Jerome Williams was a man before his time. He played his last NBA minutes in ’04-’05, narrowly missing the explosion of obsessive outsider basketball analysis that undoubtedly would’ve made him an internet phenomenon. Sad, because there may not exist a player in recent memory who encompasses more bloggable qualities. He had an awesome nickname, a gregarious personality, and was far more productive in advanced statistical categories than traditional ones. The Junkyard Dog (or JYD) was a perfect storm.
The DC native was given his nickname by Rick Mahorn during his early years for the Pistons, who took him 26th overall out of Georgetown in the ’96 Draft. JYD carved out a niche for himself in Detroit with grit, hustle, and an otherworldly rebound rate (league-high 21.7% in ’99-’00). He also led the league in offensive rebound rate 2 years running, the lockout-shortened ’98-’99 as well as ’99-’00. So good was JYD on the offensive glass that he posted offensive ratings of 117, 118, and 119 in consecutive seasons in Detroit without ever averaging as many as 12 points per 36 minutes. That only scratches the surface of how much advanced stats love Jerome Williams, though. Here’s how he fared vs. highly regarded power forward but otherwise somewhat arbitrary comparison player Kevin Garnett on Win Shares/48 during the 5-year period beginning with Williams’ rookie year (Garnett’s 2nd):
’96-’97 .116 .049
’97-’98 .143 .166
’98-’99 .146 .201
’99-’00 .172 .174
’00-’01 .146 .141
We’re just as sick as you are of the tired Garnett or Jerome Williams debate, but just some food for thought, anyway. It’s kind of ironic, actually, because JYD is exactly the type of player of whom announcers love to say “what he does doesn’t show up in the box score.” True, but that’s just the nature of the standard box score. Williams’ stats were excellent; they just weren’t the stats anybody was paying attention to at the time.
JYD’s career came to an unceremonious end when Isiah Thomas waived him from the Knicks shortly before the start of the ’05-’06 season to avoid the luxury tax. His talents weren’t totally unappreciated in his time, though. His work ethic and enthusiasm made him a fan favorite in each of his 4 NBA stops, particularly his longer tenures in Detroit and Toronto. It’s a cliché that they don’t track Heart on the scoresheet. Still, I’d venture to say that JYD’s Heart tally would be totally ordinary, but after adjusting for pace and converting to a per-minute rate, his Heart Rate would’ve been one of the best in the league. And if they kept stats for how high players wear their socks or how often they refer to themselves in the third person during interviews, he would’ve been an elite performer in those categories, too. We salute you.
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