How Does He Fit? Mo Williams Returns To The Cavaliers


Thomas Wolfe once wrote “You Can’t Go Home Again”. Don’t tell that to the Cleveland Cavaliers. One year after LeBron James made his return, Mo Williams, his former running mate with the Cavaliers has announced that he will sign with the team after agreeing to a 2-year, $4.3 million deal.

On the whole, Cavalier fans are excited for the return of the man formerly known as “Mo Gotti”. Some of this excitement is due to the nostalgia fans have for a player who was a big part of great Cavalier teams of the past. Another reason for the excitement is because the Cavaliers will no longer have to rely on Matthew Dellavedova to create offense when Kyrie Irving is on the bench. The real question is whether or not Mo Williams fits on this Cavaliers team. The answer may not be as simple as you think.

There are plenty of good reasons for the Cavaliers to sign Mo Williams. First and foremost, he is capable of creating shots for both himself and others, something the Cavaliers needed to add to their roster in the event that they had to deal with injuries to their playmakers like they did in the NBA Finals. Williams averaged a solid 6.2 assists per game last year, and is a solid playmaker both as a starter and off the bench.

Williams has also been a terrific shooter in his career, a must for any perimeter player who plays alongside LeBron James. Williams is a 37.9% shooter from three for his career, and is absolute money from the free throw line, with an 87% mark from the charity stripe during his time in the league. Williams is comfortable playing both on and off the ball, which means he can both backup Kyrie Irving at point guard and play alongside him at shooting guard.

Finally, with a salary of less than $2.2 million per year, Williams is a good value buy. Getting a solid backup point guard (which Williams undoubtedly is) at that price is a tremendous deal considering some of the contracts handed out this offseason.

None of this is to say that the Cavaliers shouldn’t have real concerns about how Williams fits on their roster. They most definitely should. First off Williams will be 33 years old this December and has shown decline in his game over the last several years. Fifty point games notwithstanding, Williams has seen a decrease in three point percentage for three consecutives seasons, and his mark of 34.2% last season was the first time he was below league average from deep since his final half-season with the Cavaliers. His true shooting percentage last season was just 51.2% well below league average. Williams could be hitting the end of his career, and there’s no guarantee that he won’t fall off a cliff the way Shawn Marion and Mike Miller did last season.

Another significant concern is Williams’s defense, or lack thereof. A small combo guard in reality, Williams has never had the quickness to stay with elite point guards or the size to handle shooting guards. The Cavaliers had to find ways to hide Williams on defense at twenty-six. Now, at thirty-two? Forget about it. ESPN ranked Williams fiftieth among point guards in defensive real plus-minus last season, with a mark of -1.74. A backcourt of Williams and Irving or Williams and J.R. Smith will struggle tremendously on the defensive end, likely negating whatever offensive gains Williams brings to the lineup. The Cavaliers will almost have to pair Williams with Iman Shumpert as Shumpert is the only guard capable of compensating for Williams’s weaknesses at that end of the floor.

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Finally, and most importantly, the Cavaliers have to be concerned with Williams’s playoff struggles throughout his career. In postseason play, Williams experiences a drop in field goal percentage, three point percentage, and even free throw percentage. His assist-to-turnover ratio also gets worse. Williams is similar to Smith in that he plays with a high level of emotion and tends to experience extreme highs and lows, with many of those lows coming in pressure situations. The thought of Williams and Smith struggling simultaneously in the playoffs is not a pleasant one.

Overall, the signing of Mo Williams by the Cleveland Cavaliers seems like a solid move. He fits a need and comes at a very reasonable price. However, I would caution Cavalier fans to look at Williams as the entire player that he is today, instead of just focusing on the positive memories, before declaring him the missing piece needed for a Cavaliers championship.

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