FanPost

Projecting Derrick Williams

Derrick Williams

PF

6'8" 235

19 years old

Derrick-williams-three-point-play-video_medium

via cdn.everyjoe.com

Derrick Williams had a great sophomore season.  He built on his good freshman performance and became one of the best players in the NCAA last season.  He has a diverse and efficent offensive game, and sports an amazing 69% true-shooting score.  He can score from outside (56% on 3 pointers), he can score in isolation, and he can score in the post (96th and 92nd percentile respectively among this year's NCAA players accoring to synergy sports [5].)  While there are some concerns about his rebounding, ball-security, and defense, he is likely to be a major contributor early in his career.

NBA Projection:

Both the 09 and 08 drafts also had a high-usage athletic forward locked into one of the top 2 draft spots.  While Griffin isn't nearly as good of a Williams comp as Beasley, it should be useful to look at how this year's top forward measures up to the most recent 2.  Unfortunately for teams at the top of the draft (i.e. TWolves), the 2011 incarnation of the athletic scoring forward is not up to snuff with his predecessors.

                                pnts/40min         TS%        3Pt (att/40min)    reb/40min  block/40min           PER           WS/40

Beasley (fresh)         33.3                61%            .379 (3.7)                15.7                2.1                  39.3               19.5       

Griffin (soph)             27.3                65%            .375 (.3)                   17.3               1.4                  37.3                21.2

Williams (soph)         26                   69%            .568 (2.6)                11                  0.9                  32.5                15

 

Williams scored less but at a better rate, was a considerably weaker rebounder, and measured out lower on both metric stats.  Not shown here, Williams gets fewer steals, commits more fouls, and turns it over more than both Beasley and Griffin.  None of the three were much of distributors (.05 assists/possession for both Williams and Beasley and .12 for Griffin.  The bright point for Williams is definitely his scoring efficiency.  In order to evaluate how his impressive TS% will translate to the NBA we first need to see where it comes from. 

One thing that stands out is his 3-point success.  Williams took 2.6 3s per minutes and hit them at a blistering rate of 56.8%.  This is in stark contrast to Williams' freshman year where he barely took any 3s (0.2/40min) and only hit 1/4th of them.  It is likely this is something Williams worked hard on in the offseason, and if so, it paid-off.  That said, 56.8% is not sustainable.  Could Derrick Williams's TS% be inflated by his flukishly high 3pt%?  It doesn't look like it.  Even if we assume William's real 3pt% is a much more pedestrian 35% it only knocks his TS% down  to 66%, which is still a very impressive rate.   

The more likely explanation for Williams' high TS% is his very impressive free-throw rate.  Looking at FTA/FGA, Williams compares very favorably to both Beasley and Griffin.  With 0.87 free-throw attempts for every shot attempt, Williams had the 3rd best rate in the NCAA last season.  This doesn't look to be a fluke either.  He put up a 0.82 FTA/FGA rate his freshman season.  Comparing this to Beasley's 0.48 and Griffin's 0.61 (both good rates) we can see just how important getting to the line was for Williams' success in college. 

Players that can get to line are very valuable at every level of basketball, so this appears to be a big strength for Mr. Williams.  However, free-throw attempts in college don't explain much of the variation in free-throw attempts in the NBA (R^2=0.27 [3]).  This means players who get to the line in college do not necessarily get to the line in the NBA, while players who don't get to the line in college may still find a knack for it in the NBA.  It is very likely that Williams will not spend as much time at the charity-stripe in the NBA as he did at Arizona.  One caveat to this point is that I do not know how well NCAA FTA/FGA predicts NBA FTA/FGA, I only know how predictive the raw number of free-throw attempts is.  This means that the low r^2 for FTA college to pro could be due to poor correlation between usage or shot attempts, rather than ability to get fouled.  This could be a very important caveat given that Williams may still be a high usage player in the NBA.  Projecting Williams' scoring efficiecy into the NBA is further complicated by the fact that collegiate scoring efficiency from the field is only weakly correlated with scoring efficiency in the NBA (r of eFG=0.24 [4]).   

The poor man's Beasley comp seems like a good one.  However, it may not be useful depending on how you interpert Michael Beasley's failed career (thus far).  Has Beasley failed to translate his awesome college production to the NBA due to idiosynchratic personality issues, or because he is a tweener that can't find his niche?  If it is the former, there is good reason to hope for Williams to realize some of the potential Beasley couldn't (even if he doesn't offer as much of it).  If your interpertation is the later, it is hard to find a niche for Williams as well.  If anything Williams is smaller and less athletic than Beasley, and even as a sophomore did not have as well-rounded of a game as freshman Beasley.  The biggest problem for tweeners comes on the defensive end.  Williams is credited as a hard worker, and at least a decent defender at the college level, but it is easy to imagine him following the path of players like Michael Beasley, Glenn Robinson, and Jeff Green who manage to hurt their team even while putting up numbers on offense.

Another comp offered by NBADraft.net that I like, is David West.  I like this one because I think Williams' most likely path to success is as a 4 in the mold of David West.  A complimentary offensive player that knocks down mid-range shots, and can post-up, but prefers to take bigger 4s off the dribble.  West and Williams have a pretty similar physical profile and they look comparable based on college production as well. 

 

                                      Pnts/40          TS%        FTA/FGA      Reb/40     Blk/40    TO/40       PER        WS/40     

Williams (Soph)         26                   69           0.87                 11                  0.9          3.5          32.5       15

West (Jr)                      21.4                61           0.66                 11.4               2.9          3.6          29.1       13.7

                West's production his sophmore year was very similar to his junior year, but I can't find any advanced    stats for that season, or all of the stats I need to calculate them myself.

 

Both players had a prolific and efficient offensive game in college, both could get to the line, and both were serviceable but not great rebounders (although West averaged 12.9/40min in both his sophomore and senior seasons).  Williams looks like the superior scorer, and his scoring is responsible for his slightly better scores in the composite-metrics (PER and WS/40).  West has managed to be a decent NBA defender in spite of his average size and athleticism, and hopefully Williams can emulate West's success.  However, I am skeptical he will be able to do this.  West is a little bigger and stronger, and I'm not sure he is any less athletic.  West was much more effective blocking shots in college than Williams, and given that blocking ability in college is highly predictive of blocking ability in the NBA (r^2=.93 [3]) this will almost certainly be the case at the next level.  Much more likely is that Williams is ultimately an OK man defender, but never able to collect blocks and rebounds like West.

I have another projection for him that I haven't heard elsewhere.  He is an under-sized offensive-minded 4.  He is a prolific but efficient scorer.  He has good but not great athleticism and a high basketball IQ.  He is an average distributor and man defender.  He is a mediocre rebounder and shot-blocker.  He is Luis Scola.

 

                                    Pnts/40            TS%           Reb/40          Asts/TO           PER                 WS/40     

Williams (10/11)        26                   69                 11                   .43                   32.5                  15

Scola (01/02)           25.4 (26.9)       62 (70)        8.1 (7.8)         .63 (.58)      24.5 (28.2)            9.4 (12.3)            

                These are Scola's numbers from his second year playing professional basketball (2011/12).  The first numbers are his ACB stats and the second are from the Euro league.

Scola was about a year older than Williams at the time, but he was also playing in a more difficult league.  I'm not sure how to compare NCAA/Euro numbers, but the gestalt of the two players is pretty similar.  Both are able to score a lot of points without compromising efficiency, and both are unimpressive nearly everywhere else.  Scola has better footwork while Williams is the better leaper, both look quick for bigs, but neither is an athletic freak.  If Williams retains his scoring prowess, expect his NBA production to look a lot like Scola's.

 

Final player-comparison verdict:

Poor man's Beasley  ---->  a springier Luis Scola

 

Fit:

Terrible. 

Four of our five best players are PFs, three of them are undersized, and one of them has almost the same skill-set as Williams. 

If Williams is a PF as I suspect, he should be drafted to be traded.  This could be avoided if we have a coach that is willing to play Love at the 5, but I'm not going to bank on that.  If Williams really is a SF we can make him fit, but it will necessitate that we move one or more of Beasley/Wes/Webster (not that I would cry over any of them departing.) 

The best argument I can find for Williams on the Wolves is that we need a player that can hit the ground running.  Williams is more ready to make an impact than nearly anyone else in this draft.  We will need to shake-up the roster to make him work, but after last season we should be doing that anyway.

 

Conclusion:

Williams seems like a lock to be the 2nd pick in this draft.  I agree with that projection, but more due to my pessimism with the rest of the class than my view of Williams' potential.  Outisde of Irving, Derrick Williams is the most likely player in this draft to be a career starter.  However, his likelihood of developing into a "star" is pretty low. 

Most of Williams' appeal as a prospect comes from areas that do not translate well to the NBA: scoring, scoring efficiency, free-throw attempts (r^2=0.34, r=0.24, r^2=0.29) while he lacks production in the key areas that translate very well to the NBA: rebounds, blocks, and assists (r^2=0.83, 0.93, and 0.88 respectively [3]).

Williams has the potential to be a really nice and efficient offensive player.  He can score inside and outside, he can score posted-up, he can score with or without the ball, and in college he did all this without wasting many posessions.  In the right situation he could end up being a really nice player.  On the other hand, Williams is unlikely to ever fill-up the stat sheet, most problematically in regards to rebounds (assuming he is a 4).  Add to that the fact that Williams may be too slow to guard 3s and too small to guard 4s, and it seems like Williams is destined to be a limited player in the NBA.  If he can retain his excellent scoring and efficiency, I will be happy to look past his other deficiencies, but it is hard to see him as a true star at the next level.

 

References:

1.  Draft Express  (http://www.draftexpress.com/profile/Derrick-Williams-5811/)

2.  NBAdraft.netet  (http://www.nbadraft.net/players/derrick-williams)

3.  Basketball-Statistics (http://basketball-statistics.com/howdoncaastatisticstranslatetothenba.html)

4.  Courtside Analyst (http://courtsideanalyst.wordpress.com/2011/03/05/the-mystery-of-landry-fields-and-demarcus-cousins-the-weak-correlation-between-collegiate-effective-scoring-and-nba-effective-scoring/)

5.  Sebastian Pruiti (http://www.draftexpress.com/profile/Derrick-Williams-5811/)

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