Alan Williams just recently won the Dan Majerle Hustle Award. Not bad for a player who went undrafted in 2015, barely caught onto an NBA team last spring, and was only averaging 7.2 minutes, 3.1 points and 3.2 rebounds per game before the All-Star break. At that point he was probably known mostly for his wildly exuberant cheer-leading from the bench and his famous Police Chief mom.
But after the break, Tyson Chandler was shut down for the season and "Big Sauce" was given the opportunity to show what he could do on the court as the primary backup at the center position. Since then he's averaged 22.8 minutes, 11.2 points and 9.3 rebounds per game plus eleven double-doubles in the 22 games he has played in.
“How about that story?” coach Earl Watson posed last week to media. “He grows up in Phoenix, comes for a workout, gets sent home because he’s out of shape. Ten days later comes back and makes the team on a 10-day (contract), gets another ten-day. Plays well in Summer League, gets signed for the rest of the (2016-17) season. Comes out and he gets the hustle award.
“I mean, the kid is writing a phenomenal story for himself and he deserves (the award), to be honest with you.”
Alan is only 6'8" and not exceptionally athletic (for an NBA player) but he finds ways to make up for those things on the court. Probably his best attribute is that nebulous thing that we can't quite define but we call "basketball IQ". He plays smart and makes the most out of the gifts that he has without trying to do things that aren't his forte.
He plays within his limits and contributes almost every minute that he is on the court.
That was just a small sample of what he brings.
You can rely on Big Sauce to get you 10 or more points off the bench on most nights. He has this floater/jump hook that sails in a high arc over most defenders and usually finds the basket or he goes for a layup. Those are his main shot types. He takes 84.4% of his shots within 8 feet of the basket. His average shot distance from the basket is 4.02 feet and his average made shot distance is 3.08 feet (NBA Miner.com). He plays smart, picks his spots when he goes for a score, is hitting 50.8% for the season and is third in FG% on the team this year (NBA.com).
Alan isn't a great leaper but he has great hands and positions himself well for rebounds. At 260 lbs, not many NBA players are going to keep him from where he wants to be or move him once he gets there. Once again that thing we call "basketball IQ" comes into play here. It doesn't matter if you can get the position you want for a rebound if the rebound doesn't fall where you are. Alan somehow knows where he needs to be and gets there more often than not.
72.4% of Alan's made shots are assisted. He's not a shot creator so just tossing him the ball and stepping back won't work. He's not swift of foot - although he's not really slow - and his lack of athleticism makes him a so-so defender but he never lacks as far as effort is concerned. His FT percentage is only 61.9% which isn't bad but also isn't really good (NBA Miner.com). His assist rate is low (0.5 apg) so when he gets the ball he’s either going to shoot or pass it back out to someone who is going to restart the play. He also isn’t going to block a lot of shots (0.8 bpg) or get the team a lot of steals (0.6 spg) but that isn’t that important when you are talking about a backup center.
A backup center is what he is and what he will probably always be but he’s damned good at it.
After showing prescience in signing Derrick Jones Jr. and Tyler Ulis to team-control four year contracts (i.e. Jones has 1 guaranteed year + 3 team options, Ulis has 2 guaranteed years + 2 team options; both at roughly minimum-salary deals), the Suns might wish they’d done the same with Big Sauce.
But alas, the Suns only signed Sauce to a one-year contract, which makes him a restricted free agent this summer in the same way that Alex Len is an RFA. Both centers will require a one-year qualifying offer from the Suns to keep the “right of first refusal” (i.e. matching rights on contract offers), and will be able to negotiate with other NBA teams for the best contract.
As a result of the almost-free-market competition, the Suns might have to decide whether Williams is worth $6-10 million per year for 3-4 years as your backup center.
We can hope Williams will do the Tucker thing (from 2014), which is to agree to a new affordable contract before listening to other teams, but if Williams’ agent wants him to cash in on this special opportunity this could be an interesting couple weeks in July.
As a backup center, I love having Alan Williams on the Suns' team. He's much better than a 3rd center which is what his role was at the beginning of the season. His shortcomings (lack of height and athleticism) will probably keep him from ever being a starting center in the NBA but I can't think of a single reason as to why the Suns shouldn't keep Big Sauce as a part of this team going forward.
Other players get more press and more accolades than Big Sauce and they often deserve them but Alan has in some ways made himself as much of an icon of this team as any other player on the roster.
Heart, hustle and humility.
You have to love this guy if you are a Phoenix Suns fan.