Marvin Williams doesn’t fit the traditional definition of an NBA power forward. Then again, not many current power forwards do.
A sleek 6-foot-9 and 230 pounds, Williams can play either small or power forward. His new coach, the Charlotte Hornets’ Steve Clifford, plans to use him primarily at power forward specifically for his ability to stretch defenses.
Williams made 36 percent from 3-point range last season with the Utah Jazz, and had the most makes (84) and attempts (234) from 3 in his nine pro seasons. Clifford wants Williams to further increase those attempts.
“Him being on the floor is going to give everyone else more space to play in,” Clifford said Monday, after Williams signed a two-year contract that will pay him $7 million per season.
The Hornets have built their offense around Al Jefferson’s low-post scoring. It’s harder for opponents to double-team Jefferson when he’s surrounded by reliable shooters. Jefferson averaged 21.5 points last season despite playing with one of the worst-shooting teams in the NBA.
Williams was signed in part as a reaction to the Hornets losing Josh McRoberts to the Miami Heat. The Hornets needed to replace McRoberts’ shooting range and his decision-making with the ball.
“He makes quick, simple plays. When he’s open, he shoots, when they get up on him he drives, and when the pass is there, he passes the ball well,” Clifford said of Williams. “The more I study, the more I think he’s a really good fit for our team.”
Williams was chosen second overall by the Atlanta Hawks in the 2005 draft after he helped North Carolina win the national championship as a freshman. He certainly wasn’t a 3-point threat initially – he took just 10 3s his third NBA season, making one.
But he recognized how the league was changing, with “stretch 4s” – power forwards in size, but shooting guards in skill – becoming the vogue. Players such as Rashard Lewis and Ryan Anderson made it extremely difficult for teams to defend pick-and-rolls because opposing big men can’t afford to leave those players along the perimeter.
“I feel like since I’ve come in, the league has evolved a little bit. You see a lot of guys – my kind of player, tweeners – stretching the floor,” Williams said. “It’s very difficult to double-team when you have four guys who can knock down 3s consistently.
“If we really work on our perimeter games, Al can have a field day down there” in the post.
The Hornets have tried to improve their shooting since the trade deadline last February, when they acquired Gary Neal from the Milwaukee Bucks. Since then they acquired the draft rights to P.J. Hairston (from Miami), signed Lance Stephenson away from Indiana and Williams away from the Utah Jazz.
Williams played with Jefferson two seasons ago in Salt Lake City, so there’s already some familiarity there.
“It does make you change the way you guard the pick-and-roll,” when power forwards can make 3s, Williams said. “Usually you have two big guys out there (to cut off the driver). When you have a big guy who can make 3s, there’s really no one to help.”