Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, we pose a question to a panel of ESPN fantasy basketball experts to gauge their thoughts on a hot topic.
Today's contributors are ESPN Fantasy's John Cregan, Jim McCormick and Kyle Soppe.
Lou Williams carved out a dozen-season career as the rare NBA reserve who was perpetually helpful in fantasy. How do you see his fantasy value in keeper leagues, considering he just signed a three-year deal with the LA Clippers and will turn 32 in October?
John Cregan: With the Clippers in semi-rebuild mode, I expect Williams to retain his current "career-year" value for at least another season. Williams' reserve role actually bolsters this argument. Even as Jerry West and company continue to retool the roster, WIlliams' sixth-man role means he retains a high volume of possession. His secret sauce this season has been his sky-high usage rate, also currently sitting at a career high at 29.5.
As long as he maintains that level of possession, he's a good bet to stay in the 20-point, 5-assist range -- with a handful of 3-pointers -- on a nightly basis, even heading into his age 32 season. He has a unique gift for finding his shot. I don't expect any significant age-related slippage, and his reserve role should keep him relatively fresh coming off the bench.
Jim McCormick: Analysts often will quote "per 36 numbers" for players who, well, don't typically average 36 minutes. It's a way or us to extrapolate production from a part-time player into a potential full-time role. In Williams' case, I've always wanted to see how his unique microwave scoring ability might translate over a larger sample size of opportunity.
Now that Williams is averaging 32.5 MPG this season, compared to 25.6 over the past four seasons, we can confirm his amazing scoring abilities can indeed translate to success, even under greater scrutiny. Williams is shooting 55 percent more shots per game with the Clippers this season than over his previous four campaigns. He should see similar offensive freedom over the next few seasons on a Clippers team that is looking to rebuild on the fly, while also maintaining a blend of competence and entertainment.
Kyle Soppe: If only we had an example of an aging professional bucket getter who once occupied a similar role for this franchise. I'm not saying that Williams is a carbon copy of Jamal Crawford, but Crawford spent his age 32-36 seasons with the Clippers and averaged 15.3 points per game during that time. Well, since the beginning of the 2012-2013 season, "Sweet Lou" is averaging 16 points per game. Both players have nearly identical career percentages and other counting numbers. They also both get buckets and that skill seems to age as well as any in the NBA.
Williams is averaging a career-high 32.5 minutes per game this season, and while that is nice for fantasy managers this season, I'd pencil in more of a Crawford-sized role (27-ish minutes) in the future, with consistent scoring production for the entirety of this deal. I'd caution against overreacting to Williams' usage this season, but I also wouldn't be running for the hills due to his age. After all, we know what he brings to the table and I don't think that's changing any time soon.