Scouting report: Derrick Williams, PF, Arizona Wildcats

The Sixers may not be on there way to a top pick, but that doesn't mean the crew here at LibertyBallers isn't all geeked up for the draft.  The draft is, and always will be, one of my primary points of interest in this wonderful world of basketball, and the rest of the crew here feels the same way.  Even without a top pick, the Sixers pick will hardly be irrelevant.  Think a 16th'ish pick is worthless?  Ask yourself that question with a straight face as the Sixers make Jrue Holiday the cornerstone of their franchise.

Each week I will post scouting reports on 1-2 potential draft prospects.  My goal (starting next week, this will be the only report released this week) is to release a scouting report every Tuesday and Friday, right up through the end of the NCAA tournaments.  Each of these posts will contain a link to previous scouting reports, as well as my place on my hypothetical Sixers big board I would have these prospects on if the draft were held today.  As time goes by, we will continue releasing Big Boards and Mock Drafts as well.  We may even attend the lotterycombinedraft workouts and draft again this year.  

I'm going to be skipping out obvious top 10 picks, as it appears the Sixers will be playing themselves out of a top pick.  The selecting players will likely be focused on big men, but wings who fit our current personnel will also be included.  Point guards may even be included if their talent level is far and away above his contemporaries, although obviously point guard is the least of the Sixers positional needs.  After the NCAA season ends, I will go back and do some scouting reports on some lesser ranked players as guys the Sixers can target in the second round (or late first round if they can get an additional pick).  Right now I want to focus my attention on players the Sixers could be looking at in the first round.

I'm not going to write a scouting report for a player whom I haven't seen at least half of his minutes played, but usually they will be much higher.  Reports will generally be in the same format: summary, followed by strengths, weaknesses, a must improve category, and an outlook section.  

Enough rambling, let's get to the report.

Overview

Williams is 6'8" Power Forward with good length who moves very well without the ball, able to get a good portion of his offense on cuts, spot-up attempts and offensive rebounds.  He gets to the line at an incredible rate, making him one of the most efficient high usage players in college basketball, despite being average athletically.  He has a deceptively quick first step, and has very good body control and touch around the rim and shows potential developing a back to the basket game.  That being said, it's his improvement from the perimeter that really puts him on the map as a potential lottery prospect.

On the defensive side of the ball, Williams is your classic tweener.  He's not explosive enough off his feet or long enough to be a shotblocking threat, he lacks lower body strength and struggles at times denying post position, and he doesn't have the lateral mobility to defend the three at the next level.

Strengths

The first thing that jumps out at you, either when watching Williams play or by looking at the box score, is how frequently he gets to the line.  Williams attempts more free throws per game than field goals, and that skill has allowed him to be one of the most efficient players in all of college basketball.  

While he may not have the lower body strength to hold post position well, he's made good strides developing his upper body, which when combined with his good touch has allowed him to absorb contact and finish at a high rate down low.  He has a quick first step, which is better than his overall athleticism would lead one to believe.  He can effectively use either hand to finish down low, and he's become extremely good at drawing contact, particularly off isolation situations and when posting up.

For a player like Williams who doesn't project to be a primary offensive option in the NBA, how well he moves without the ball is a key skill that should translate to the next level.  Williams does a good job of probing the defenses and finding openings, either ones that open up due to penetration or seams in a zone.  Also, while he's not a dominant offensive rebounds, he also does a good job converting off of offensive rebounds, another key trait in his transition from being a focal point in college to more of a role player in the NBA.

The biggest reason NBA talent evaluators have become bullish on his potential is his developing perimeter game, and the potential for an increased isolation game that it could open up.  Last year, Williams attempted very few jump shots, and was fairly inefficient while doing so.  He still doesn't take an exorbitant amount of jump shots, but he's already attempted more this year through 17 games than he had all of last year.  While increasing the frequency with which he takes them, his efficiency has improved considerably, to the point where he's become an extremely efficient catch and shoot player.  For a player without explosive leaping ability, becoming a good catch and shoot player will help open up driving lanes against the superior athletes and length he'll face when he moves up in competition.  His straight line driving ability is adequate enough to take advantage of this and get into the paint.  The consistency with which he has been able to replicate his release point is much more frequent than it was in years past, and it's obvious he's put a lot of work into this area of his game. 

Defensively, Williams seems to have a solid grasp of team defensive schemes and rotations, has active hands, and effort isn't an issue.

Weaknesses

The primary weaknesses in Williams' game are the athletic limitations that he's likely going to be facing throughout his career.  

On the offensive side of the ball, Williams is fairly earthbound for an NBA prospect, particularly when leaping off of one foot.  This brings into question how well his post-up and isolation games will translate when he goes up against top flight athletic talent in the NBA.  He compounds his average leaping ability by, at times, a low release point on drives.  All this could lead to him having trouble getting shots off in the paint in the NBA.  This even rears its head at times on the collegiate level, as his overall effectiveness on post-ups and isolations is largely dependent on getting to the line -- his field goal percentage on post-ups is only solid, and the amount of times he's finished off isolations without being fouled is so small it's virtually statistically irrelevant.  He's fouled at such an absurdly high rate on isolation situations in college it's hard to penalize him for it, but one has to wonder how well it's going to translate when he goes up against the longer, athletic forwards he'll see night in and night out in the NBA.  While he has decent footwork and touch on post-ups, his lack of lower body strength prevents him from establishing deep position all that often, and I worry about his ability to get shots off regularly at the NBA level.  

He's also a below average passer, and would need to improve substantially to be a shot creator for his teammates at the next level, even though this likely won't be his role in the NBA, at least in the immediate future.

His athletic limitations offensively put into question whether he'll just a contributor on that side of the ball, or potentially more.  On the defensive side of the ball the consequences may be more severe.  It's hard right now to find a position he won't be at an athletic disadvantage defending against.  He'll be at a lateral disadvantage defending three's and good face-up four's in the NBA, and at a length/leaping/lower body strength disadvantage defending post-up players and playing the glass.  That being said, unlike most big men with defensive question marks, Williams should be a solid positional defender who puts in the effort to defend, a trait that automatically puts him above the level of defensive sieve.

While his jump shot has improved tremendously, his release isn't all that quick, and he doesn't get much elevation on his jump, although his release point is sufficiently high.  He also does virtually nothing off the dribble in terms of jump shots, limited almost entirely to catch and shoot situations.  While he does a good job of recognizing the limitations in his game, this is an area of his game that he could expand upon.

Must Improve

There are a few dimensions Williams could add that would improve his draft stock in my eyes.

  • I would like for him to use his turnaround face-up jumper out of the high post more often.  When creating a shot for himself off isolation situations, he tends to start them a little further out on the perimeter than ideal.  Developing a face-up jumper from the high post with his developing shooting ability, adding that to his repertoire will force defenders to take away one or the other, and should open things up for him.  Overall, right now his shots are either at the rim or from the perimeter, and while this is a great overall philosophy to have, his ability to make shots in between could be improved upon.
  • Similarly, with his athletic limitations as a leaper, getting his shot off at the rim could be much more difficult in the NBA, and he may have a hard time succeeding as an isolation threat with any regularity.  Improving upon his pull-up game, something he rarely does at Arizona, may allow him to overcome some of his athletic limitations.
  • A consistent quick hook with either hand would be a good shot to have in his arsenal, as I have questions about his ability to get his post-game off over players his size or bigger.
  • Increasing his lower body strength would be a huge boom for his prospects as an NBA defender and defensive rebounder.
Outlook

Williams ability to move well without the ball, combined with the development of a very good catch and shoot  game, should make it fairly probable he'll be at least a contributor offensively at the next level, even if his post-up and isolation games don't translate at a high level.  The ability to score in multiple ways without having plays run for him will be invaluable when he's no longer the focal point of an offense, and he does a good job playing within himself, another trait that should help lead to success.  

I have questions about both his post-up game and isolation game translating, and as such don't see him becoming a focal point of a team offensively.  With his physical limitations on the defensive side of the ball, I don't see him becoming an impact defender or a force on the defensive glass.  He may have enough natural offensive talent to warrant occasional consideration as a starter, but with his potential shortcomings as defender and on the glass, if he's not a high volume offensive player his best role will likely be as an offensive spark off the bench, where a coach can place him in matchups that are advantageous to his skillsets and physical abilities.  

That being said, he does possess a good basketball IQ, and he does have very good touch and body control around the rim, so if he can become crafty enough to create separation at the next level despite his average athletic ability, he has the offensive talent (and now perimeter game) to put up some numbers.  Similarly, unlike a lot of big men who you worry about defensively, attitude, effort and defensive IQ aren't among his concerns.  So while he may never be an impact defender, in the right system and in the right matchups, his disadvantages may be effectively masked so he's not a liability.  



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