hornets’ games so far.
“It gets back to the same thing; he’s playing well because of all the (off-season) work he did,” Clifford said. “He had a great summer, putting himself in great physical condition. And the routine he does every day, he’s so committed and so on it, it’s not a surprise that he’s playing so well.”
One thing my father always taught me is hard work pays off.
Marvin Williams, Hornets power forward
Williams becomes a free agent this summer when the two-season $14 million contract he signed in the summer of 2014 expires. Williams effectively replaced Josh McRoberts that off-season. McRoberts’ specialty in Charlotte was ballhandling. Williams, in contrast, has become an excellent 3-point shooter.
Clifford has called Williams the prototypical “stretch 4,” as in a power forward with the 3-point range, both in the corner and above the key, to stretch defenses and open driving lanes.
The timing of Williams’ free-agency probably couldn’t be better. With the spike in the salary cap next summer, reflecting lucrative new national television deals for the NBA, numerous teams will have tens of millions to spend. The demand in free-agency will likely exceed the supply, seemingly driving up the market.
Between Williams’ skill set and his conditioning, he’s probably set himself up for at least one more multi-year contract, either in Charlotte or elsewhere.
One of the things the Hornets appreciate about Williams is his flexibility. He’s frequently told Clifford he doesn’t care whether he starts or not or whether he plays power or small forward. That team-first attitude has helped set a tone in the Hornets’ locker room that is pushing them toward the playoffs.
“One thing my father always taught me is hard work pays off,” said Willliams, who was the second overall pick in the 2005 draft after one season at North Carolina. “I worked extremely hard this summer and I feel like I’m benefitting from that. It’s helping me and it’s helping our team.”
He’d be at Time Warner Cable Arena each day over the summer by around 10 a.m., to lift weights, do cardio training and spend an hour in the gym shooting.
Williams had nothing like his current skill set when he entered the NBA. He attempted only 98 3-point shots his first three NBA seasons with the Atlanta Hawks, never shooting better than 24 percent from the arc.
Following that third season he asked Hawks management what he could do to make himself more valuable and was told the extend his shooting range. The next season he attempted 155 3s and raised his shoot-percentage from outside the arc to 35.5 percent.
Ever since then the 3-point shot has been a staple of his game. It was well timed, because right it became more commonplace for teams to run the 1-in, 4-out sets the Hornets now have as their base offense.
That had the effect of evolving Williams from a rangy small forward into the athletic power forward he became with the Utah Jazz.
“Teams played traditional two bigs back then, so I was a small forward,” Williams said. “The last couple of years I made the transition and when I came here, this is what Cliff envisioned for me.”
How much longer does Williams see himself playing?
“Only God knows,” Williams replied, “but as long as I feel good physically and mentally, I love playing basketball. As long as there’s a calling for me I’ll keep going.”
Bonnell: 704-358-5129; Twitter: @rick_bonnell