On the list of reasons I’m thrilled that the NBA D-League reached an agreement with VERSUS to have 16 games televised this season, somewhere near the top is the ability to combine minor league hoops with the wonders of digital video recording. So after the broadcast schedule tipped off Saturday night with Fort Wayne’s win in Sioux Falls, I spent the wee hours of Sunday morning taking a closer look at the work of one of the D-League’s top scorers.
Skyforce small forward Reggie Williams sits third among qualified players at 25.8 points per game, and he puts up those points on an eye-popping 67.9 percent true shooting. Charting each of Williams’ 61 touches on Saturday night, it was easy to see why: He didn’t force his shots.
For a guy who scores as much as Williams does (and he put up another 23 points on Saturday), it was remarkable how rarely he seemed uncomfortable taking a given shot. On Sioux Falls’ fourth possession of the second quarter, Williams drove from the right wing to the middle of the lane, ran into more traffic than he expected and had to force a jumper from the elbow instead of continuing to the rim. Five possessions later, he caught the ball at the top of the circles and hesitated before missing a three. That’s it. Those were the two occasions for the evening on which Williams took shots that didn’t look fluid. He did plenty of missing (in fact, 9-for-18 qualifies as an off night for a guy who hits 59 percent of his field-goal attempts), but the misses were all makeable shots that came in the flow of the offense. By the way, that elbow jumper won’t show up in the box score because Williams managed to draw contact and turn a forced shot into two made free throws.
But those were the exceptions. Williams hardly dawdled with the ball, rarely taking more than a dribble or two on catches out top or on the wings before dishing off and attacking. On several occasions, when he began to drive but saw a second defender approaching, he dropped the ball off to cutting bigs in the lane and on the blocks or kicked out to teammates ready to catch and shoot on the perimeter. Williams threw exactly one pass off target on the evening, a lob from the left wing to the right baseline that a teammate saved from going out of bounds. That was the closest he came to a turnover for the game.
As for Williams’ scoring, the southpaw loves to drive left, but he looked particularly dangerous doing so from the right side. The Skyforce routinely got him the ball outside the arc on the right wing in halfcourt sets, and Williams locked in on making it to the left block with his man behind him so he could turn his body with ease for a lay-in. He finished a lay-up and a dunk that way and made several of the aforementioned dump passes when a help defender came to met him a step before he could get to his spot. Williams made a couple of lefty lay-ups in transition as well.
Of the three notable weaknesses in Williams’ offensive night, only one seemed to be cause for concern in the long term. The 1-for-7 night from the three-point line can be waved off as aberration given that Williams knocks down 36.5 percent of his trey attempts. Each of his three catch-and-shoot attempts came in rhythm, and the shots simply didn’t fall. It happens. Same goes for his two late misses at the charity stripe that kept Sioux Falls from cutting the deficit to one possession and dropped Williams to 4-for-6 for the day. He is an 80-plus percent foul shooter. That won’t happen often.
The third issue of note was Williams’ reluctance to go all the way to the rim on the right side of the lane. Not surprising given that the man is left-handed, but it was still a bit disconcerting at this level that he didn’t once go all the way to the right block for a lay-up attempt. Twice, Williams pulled up on drives to the right, once for a lefty floater that he banked in from the short wing and once for a deeper wing jumper that he missed. Other than that, he dished off on every righty drive before getting down to the block. While it was good to see him distributing the ball rather than taking bad shots, it wouldn’t hurt for Williams to show a bit more aggressiveness on the right side to keep opponents honest about shading him to cut off his left (while it hasn’t been a major problem in the D-League, it likely would be at the next level).
All that said, it’s hard to be too critical of a guy’s offensive performance when he has a rough night by putting up 23 points on 50 percent shooting without turning the ball over and without doing quite enough with his off hand. As Kevin Pelton always points out in his “Every Play Counts” series, one game does not a full assessment make, but Reggie Williams’ performance in a losing effort on Saturday left this observer walking away more impressed than ever by how smart he is with the ball in his hands.
He won’t receive the ball with the license to create from the wings as much if he gest to the next level, so one would love to see Williams do more of his work off cuts and catch-and-shoot opportunities. But when he does create, he does so wisely, and it’s hard to complain about that.