A kid that has been rocketing up the draft boards all year is Derrick Williams, Sophomore at Arizona. Early in the year, he was mentioned as a "possible" late-first round pick. I was like, eh.... Yawn... Wizards will be bad enough to get a top 6 pick, so this guy doesn't interest me. By the time half the season had elapsed, I was hearing about this player from Arizona putting up very nice numbers. 20 points a game. 8 rebounds and shooting 61% from the field. I decided I better set my DVR to record some Arizona games. I haven't been disappointed.
The first game I watched (against Cal), Williams put up 31 points and 12 rebounds. Cal had no one that could stop him... Williams shot 22 free throws and almost single-handed fouled out two of Cal's front line players and had several others in foul trouble. Williams shot 7-12 (58%) in that game and his overall shooting percentage for this year went DOWN. Derrick Williams was all over the court... doing his very best impression of the cartoon Tasmanian devil. High energy. Constant motion. There was everyone else playing basketball, and then there was Derrick Williams playing at a faster speed....
The next game I watched was the Stanford game. Williams looked distinctly less energetic in this game than in the Cal game. He had 6 turn overs, some on mistakes because he looked unfocused. He did show off a nice touch from beyond the College 3-point line, hitting both of his shots from there - and he hit the defensive boards hard... But again, he simply looked unfocused and inattentive. He was frequently caught out of position and got into foul trouble. This was a weird game in the fact that I didn't see the Derrick Williams I was expecting to see. He looked distracted and, well, definitely NOT Tasmanian devil-like.
The following game against Arizona State, Williams dominated again. He scored 31 points on 8-12 shooting, and was continually being fouled by the Sun Devils - making 15 of 16 free throws. Defensively he looked much more energetic, snagging 10 boards and generally wrecking havoc on defense. He got his hands on a number of balls and disrupted the AZ State offense more than a few times with terrific defensive plays. In general Williams looked more like what I expected to see: A player that played hard on every possession, giving everything he had for the entire game.
Derrick Williams is a 6'8" 240 pound Sophomore combo forward with a classic "tweener" body. And although Williams is long (7-plus foot wingspan) he possesses just average athleticism and quickness. What separates Williams from others is his unrelenting motor, polished and diverse offensive repertoire, remarkable instincts and his high basketball IQ. So while some NBA General Managers are drooling over high fliers with raw basketball skills and low basketball IQ's, Derrick Williams is quietly becoming a well rounded basketball player and flying under the radar the whole time.
Offensively, Williams has a wide ranging arsenal at his disposal. As with most promising young players, he loves to get out in transition, usually finishing with a thundering two-handed dunk. He has average ball handling skills.... and that's OK for a Power Forward, but he'll need to improve in that area if he wants to play on the wing. He's got a very quick first step, and he can dribble in a straight line to the basket - but if he meets resistance, or has to change directions, he can get into trouble. Once he receives the ball, he makes quick decisive movements - you don't see any Blatche-like hesitation, or holding the ball for any length of time. Milliseconds, and Williams is doing something with the ball.
His jump shot is a bit slow on the release, but his mechanics are otherwise sound. He's got a nice high release with good rotation and puts good arc on the ball. He's extremely accurate to the College 3-point line with nice touch on his shot - and he's very effective in catch-and-shoot situations. He is shooting a fabulous 62.2% from the College 3-point line, although it's on only 49 shots; so with time, he should become a better than average NBA 3-point threat. Arizona ran the pick-and-roll frequently with Williams, and he shows nice potential for the play at the next level, with great hands and good timing. He sets good solid picks, (obviously getting, and more importantly listening to good coaching). Although I didn't see any actual pick-and-pop plays run, Williams' improving jump shot bodes well in that area as well.
He has the ability to create his own shot off the dribble. Defenders have to respect his terrific first step and the fact that he is a tremendous finisher at the rim - so it gives Williams the opportunity to use a jab step and step back to give all the room he needs to get his shot off. That ability to go one-on-one and either get off a clean jump shot, or drive to the rim will be his bread and butter in the NBA.
Williams loves to mix it up inside and is a very special post up player, shooting a terrific 79% in the immediate basket area this year. He utilizes a number of advanced post moves to get his shots off over bigger and taller players. He uses angles and pump fakes effectively. He's got good footwork and great hands. He's got a real nice soft touch inside, able to spin the ball off the backboard from odd angles - and he can finish effectively with either hand. Williams is much stronger than he looks at first glance, and he can finish inside even through excessively heavy contact; as evidenced by the fact that he shoots an almost unheard of 11.7 free throws per game. He converts those free shots at a very good 76% clip too.
Williams has been nothing short of fantastic as an inside presence for Arizona - But at 6'8" I expect he'll get his shot blocked more, and he may not be as efficient (79%) inside at the next level. The fact that he can move the ball around, has great footwork, utilizes good fakes and is strong inside - means that he sould still be able to post up smaller players effectively in the NBA - just not at 79%; AND he makes his Free Throws, which is always a huge plus.
As a rebounder, Williams is only adequate, averaging 10.9 per 40 pace adjusted. That's a terrific number for a Small Forward - unfortunately, he's playing PF at Arizona, and those numbers are just so-so. This is where his size and average athleticism hurts him the most. He displays good fundamentals (blocking out, etc..), but frequently loses the battle for the basketball to taller or more athletic players. That trend should continue in the NBA.
On defense, Williams displays great instincts and awareness. He shows off a good fundamental stance, keeping low and centered. He is able to keep most College forwards in front of him - and keep them out of the middle. He is an aggressive defender - and although he doesn't get a lot of steals (1.2 per 40PA) or blocks (1.1 per 40PA) he is able to bother and disrupt his opponent and contest shots. Because of his lack of size, he may be at a disadvantage on defense as a PF at the next level, and because of his only average quickness, it may be hard for him to stay in front of quicker Small Forwards. This is where his high basketball IQ, solid fundamentals, aggressiveness, awareness and instincts should help; and even if he doesn't project to be a top defender - those qualities should make him at least an adequate defender in the NBA. Don't look for that to happen right away... he should be a below average defender with a propensity to foul in his first year or two (remember, I said he is aggressive).
Overall a terrific offensive player, and a mixed bag defensively. Derrick Williams possesses some skills that will immediately translate well to the NBA - such as his ability to create his own shot and his aggressive inside play. If he can continue to improve on his long range shots, especially from the NBA 3-point line, and his ball handling abilities, he could greatly improve his value. Although I don't think he's a top 6 pick, any team that wants to add a hard working, aggressive player that gives 100% on every possession can't do wrong drafting Derrick Williams anywhere in the 7th through 14th range.
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