With actual games seeming like a pipe dream at the moment, the NBA Draft is perhaps the most important upcoming event in the basketball landscape. That is especially true for a team like the Minnesota Timberwolves, whose woeful season has positioned them as one of the highest-profile teams come draft night. The Wolves currently hold the 3rd worst record in the league which, per Tankathon, lands them with the odds you see below to rise or fall in the lottery. They also have Brooklyn’s first round pick, which will convert if the Nets land outside of the lottery, which they are currently slated to do.
Keep in mind that, within the true spirit of Minnesota sports, the Timberwolves have never been lucky enough for the ping pong balls to fall their way and move up in the draft standings. Even if that doesn’t change this year, you can bet president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas and his front office cohorts have a plan for any and every scenario.
In the second edition of the Canis Hoopus Draft Radar, we take a look at a player who could potentially land on this Wolves squad come draft night, Florida State freshman Patrick Williams.
Team: Florida State
Draft Age: 18.87
Position: Power Forward
Weight: 225 lbs
Per Game: 22.5 Minutes, 9.2 points, 4.0 rebounds, 1.0 assist, 1.0 steals, 1.0 blocks, 45.9% FG, 32% 3PT, 83.8% FT
Per 36 Minutes: 14.8 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.6 steals, 1.7 blocks
Advanced: 55.3 TS%, 22.2% Usage Rate, .153 WS/40, 6.4 BPM
Despite coming off the bench for much of the season, Patrick Williams has firmly cemented himself as a first-round talent. He has been scattered among mock drafts, landing anywhere from 11 to 33, meaning he will likely be available for the Timberwolves to select with the Brooklyn pick (#16). Williams was a 4-star recruit and the 28th ranked player in the nation coming out of high school and did nothing to dissuade those numbers in his lone season with Florida State. He ended the season as the ACC Sixth Man of the Year and was also a member of the ACC All-Freshman Team.
- Defensive Versatility
When he is rotating over to help his teammate deny a would-be scorer, Williams is an absolute terror. His 6-foot-8 size and 6-foot-11 wingspan are decent — albeit nothing crazy — but it’s the 18-year-old’s quick feet, timing and ability to stay vertical that give him genuine potential as a rim-protecting power forward.
He isn’t going to block everything in sight, but his sturdy rotations mean he rarely gives up an easy bucket. Along with that, he always keeps his head on a swivel and scarcely gets lost on the play, meaning he is hardly ever the problem for team defense breakdowns. This gives him a very high floor as a team defender at the next level.
Watch here how he switches on defense, cuts off the passing lane to the perimeter and then saves his teammates behind with stunning reaction time and recovery ability:
The clip below is a nice little smattering of the defensive highlights he brings when he is at his best. First, he breaks up a pick-and-roll lob and pins the shot attempt to the backboard, following that up with another swat on the putback attempt. Then, he executes perfect weak-side help defense, sending the weak layup attempt back where it came from. Finally, he chases the ball up the court like a hungry cheetah and denies the easy transition points.
Perhaps even more intriguing is Williams’ ability to defend the perimeter as well as the rim. The quick feet and low center of gravity help him stay in front of players most power forwards would struggle with and contain them with a pretty high success rate. This should bode well for him in the switch-heavy defensive schemes of the NBA.
Not many 6-foot-8 power forwards can keep up with guards like this:
Even with his defensive versatility, it’s unlikely Williams will be nimble enough to ever guard small forwards or guards regularly, but he should be able to switch onto them occasionally and not get burnt.
He can be a victim of over-rotating or biting too hard on pump-fakes, but those things smell strongly of youth and inexperience and could easily be eradicated with good coaching as his career progresses.
When he does get beaten, he has shown the ability to recover and get back into the play extremely quickly, like the examples below. However, it will be a lot harder to make recovery plays like that against NBA-level athletes and scorers.
Even with some creases that need to be ironed out, expect Williams’ help-side defense and solid switchability to be the first thing to translate as he enters the pros.
- Handle and Passing For Position
He is not going to bust out crossovers or leave defenders in his wake, but Williams has a strong handle and ability to get downhill from the perimeter. At Florida State, he barely ever posted-up, so we were able to get a good look at his slashing ability, which has legitimate potential to grow into a real NBA strength.
With a big body and enough ball-handling ability to survive pesky hands, he projects as a modern-day four who can do a little bit of everything. That includes running pick-and-roll, which is a unique and mouth-watering talent for a power forward.
At his best, he comes off the screen and bullies his way to the front of the rim like this.
But, perhaps more intriguingly, he can set up his teammates with a variety of lob, drop-off and skip passes. That makes it easier for him to maintain single-coverage, stopping defenders from leaving their man and coming over to provide help.
Williams also flashes that driving and passing ability when blowing by defenders who have closed out too hard. If he can keep developing his jumper (more on that below), he will be able to punish defenders for strong closeouts and use his athleticism to finish at the rim or his playmaking ability to set up teammates.
He might need a longer leash than some teams are willing to give to truly hone those skills, but a big man who can run pick-and-roll and make the right reads is a luxury in the big leagues and Williams could very well grow into one of those players.
- Cutting Ability
When Williams isn’t spotted-up waiting to launch a triple, you can find him moving off the ball in an extremely encouraging way. He is active and never satisfied with standing around and waiting, preferring to get somewhere where the ball-handler can see and find him.
Most of that work comes from the baseline, as he rockets toward the rim from the corner or hangs in the “dunkers spot” waiting for an easy drop-off pass. From there, he uses his speed, power and hops to finish with either a silky touch or an authoritative hammer.
If he can alternate between corner triples and cuts to the rim, Williams could thrive as an off-ball player. This is especially true if he is playing with other players who can space the floor and find cutters at the right time.
Despite connecting on just 32 percent of his 3-point tries in his lone year at Florida State, there is plenty of reason to buy stock in Williams’ potential to become a true stretch four.
His mechanics are simple and consistent, facts that bode well for his future prospects as a shooter. Williams also shot a tick under 84 percent from the free throw line, which is always a good sign when evaluating a player’s ability to knock down long-range shots efficiently. On top of that, the freshman has shown the ability to hit some shots after relocating and catching on the move — something not a lot of power forwards have in their arsenal.
With sufficient gravity as a shooter, Williams can exploit defenders who over-commit, punishing overzealous closeouts with a pump-fake and using his aforementioned slashing ability to power to the ring for an even more efficient shot.
While he certainly has more than one tool is his belt, shooting might become the biggest swing factor for Williams. If he can hit them at rate that approaches or exceeds league average, he could become a super valuable stretch four.
- Screening and Rolling
While he may show signs of becoming a talented stretch four and off-ball mover, Williams has had troubles making his mark in the pick-and-roll game at FSU. He struggled with both aspects of the play, often making little connection or impact with his screens and not rolling hard enough or into the right space.
At the next level, he will need to improve on at least one of these things, if not both. If he wants to become a shooting big who can kill teams out of pick-and-pop he will need to sharpen his technique on screens. And if he wants to really squeeze the most juice out of his athleticism, he will need to become a better roller.
Both of these things are easily coached-up and not the brightest red flag, but it’s still worth mentioning.
- Post game
Perhaps calling it a weakness is a bit harsh, but it’s hard to know what kind of post player Williams is because he simply did not get the opportunity to do so at Florida State. Coach Leonard Hamilton rarely ran plays out of the post for any of his players and Williams was no exception.
Post-ups are one of the least efficient play types and a dying art in the NBA, but it would still be nice for a power forward to be able to get himself or a teammate a bucket out of the post. It remains to be seen whether Williams has that capability.
Fit With Minnesota
As a mid-first round pick, Williams would be a very savvy selection for Gersson Rosas and the rest of Minnesota’s front office. Minnesota needs depth and defense at the power forward position and will continue to target players who can play fast and shoot from deep. Around ball-movers and floor-spacers like Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell and Malik Beasley, Williams’ off-ball movement will be magnified and enhanced tenfold.
At just 18-years-old, Williams provides some immediate help while keeping one eye firmly planted on the future. He should definitely be very high on the wish list when it comes to the Timberwolves’ second first-round pick.