Michael Beasley was an impossible Williams comparison to avoid before last year's draft. Both were scoring-centric star collegiate bigs with tweener SF/PF bodies and games. Those of us looking at the number noticed a significant discrepancy in the two players' "usage" in college, but everyone seemed pretty comfortable at least dubbing Derrick Williams a "lower-usage" version of Michael Beasley.
Now that Derrick Williams' rookie campaign is nearly finished, that comparison is looking to be eerily appropriate.
Physically it is easy to see where the original comparisons came from. Williams is slightly taller and may have a big enough frame to move from tweener to PF proper. however, the comparison between their physical attributes is pretty easy to make.
We aren't interested in physical appearance though. What about the numbers?
Looking at Williams' numbers this season and Beasley's numbers his first year in Miami, we can see just how accurate the "low-usage Michael Beasley" comparison is for Derrick Williams:
Off-ball, Derrick Williams and Michael Beasley were the exact same player their rookie seasons. Beasley had a slightly better rebound percentage, but really the two player are impossible to discriminate.
What about the on-ball statistics? I'm first going to present "per possession" numbers so we can get a sense of what each player does with the ball while holding usage constant.
Again, Williams and Beasley are strikingly similar players. Their ratio of shots to assists to turnovers is nearly identical. Williams took slightly fewer shots, but that is explained by his getting to the line more often. Beasley was a slightly more accurate shooter than Williams and created more of his shots himself (lower %ast).
Until we take usage into account, it would be very difficult to tell the two players apart. However, I will now present per minute numbers along with Williams and Beasley's usage rates so you can see where the two players part ways.
Beasley took and made more shots, completed more assists, and turned the ball over more than Williams, but this can all be explained by Beasley dominating the ball more than Williams. Beasley's rookie usage rate was 36% higher than Williams'. That is the single significant difference between the two players.
Reason for hope:
- FTA: Williams is definitely the superior player in getting to the line. This tends to be an important and consistent skill in the NBA. If Williams can start hitting his free throws at better than his collegiate 3pt%, this could be what keeps him an NBA starter.
- Shot selection: Williams takes more than twice as many 3s as Beasley and even with his much lower usage, gets to the rim just as many times. Here are the numbers:
Williams (per 40): attempts at rim 5.4; mid 4.5; tre 3.7
Beasley (per 40): attempts at rim 5.4; mid 11.9; tre 1.6
Most of Beasley's mid attempts were in the 16-23ft range as well. Williams was smart enough to take a couple steps back before shooting, and in the end that strategy could make all the difference in the world.
Reason for pessimism:
- Scoring efficiency: Even though Beasley carried a much higher usage and took many of the worst shots in the NBA, he still carried a higher scoring efficiency than Williams. This is concerning, because the easiest way to remedy poor shooting is shot selection... Unfortunately, Williams can't select his way out of his current accuracy problems.
Williams (per 40): attempts at rim 67.9%; mid ~26%; tre 41.6%
Beasley (per 40): eFG% at rim 56%; mid ~36%; tre 61.1%
The high rim% is encouraging, and we can certainly pray Williams becomes consistent on his threes. However, it seems pretty clear that Beasley is the superior shooter.
One positive note.... Beasley was not efficient at the rim and couldn't get to the line. Those two facts may be all we need to explain Beasley's failure in the NBA. Williams does not suffer from either problem, so maybe it is reasonable to hope he will be alright.