This past season, Blake Griffin treated NBA fans to amazing dunking displays on his way to averaging more than 22 points and 12 rebounds and capturing Rookie of the Year honors in a rare unanimous vote. Teams looking for the next explosive power forward with scoring ability have their sights set on Derrick Williams, the 6-foot-8, 235-pound sophomore from Arizona. Williams is projected to be drafted in the first two picks (along with Kyrie Irving, whom Kevin Hetrick profiled already). So what will the Cavs be getting should they be fortunate enough to draw such a pick and choose to take Williams?
Scoring is Williams’ biggest strength. He possesses a diverse, complete offensive game, showing the ability to score from anywhere on the court. After shooting just 25% on 3s in 2009-10, the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year clearly worked hard on his outside shooting in the offseason. It showed, as Williams shot an incredible 57% on 3s this year. He has a quick release and good form. College players couldn’t defend him 1-on-1 (1.13 Isolation PPP), and he’s comfortable shooting off the dribble and working in the post (1.07 PPP). Overall, he was one of the most efficient players in the nation, posting an amazing 69% true shooting percentage. Williams draws a ton of fouls (8.7 FTA), where he converts at a solid 75% clip using a smooth, confident stroke.
Another positive facet of Williams’ offensive game is his ball-handling ability, which is advanced for a PF. He’s comfortable attacking his man with a face-up game that includes a variety of crossovers and fakes. He takes long strides and utilizes a smooth jump-step to get close to the basket, where his great athleticism allows him to finish strong (witness his devastating dunks against Duke in the NCAA tourney).
When NFL teams are evaluating line talent, the term “high motor” is often thrown around to describe players who show a constant work rate, have a high level of effort and rarely take plays off. Williams possesses a such a motor. On defense, he fights hard for post position and gets low, extends his arms and shows active hands when showing on pick and rolls or guarding in face-up situations. When Arizona has the ball, Williams is very active, constantly looking for open space in zones and setting screens for teammates both on and away from the ball.
For all the motor and athleticism Williams shows, he’s not a great rebounder. Though he averages a respectable 8.3 boards per game, game film of Williams highlights his lack of rebounding fundamentals. He isn’t diligent about boxing his man out, often giving up inside position in the process. He doesn’t work hard to get in good rebounding position, allowing smaller players to box him out without a fight. Though he can still post solid rebounding numbers in college, he’ll need to improve his fundamentals in the NBA, where opponents will more easily match his size and athleticism.
Williams draws a ton of double teams with his penetration and work in the post. However, he fails to use this to his team’s advantage, averaging just 1.1 assists per game against 2.6 turnovers (17% TO rate). Passing out of double teams is an essential skill in the NBA, where teams with good help defenses rotate quickly and aggressively. Williams had solid teammates willing and able to convert if he dished to them for open looks, so 1.1 assists per game shows a glaring hole.
As athletic as Williams is, it’s surprising that he only averaged 0.7 blocks per game this year. He can sometimes be a little slow to close out with help defense, which also results in picking up some unnecessary fouls.
How he fits with the Cavs
Cleveland is obviously a team that needs help everywhere. Williams brings a complete all-around game to the NBA, with athleticism, offensive skill, effort and work ethic. Perhaps most alluring to a team like the Cavs, Williams is the most polished, NBA-ready prospect in the draft. He’s ready to contribute now, and the Cavs are a team that needs contributions in a hurry.
Furthermore, his biggest weaknesses – rebounding and lack of play-making – should easily be fixable with some coaching.
Power forward is probably the Cavs’ strongest position, as they have legit NBA rotation players J.J. Hickson and Antawn Jamison. However, Jamison is old (turning 35 in June), and Hickson, though productive, simply can’t match Williams’ potential.
A Baron Davis-Derrick Williams pick and roll/pick and pop combo would be a potent weapon for the Cavs going forward. Though many Cavs fans are salivating over Kyrie Irving, they should be equally excited for the prospect of adding Williams to the team. He is the rare prospect who has an NBA-ready game and plenty of upside (he hasn’t even turned 20 yet). He may not be Blake Griffin, but he would be an outstanding addition to the Cavs and a strong candidate for Rookie of the Year.