ATLANTA -- I have a lot of tools for projecting a player's development, but the one wild card is always the conscious decisions of the player himself.
A good example from last night is the Hawks' Marvin Williams. If you were taking bets on Atlanta's go-to, crunch-time play before the season, a "Marvin Williams 3-pointer from the right corner" would have been pretty low on the list. The Hawks' fourth-year forward made just one 3-pointer all last season, and it was a half-court shot.
Yet on consecutive Wednesdays, Williams has buried a huge 3 from the right corner to give the Hawks the lead in the final seconds. First there was his bomb in Boston last Wednesday, which failed to produce a win only because of Paul Pierce's game-winner at the buzzer. This week he gave an encore performance from the same spot, and this time it was the winning bucket, as the Hawks beat Washington 91-87 to end a four-game losing skid.
Williams has attempted at least one triple in nine of his 10 games this season and is 13-for-23 thus far, already more than doubling his attempts from the 2007-08 campaign.
"It was something that [Hawks] coach [Mike Woodson] wanted me to do," Williams said. "He told me I had to extend my range this year and it would open things for a lot of other guys, including myself, and it has. It makes other teams think twice about doubling Joe and adds another dimension to our team."
And in this case, it made it possible for Williams to have enough space to launch a game-winner. Setting up in the far corner meant the responsible defender, Andray Blatche, had a lot more ground to cover to reach Williams. Had it been last season and Williams set up shop from 18-20 feet, Blatche likely would have snuffed his attempt.
"[Blatche] probably would have been there," Williams said. "It's a longer rotation, and it's tougher to guard."
Of course, getting free in the corner doesn't matter if Williams can't convert the shot. That's why he's been learning from one of the best. Williams credits daily workouts with newly hired shooting guru Mark Price for his long-range accuracy.
Though his game-winner was his only triple, Williams contributed across the board with 21 points and 14 boards, and his timing could hardly have been better. On a night when the Hawks were missing both starting frontcourt players -- Josh Smith and Al Horford sat out with ankle injuries -- and their star player was inexplicably human -- Joe Johnson was just 7-for-22 with seven turnovers -- it was largely Williams' performance that saved resurgent Atlanta from an embarrassing defeat to a cellar-dwelling Wizards team.
And while the ugly win didn't exactly do wonders for Atlanta's spot in the Power Rankings (down to 16th from 10th) or the Playoff Odds (down from the fourth seed to the eighth), the Hawks succeeded in treading water a little while longer while the big guys are out.
John Hollinger writes for ESPN Insider. To e-mail him, click here.