Marvin Williams
(Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

A Look Back At Marvin Williams Storied Career

It’s opening night of the 2005-06 NBA season. Chris Paul and Joe Johnson take the court for the Atlanta Hawks as they battle the Golden State Warriors. No, that’s not right; the Hawks selected Marvin Williams over Paul. Oh, what could have been.

In high school, Marvin Williams was one of the best players in the nation. By his senior year, Williams’ fantastic on-court play led to gaudy numbers: 28.7 points, 15.5 rebounds, five blocked shots, and five assists per game. He subsequently earned a spot in the 2004 McDonalds All-American Game

Coming out of Bremerton High School in Washington, Williams was a consensus five-star player, ranked as the nation’s ninth-best player. North Carolina’s Roy Williams came calling, and the younger Williams decided to take his talents to Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

When an All-Time coach like Roy Williams puts together a roster that includes six future NBA draft picks, it generally spells doom for opposing teams. Marvin Williams was one of those six. Along with Raymond Felton, Sean May, Rashad McCants, David Noel, and Reyshawn Terry, Marvin Williams led the Tar Heels to a 33-4 season, including a five-point victory over the University of Illinois to win the national championship. 

“What meant the most to me honestly was just to play for Coach [Roy Williams]. It was incredible to play for this university and represent this university, but I really wanted to play for Coach Williams and I think that is what meant the most to me. I am very blessed to have had that opportunity.” 

Marvin Williams said when asked about his time at UNC

It was a Marvin Williams tip-in with 1:26 remaining in the NCAA final against Illinois that broke a 70–70 tie. 

For his sole collegiate season’s efforts, the Atlanta Hawks considered Marvin Williams one of the nation’s top players. It was a good thing for Williams, as the Hawks owned the second pick in the 2005 draft. A higher selection meant more money in Williams’ pocket. 

CBS Sports Roland Liwag did a mock draft a month before the actual draft occurred. Liwag projected the Milwaukee Bucks to pick the University of Utah center, Andrew Bogut, first overall. That pick came to fruition. It’s almost like he knew the future. Liwag then had the Hawks taking a short-ish point guard from Wake Forest University: Chris Paul.

Wake Forest was one of only four schools to beat UNC during the ’05 season. Why? Because Paul went off for 26 points, five steals, eight assists, and six rebounds while turning the ball over only once. Willams had a reasonably good game during the 95-82 loss (15 points, one block, seven steals), but he fouled out. 

Anyhow, Liwag believed Paul was a better fit for the Hawks, as they already had three young forwards on the team and did not need another one in Williams.

“Marvin Williams might be the better all-around talent, but with [Josh] Childress, [Josh] Smith and [Al] Harrington already on the roster, Paul will help fill a bigger need at the point. Paul’s court vision and pass-first, shoot-second attitude make him the purest point guard in the draft.”

Despite Liwag’s suggestion, the Hawks picked Williams second overall. Paul would fall to the fourth pick, where the New Orleans Hornets happily welcomed him with open arms.

“We’re excited to get a player and person of Marvin’s (Williams) caliber, and we think he’ll be an outstanding addition to our team. His size and versatility allows him to be a matchup problem on both ends of the court. He is an effective inside player, has great range from the perimeter and displays outstanding ball-handling skills.”

Then Hawks Executive Vice President/General Manager Billy Knight said in a draft-night press release

The end. Not. It was only the beginning—the beginning of franchise-altering trajectories. 

The 2005-06 Atlanta Hawks were young, with the average age coming in at 24.13 years young. Only one player over the age of 26 played more than 12 games, which was Tyronn Lue. Despite being only 28, Lue was the third oldest on the team and appeared in 51 games that season. 

Marvin Williams as the only teenager on the Hawks roster, but that did not stop him, as the then 19-year-old appeared in 79 games, averaging 8.5 points and 4.8 rebounds per game in only 24.7 minutes. Williams would go onto earn a spot on the All-Rookie Second Team

A few states away, Chris Paul nearly doubled Williams averages in almost every statistic. 16.1 points, 7.8 steals, 5.1 rebounds, and 2.2 steals per game earned Paul a spot on the All-Rookie First Team and NBA Rookie of the Year. Paul’s Hornets won 38 games, compared to Williams and the Hawks 26. For the Hornets, it was a 20 win improvement, compared to the Hawks 15 win improvement. 

“I am honored to accept the T-Mobile Rookie of the Year award on behalf of my teammates, the Hornets organization, my family and the great fans in New Orleans and Oklahoma City. My rookie season was truly a fantastic experience from start to finish, and my teammates and I look forward to building on the success we enjoyed this year.”

Paul said after winning Rookie of the Year

After successful rookie seasons, the two would never come close to each other again, statistics wise. From age 20-25 seasons, Williams would average double-digit points while hovering around 5.5 rebounds per game, before falling into single digits points-wise for four years. Paul meanwhile continued to score in high volume, cracking 20 points per season at the ripe age of 22. 

Throughout his career, Paul earned ten All-Star selections. Williams never even came close to one All-Star appearance. The Hornets would later trade Paul as part of a three-team deal to the Lakers for Lamar Odom, Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, and Goran Dragic. Then David Stern nixed it. A week later, Paul ended up with the other Los Angeles team, the Clippers, for Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, Al-Farouq Aminu, and Minnesota’s unprotected 2012 first-round pick.

The trade to the Clippers was the first of three high profile trades for Paul. Williams found himself traded only once, from the Hawks to the Utah Jazz in July 2012, for Devin Harris. A straight-up trade, one that completely flew under the radar. 

Williams spent six years with the Hawks before his trade to the Jazz. He’d spend two lackluster years in Utah before the Charlotte Hornets handed him a two-year, $14 million deal in the summer of 2014. While in Charlotte, Williams would earn a four-year, $54.5 extension. He would never finish the fourth year.

“Marvin Williams embodies the exact type of player we look for when building the Hornets roster. He can defend multiple positions, brings versatility and improved shooting on the offensive end and is a veteran presence that our younger players look up to. We are excited to keep Marvin in Charlotte and build off last year’s success with him as a part of our team.”

Then Hornets GM Rich Cho said following Williams extension

In February, Charlotte waived Williams. Two days later, the Milwaukee Bucks signed him. A month later, COVID shut down everything, including Williams’ best chance at winning a championship. 

The NBA eventually agreed to play in a bubble, inviting the top-22 teams, featuring eight regular-season games. Williams and the Bucks entered the bubble as the top team in the Eastern Conference and stayed in that position come playoff time. 

Paul and the Oklahoma City Thunder finished the season fifth in the Western Conference.

Paul’s former team, no not the Hornets/Pelicans, not the Clippers, the Houston Rockets, would eventually knock him out in the first round. Williams and the Bucks quickly dispatched the Orlando Magic in five games. 

A round two matchup between the top-seeded Bucks and the number five seed Miami Heat seemed like an exciting matchup, but one Milwaukee would win based on the fact that they employ Giannis Antetokoumpo. The Greek Freak won MVP last year and figures to win again this year. 

Alas, just like Goliath fell at the hands of David, the Bucks fell to the Heat in a similarly embarrassing fashion. Miami jumped out to an early three games to none lead before Milwaukee saved some face by winning game four. It was Marvin Williams seventh time in the playoffs. He never made it out of the second round. 

Following the Bucks loss on Tuesday night, Williams announced his retirement from the NBA. 

“I’ve been very blessed. God has been very, very good to me,”

Williams said in an interview with The Undefeated

Williams retirement at the age of 34 might surprise some, but after 14 years of play and over $100,000,000 million earned, pre-tax of course, he’s set for life. 

He never lived up to pre-draft expectations, and Paul’s career has been far more successful than Williams. Did the Hawks make a mistake on draft night 2005? Yes. If they could do it over, would they? Who knows. But it set in motion years of middle of the pack basketball, which ultimately led to them drafting some kid named Trae Young out of Oklahoma. As for the New Orleans Hornets/Pelicans, they fared well with Paul and eventually landed Anthony Davis. 

Au revoir Marvin Williams, enjoy retirement.