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Statistical Analysis: Mo Williams and Devin Harris (2009-10 to Present day)

Mo is here to help us learn to count to three
Mo is here to help us learn to count to three

Yesterday, was it yesterday?, yesterday we did a break down of how Marvin Williams, Josh Howard, C.J. Miles, and Andrei Kirilenko performances have been, between just last season, and the last three seasons If you missed it you can read it here. Marvin was traded to the Utah Jazz for a point guard, but the Marvin move was more likely a move that meant we were not going to re-sign those forwards. Hence, the need to compare and contrast them. Today we're doing the same thing, but for Devin Harris (the PG moved to the Atlanta Hawks for Marvin), and Mo Williams. Mo came here on another move, a four team trade we detailed here. While these two players were not traded for one another, they appear to replace one another. And as a result, we need to compare and contrast them too.

This one is going to be easier to read as it's only 2 players. I think you'll be surprised with the findings . . .


Devin Harris was the starting point guard for the New Jersey Nets. The Jazz traded Deron Williams to the Nets, and among the things we got back was Devin. Devin became the starting guard for our team for about one and a half seasons. He was a driving force for our playoff push. We don't make it if he doesn't catch fire like he did. I felt like we 'owed' it to Devin to keep him here as the starter until the end of next season. After all, he has an expiring contract -- which has its' own inherent value. That was not to be. He was moved very shortly after the Jazz acquired Mo Williams from the Los Angeles Clippers (for the King's Ransom of Mehmet Okur's trade exception and the rights to Tadija Dragicevic). Mo Williams makes as much money as Devin did/would have, so they are a proverbial wash. The Jazz are likely to announce an extended service plan for Williams though, on the 11th.

Deron was the starter, then was traded for Devin. Devin was the starter, and a parallel move replaced Devin with Mo. Deron used to average over 36 mpg, last season Devin only played 28 mpg. Time will tell if Mo plays more or less. Or the same. In LA he played 28 mpg off the bench. During his peak he used to play D-Will minutes. So long D-Will. So long D-Harris. Welcome home Mo-Will.


The Numbers:

Percentages Per Game Advanced Passing Other
Mo 2009-2012 179 31.4 14.5 . 42.3% 87.9% 38.8% . 12.3 2.5 1.8 . 1.18 2.56 49.8% . 5.1 2.4 2.1 . 2.6 1.0 0.2
Williams Last Season 52 28.3 13.2 . 42.6% 90.0% 38.9% . 11.8 1.5 1.8 . 1.12 2.41 50.2% . 3.1 1.7 1.9 . 1.9 1.0 0.1
Devin 2009-2012 198 31.4 14.5 . 42.0% 80.1% 32.0% . 11.3 5.0 1.0 . 1.28 2.78 46.3% . 6.3 2.6 2.4 . 2.4 1.1 0.2
Harris Last Season 63 27.6 11.3 . 44.5% 74.6% 36.2% . 8.6 3.3 1.2 . 1.32 3.21 51.6% . 5.0 1.9 2.6 . 1.8 1.0 0.2


What this says:

Did you know that in the last three years both of them averaged 14.5 ppg off of 31.4 mpg? Crazy. Both shot 42.0ish fg% as well. Over the last three seasons, at first glance, they seem like similarly scoring players. There are differences in their play though. Harris gets to the line waaaay more. Twice as much as Mo Williams. Mo, on the other hand, is waaay better at this "shooting" thing. Mo is a better shooter in fg%, ft%, 3pt%, and eFg%. This somewhat mitigates the lack of going to the line -- but not entirely. Also, going to the line more, getting easy points, essentially the things Devin did over the last three seasons -- that contributes to a much higher PPS value.

That said, Dev did end up leaving a lot of points at the line this most recent season. Moving beyond just their last three years to focus on this last one we see some more funny things. Devin started, and Mo came off the bench. Mo still played more MPG, and scored more. But Devin took 'better' shots. That said, who can forget all those crunch time airball threes Devin took? I can't. By the same token, Mo would have shot a three against Miami, while Devin took it inside for a floater and-1 to win the game. Different players. It has to be about fit.

And in Utah fit is by role. And as the PG, Devin pass the ball more, assisted more, and had a better assist to turn over ratio. Part of this could be because Devin was the starter, and Mo came off the bench, and at SG last year. Mo rebounded better, and they were about equal in steals and blocks. So what these numbers say is that Devin starting at PG on a team of scorers had more assists than Mo playing off the bench at SG, on a team with Chris Paul starting. They scored about the same, Devin went to the line more and shot worse. Mo had way better range, and did not get to the line enough to capitalize on his 90% free throw shooting!

Next season will be very interesting to see -- how will Devin's numbers look with the Hawks and their iso offense? How will Mo's numbers look with the team play Jazz?


Shot Locations (2011-12):

I guess part of their success will be attributed to fit. Fitting into our offense means being able to make the shots where we take them from. How did these two guys fare?

Shot Location Mo Williams Devin Harris
Above the break three . 68 174 39.1% 3.3 . 73 203 36.0% 3.2
Corner three . 25 62 40.3% 1.2 . 4 8 50.0% 0.1
Mid-Range . 97 224 43.3% 4.3 . 50 121 41.3% 1.9
In the Paint . 30 65 46.2% 1.3 . 20 55 36.4% 0.9
Restricted Area . 40 82 48.8% 1.6 . 94 153 61.4% 2.4
Total . 260 607 42.8% 11.7 . 241 540 44.6% 8.6
Free Throws . 72 80 90.0% 1.5 . 156 209 74.6% 3.3

Well, look at that. Devin shoots near the rim way more (+0.8 times a game), and Mo shoots threes more (+1.2 times a game). The difference seems to even out, as threes are worth more, and Harris either goes to the line or makes a layup. The real big difference comes with the midrange jumper -- Mo shoots 4.3 of these shots a game, and Devin only 1.9. Their % difference is only +2.0 fg% in Mo's favor; but he just shoots more from there (+2.4 FGA / gm from midrange). Which is what we already knew.

Their games are different, and their roles were vastly different last year. Harris slowed the pace down in order to help Al get set up on the block, and didn't gun. Mo came into the game off the bench specifically TO gun. Harris got to the FT line +1.8 times a game, essentially getting fouled once on a shot and going to the strip for two freebies. Mo bombed from outside. What you need more of will determine who you felt did a better job. Last year the difference in FTA / 3PTA was more pronounced. Over the three season data it seems to even out a bit.

Driving into a crowded paint rarely alleviates zone pressure. Being able to knock down shots from the outside can. Food for thought.



Here are the defensive rankings and stats from You should check them out. They are the best. anyway . . . this is broken down into Isolation, Hand Off, Pick and Roll, Off of Screens, Spot ups, Post ups, and overall.

Play Type Player # of Def Pos % of time on D PPP NBA Rank Opp. FG%
Isolation M.Williams 101 19.6% . 0.87 226 45.2%
D.Harris 87 14.2% . 0.86 215 42.6%
Hand Off M.Williams 14 2.7% . 1.29 - 55.6%
D.Harris 33 5.4% . 0.82 29 40.7%
P&R Ball Handler M.Williams 152 29.6% . 0.76 80 40.7%
D.Harris 309 50.3% . 0.95 203 48.6%
P&R Roll Man M.Williams 4 0.8% . 1.25 - 66.7%
D.Harris 4 0.7% . 0.50 - 25.0%
Play Type Player # of Def Pos % of time on D PPP NBA Rank Opp. FG%
Off Screen M.Williams 64 12.5% . 0.84 64 38.6%
D.Harris 37 6.0% . 1.14 163 48.5%
Spot-Up M.Williams 150 29.2% . 1.02 268 39.1%
D.Harris 118 19.2% . 1.04 287 43.4%
Post-Up M.Williams 26 5.1% . 0.88 180 52.9%
D.Harris 24 3.9% . 0.83 - 42.1%
Overall M.Williams 514 100.0% . 0.89 301 41.7%
D.Harris 614 100.0% . 0.95 398 45.7%

Well, now this is interesting. I mean it. I think Mo faced more SGs and ran around screens a lot more on defense. And Devin got pounded by pick and rolls all day long. Over all, though, Mo Williams was proven to be the better defender.

He faced more Isolations, but Devin was marginally better there. I think that washes out with how Mo was better (and faced more) at running at Spot up dudes. Mo was also more successful disrupting guys off of screens. They both sucked when posted up (in theory), and Devin was better defending hand offs. The big difference was pick and rolls.

Devin faced twice as many of them (and verily, 50.3% of all of the plays on defense for Devin were defending the ball handler in pick and rolls), and was scored on more. Mo ranked #80 in the league at defending the P&R. Devin was #203. Part of that is because Devin was the starting PG, and played with Al Jefferson. You're going to take it when those are the conditions you're stuck with. Does a Mo / Big Al pick and roll defense work better? Who knows. I don't. We'll find out next year.

Over all, Mo was almost 100 spots better in NBA defensive rank, as a product of PPP. Statistically we give him the edge, while recognizing on record, that Devin was playing against starting PGs and had Big Al watching his back, not DeAndre Jordan.



Mo picked up his player's option, and as a result both Devin and Mo will be making $8,500,000 dollars this year, the last year of their contracts. Devin will be a UFA in 2013-14. So will Mo, if the Jazz and his people do not come to an extension. All indications appear as thought they will though. So money wise it's a wash right now. If Mo gets a longer contract it will make things more interesting; especially if it is for more than market value for a player of his caliber.


Well ?

Well, I think it's clear that these two PGs may look similar, but play different style games. In this case we need to look for fit. Mo can bust zones, Devin can get to the rim. Devin didn't take full advantage of this because of the system and playbook he was handcuffed to. If we run more this next year, it would have served us more to have Devin still here. He is built for speed. Mo can shoot midrange jumpers and threes all day. Working the ball around patiently (when he isn't the ball handler, and can spot up -- think of how things were when LeBron James and he were team mates in Cleveland) allows Mo to be at his best. I guess this works out well if we continue to run a slower pace that goes inside first, second, and fourth.

Devin was the starter. Mo came off the bench. I think the biggest difference we'll see is in defense. I don't regard Mo Williams to be a good defender. But by the numbers he was a better defender than Harris. We got killed in pick and rolls, and Mo is apparently more capable of defending them. (The quality of his opposition is in question) On paper we addressed our #1 guard concern on offense (outside shooting) and on defense (pick and roll containment). This appears to be an upgrade, at the expense of FTA and APG. I think this means guys like Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks will pick up the slack in assists, while Mo will be the Godfather (his nickname) from the outside holding things down daring the other team to leave him open.