After years as a leading sixth man, Lou Williams is now the lead dog for the contending Clippers

Lou Williams

Lou Williams has raised his game to the level of lead dog on a playoff contender. (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images.)

Lou Williams is under-appreciated.

Like the value of manual labor, the idea that less is more, and time to yourself.

The shifty, sweet-shooting vet is in the middle of the best season of his 13-year career, averaging 23 points and 5 assists per game for the Clippers.

He’s earned chatter around the league that he should be an All-Star, even an MVP candidate, after a blistering 10-game stretch in which he’s averaging 32.5 ppg, and has burdened defenses with Allen Iverson-like monster games.

Lou Will poured in 40 in a 106-98 win over the Hornets, had 33 in a 108-107 edging of the Hawks, put up half a hundred in a stunning 125-106 takedown of the Warriors, and followed that up with 30 and 26 in back-to-back wins over the Kings. He then went for 31 in a contentious, satisfying win over Chris Paul and the Rockets (police presence be damned).

With Paul having moved his game and his fictional State Farm character to Houston, Williams has stepped up from modern-day Microwave (Vinnie Johnson style) to go-to guy and the heart of the Clippers’ offense.

Blake Griffin is a terrific talent, but he’s never going to be Option 1 on offense for a great team. Like most of his teammates, he can’t create his own shot. The Clippers need a guy like Williams to provide easy offense and to give the defense a reason to worry about the perimeter and forget about Griffin–and that’s exactly what he’s done.

Williams has proven he’s more than just one of the best bench scorers in the history of the NBA. He’s more than the And-1-Mixtape-style, second-unit leader who’s got every trick in the book but isn’t quite consistent enough to be your lead dog.

This year, he’s raised his game to the level of a marquee headliner, and he’s done it when the Clippers needed it most.

L.A. has been ravaged by injuries this season, and staggered through the early part of the schedule–even losing nine straight games in November. But since an 8-15 start, the Clips are 14-6, and they’ve won six straight including wins over the W’s and Rockets with Lou Will serving as the lead man.

This group is talented, and if it can get all of its pieces back healthy–including up-and-coming point Milos Teodosic, Danilo Gallinari, Patrick Beverly and DeAndre Jordan–they’re a playoff team.

They’re still not Western Conference Finals material like Charles Barkley outlandishly suggested, but another appearance in the second round is within reach. That’s more than you could have expected back in November.

With Williams, a 31-year-old, former second round pick out of high school leading the way, the Clips are relevant again.

This dude from tiny Lithonia, Georgia, has made everyone forget about his size, age, and reputation. He’s just a baller–flat-out.

It’s a lesson the Clippers, and those in need of some restorative confidence, are grateful for.

Related: Trading Blake Griffin was the wrong move for the Clippers

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