Shawne Williams was probably the biggest surprise of the season for the Knicks. Before the season began, there probably was not one Knick fan who even knew who Shawne Williams was. Williams became a very important member of the team and potentially a very useful player in the future. He is a free agent and will certainly look for a pay raise far above the $885,000 he made last season.
Williams really came out of nowhere for the Knicks, but it is not like he had no ability. Williams was a first round pick of Indiana in the 2006 draft (17th overall). After 2 years with Indiana and 1 with Dallas, Williams was traded to the Nets and then found himself out of the league after being released. Still very young (24), former Knicks president Donnie Walsh felt it was worth a shot to give the former first round pick an opportunity. Walsh was familiar with Williams as he was the one who drafted him back in Indiana. Now that Walsh is out as team president, it will be interesting to see if the Knicks are still interested in bringing him back.
Williams became a very valuable part of the team coming off the bench, scoring points and playing quality defense. Williams, along with Toney Douglas was the Knicks most consistent bench player. For the season, he averaged 7 points, had 18 double digit scoring games, and shot over 40% from 3.
His role became even more important after the Carmelo Anthony trade because so much of the Knicks debt was all lost from the trade. Williams was one of the players who could be counted on to contribute quality minutes on a nightly basis.
Williams shooting ability makes him a perfect fit for the Knicks and the Mike D’antoni system. With so much attention by defenders on Stoudemire and Anthony, it allows Williams to camp out on the three point line for wide open shots. He might not have a major offensive game, but has the ability to shoot the rock and guys like that always have a roster spot in the NBA. Just look at Steve Kerr and Robert Horry.
If you are expecting more from Williams offensively, you will be waiting a while. He looks uncomfortable handling the ball and I cringed every time he drove to the basket. His strength will always be as a jump shooter.
Williams also proved to be very valuable on the defensive end and that was very important for a team that did not play much of it. At 6’9, he not only guarded big men, but also showed enough quickness to defend guards. The Knicks lacked so much size that he was forced to guard Dwight Howard in a game and I thought he competed very well. That type of versatility on defense is so important for a team like the Knicks who have very few good defensive players.
I would have no problem with the Knicks bringing Williams back, as long as the contract is reasonable. If he is looking for crazy money, he can hit the road, but I can’t see a team committing major dollars to him. In the NBA salary cap era, players of his ability cannot take up too much space on the cap. In simple terms, he is not getting a Jerome James contract. He is a nice role player on a good team, but not someone who will be a major contributor or difference maker.
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