When LeBron James made his decision to leave the Cavaliers for the Miami Heat in 2010, it hit a lot of people hard. Many emotions were set off. Some of us -- and I say "us" with the intent to include myself -- expressed our anger/shock/frustration on social media. That night, Mo Williams, who had been LeBron's teammate in Cleveland for three seasons, was no different:
I can't believe this is really real. This is surreal. So many emotions on one man decision. I wonder what is our next move.— Mo Williams (@mowilliams) July 9, 2010
The only thing, and I mean the only thing I disagree with is.... If he knew somewhere else was the destination. He should have spared cle— Mo Williams (@mowilliams) July 9, 2010
Love u bron and always will. I knowu made your decision for the rt reason but we could have got it done here and u would have enjoyed— Mo Williams (@mowilliams) July 9, 2010
It is fitting that one year after LeBron made his triumphant return, Williams will do the same. Cavs fans deeply identified with his tweets on that July night back in 2010, so it feels like he deserves to be back to take part in LeBron's redemption story along with rest of us.
But, to be clear, Williams was not brought back in an act of pure nostalgia. He is not just a token nod to the past.
On the contrary, he's here to fill a role that was desperately missing last season: backup to Kyrie Irving. Whether or not he has what it takes to fill that role effectively could be an important factor in whether or not this Cavs team goes all the way.
Williams, who will turn 33 in December, is entering his 13th season in the league. In addition to filling the backup point guard role, he'll also provide some of the veteran leadership that the team will be missing after the departures of Shawn Marion, Mike Miller, and Kendrick Perkins.
Last season, Williams spent the first half of the year with the Timberwolves, and he started 19 games in place of the injured Ricky Rubio. In total, he averaged 28 minutes per night in Minnesota, scoring 12.2 points and dishing out 6.4 assists per game.
In February, he was traded to a Hornets team that was dealing with an injury to Kemba Walker. In Charlotte, Williams played an even bigger role than he did in Minnesota. He started 14 of the 27 games he played in, and averaged 30 minutes, 17.2 points, and six assists per game.
The highlight of his season was undoubtedly a game that came before the trade. On January 13th, against the Pacers, he set the Indiana winter on fire with 52 points on 19-of-33 shooting (6-of-11 from deep):
It was one of five games last season in which Williams scored at least 25 points, proving that he can still fill it up from time to time.
Unfortunately, his outside shooting has been on a steady decline: he hit 38.9 percent of his threes with the Clippers in 2011-12, 38.3 percent with the Jazz the next season, 36.9 percent with the Trail Blazers the following year, 34.7 percent last season in Minnesota, and then 33.7 percent after the trade to Charlotte.
The good news is that he still hit 41.3 percent of his catch-and-shoot threes last season. With the Cavs, he should be the beneficiary of a lot of open looks.
He also won't be asked to play nearly as big of a role as he was with either the Timberwolves or the Hornets. When the Cavs are healthy, he'll likely see about 20-25 minutes per night -- both to spell Irving, but also to occasionally play alongside him in smaller lineups. In the event that Kyrie misses time with either his current injury or a future one, Williams will be able to step in as the starter and hopefully hit some outside shots while LeBron and Kevin Love carry most of the load on offense.
All in all, Williams should be a tremendous upgrade offensively over Matthew Dellavedova, who started in place of Irving in five of the six NBA Finals games against the Warriors. Dellavedova will still have a role to play because of his defense, but it will be a smaller role.
Williams's own defense could potentially be one area of concern. He's never been the most athletic of guards, and now he's 32 going on 33. At 6'1", he's not big enough to cover bigger guards effectively. But he's smart, and he'll usually be in the right place at the right time, so I don't expect him to be a complete liability on that end.
The bottom line is that Mo Williams is probably not going to be the decisive factor in whether or not the Cavs win the title. However, he will be a significant role player, and role players are often an important part of the story on championship teams.
Williams, of course, was criticized for his performance in the playoffs during his first stint with the Cavs. I'm sure he'd love nothing more than to erase that from memory. Maybe LeBron isn't the only one looking to complete a redemption story this season.