Derrick Williams has deservedly taken his share of heat for his play during last season and the beginning of this one. This glaring fact has been discussed ad nauseum on this site, and around the blogosphere. Watching Williams this season, I have seen more hustle and awareness defensively, but not much improvement on the offensive end. He's still a tweener with no go-to offensive move besides the jump stop/euro step hybrid that he goes to when he's lost confidence in his jumper. He's athletic in the open court, but can't finish inside the lane. His jump shot is streaky at best, and his lack of a pull up jumper only makes his repeated attempts to take it all the way to rim more frustrating to watch.
Last week watching the game against Golden State, it struck me that his career so far reminded me a lot of how Antawn Jamison's career began. Both were heralded inside/outside power forwards who won National Player of the Year. Both were drafted high in the lottery with expectations that they their college games would quickly translate to the NBA. Both were considered on the road to being a bust.
Here are a few things that stood out to me from this NBA.com article written early in Jamison's career: http://www.nba.com/warriors/news/jamison_web_feature.html
Jamison began his career appearing as though he would never feel comfortable in the NBA game, too small for power forward and lacking the floor game to play small forward.
As a rookie, Jamison often looked lost on the court. He was playing the small forward position after playing power forward in college, where he was a destructive machine that chopped down anything standing in his way...Jamison struggled to find court time with a coach who preferred to play veterans Chris Mills and Donyell Marshall.
"I just didn't feel right out there when I was playing," Jamison says. "There were times I would sit out the entire first half, and by the time I got in the game I felt like I didn't have the authority to tell my hands and feet what to do. I felt awkward and could never get in a rhythm. On the court it was like I was walking slowly, lurking around as though I was afraid I would fall."
So what changed? How did he go from being labeled a bust to a two time All Star, sixth man of the year winner, and averaging 19.4 ppg over a 16 year career?
"I had one thought and one thought only; and that was to dedicate myself to becoming a better basketball player."
And as is usually true of a man of one idea, he became obsessed. Players usually spend anywhere between two to four hours in the gym each day playing basketball or working out during the season. Jamison bucked this trend. He was working out so often, Warriors front office employees, who were working no less than 40-hour work weeks, would see Jamison's Range Rover positioned in its usual spot in the parking lot of the practice facility each day when they would arrive. On most days, his car would still be in the same spot when they left at the end of the day.
Is Derrick Williams this dedicated to improvement? Can he learn to adapt his game to something more than long jump shots and labored drives to the basket? Can he learn to get his shots in the flow of the offense, instead of forcing it so often? Can he go from being a streaky shooter who show flashes of potential, to someone who's jump shot is a strength that he can build off of? It's up to him.