Welcome to the Four chronicles, in which we will attempt to explore the Cavs’ options, both within and outside of the team, for upgrading their biggest roster hole going into the deadline. The Cavs, by all accounts, want one more quality four, specifically one who can shoot from the outside, to give the Cavs more offensive spacing when Shaq is on the floor and help them match up better against more athletic, faster-paced teams.
Over the past four games, the Cavs have been getting production at the four from the last place anyone expected them to find it-the very end of their bench. After playing a total of 38 minutes in the last two years on the Cavs’ roster (with 10 of those minutes coming in the Cavs’ last regular-season game of the year, when they rested their starters), Jawad Williams has played 71 minutes in the last four games. And when he’s been in, he’s played well, showing some athleticism, willingness to defend (even though he got worked by Corey Maggette on Monday), and that deep shooting touch. Jawad has his five of his 12 threes thus far, and is shooting 50% overall.
Before we even dare to hope that Jawad could be a solution, or even a band-aid, let’s take a look at what he’s done in college and the D-League.
Full disclosure: I don’t really watch college basketball. My mom and dad went to schools without big sports programs, and I never really liked the style of play as much as I like the NBA. When I came to USC during O.J. Mayo’s first year, I thought I was going to witness the rise of a new basketball power and get into the college game. That, to put it mildly, did not happen. So there are probably folks who know what Jawad’s game looked like during his four years at North Carolina better than I do.
His senior year, Jawad was the starting small forward on the 2005 NCAA championship team at North Carolina. Here are some excerpts from what DraftExpress said about Jawad after that season, with some comments:
“Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio”
“Best-Case Scenario: Andre Kirilenko”
Well, that would be awesome.
Standing Reach: 8′ 10.5″ (Just above average for a power forward)
Wingspan: 7′ 1.25″ (Huge for a three, above average for a four)
Standing Vert: 28′ (Below average for a power forward)
Max Vert: 34′ (Average for a power forward)
Bench: 15 Reps (Very strong for a three, below average for a power forward)
Sprint: 3.23 (Very fast for both a small and power forward)
Lane Agility: 11.39 (Not good for either a small or power forward)
So Jawad has enough wingspan to play the position, and has good straight-line speed, but will face guys who are quicker and/or stronger than him on a given night in the NBA, and he’s not exactly an above-the-rim player. But physically speaking, Jawad appears to have the tools to at least hold his own at either the three or the four.
Let’s get to the observations about Jawad in college, after the 03-04 season (not his last one, but this is what DX has):
“ A very versatile player, has a nice all around game. Excellent athlete. He is North Carolina’s utility man, he does all the small things needed to secure the win.Jawad has showed improvement in many aspects since entering college. His free throw shooting has improved leaps and bounds, over 20% from his freshman year. Williams isn’t afraid of hard work, and is willing to put in time to get better as a player. His range has also dramatically improved since arriving in Chapel Hill, and he has put on over 20 pounds of muscle just in the last off-season. Right now he’s a good rebounder due to his athleticism, wingspan and desire.”
Well, all of that sounds like what you want from a young rotation player on a contending team, particularly one that follows a Spurs-like organizational philosophy.
“A good man to man defender, capable of playing the type of physical and exhausting lock down defense that opponents hate. He has a nice wingspan and he uses it well to block shots and come up with steals.”
And that, of course, is probably Mike Brown’s favorite part of what Jawad brings.
“Jawad is extremely athletic, but he’s also tough as nails, he’s played through numerous injuries in his career so far. He broke his nose earlier this season and continued to play through the pain. Has gone through dozens of stitches on his face in his career at North Carolina so far. He has no fear of anything and no regard whatsoever for his own personal safety. He’ll do anything to secure the win. Jawad is a very good transition player, he runs the floor well, and knows how to find the open man, although you do not want him leading the break. His court vision in general is impressive for a small forward, he’s an unselfish player and usually moves the ball around well. In fact, you might say that passing is one of his strong points, and that might catch you off guard because of his rugged style of play.”
Alright, now it just sounds like DX was trying to play a prank on Mike Brown, like when Bart set Mrs. Krabappel up with Woodrow Wilson/Gordie Howe.
“This year in particular Williams has shown that he is a clutch shooter that wants to take the big shots at the end of the game”
Probably safe to say that Jawad won’t be taking many game-deciding shots while LeBron plays on his team, but he certainly showed no fear hitting that big three against the Blazers on Sunday.
“Williams’ offense is still somewhat unrefined, especially down low in the post. He doesn’t have great hands and you would expect him to be a better finisher around the basket when he is posting up his matchup. He would be a lot more dangerous if he could add some new post moves to his repertoire.”
Probably not a relevant issue on the Cavs, as Jawad won’t be getting plays run for him on the block.
“Jawad’s biggest problem in college so far has been maintaining a consistent level of intensity throughout a game, and on both sides of the floor. He has the tendency to lose focus and disappear for large stretches of games sometimes. He has been criticized in the past for not being assertive enough, and often he’ll settle for the outside shot instead of taking the ball strong to the hoop.”
This would be an extremely relevant issue, although it might become a moot point with Jawad playing much fewer minutes a game at the pro level.
“Part of that might stem from Jawad’s poor ball handling skills. He has a good strong first step, but he often turns the ball over when trying to use it. Turnovers in general are a problem for Williams.”
Again, Jawad probably won’t be trying to create much off the dribble with the Cavs, but that’s something to watch.
Williams shooting has improved tremendously since arriving in college so far, but he needs to continue to work on this skill to become the all-around player that many envision him becoming in the NBA.
In the season after this was written, Jawad raised his FG% by nine points and his 3-PT% by eight points. Check.
In the D-League, Jawad improved every season, shooting 39%/20% in a limited four-game stint in 05-06, 44%/34% in 50 games in 06-07, and 45.5%/42% in 19 D-League games last season. His scoring volume increased each year along with his efficiency, as his scoring average went from 14.0 to 19.2 to 25.7. So Jawad knows how to play a role, and he knows how to score the ball at lower levels.
His playmaking has never been a strength, with a 2.1/2 AST/TO ratio in the D-League and a 1.4/1.5 AST/TO ratio in his last season at North Carolina.
So that, in a nutshell, is Jawad Williams. He’s a tough glue guy, he can shoot the ball, and he’s been getting progressively better each season. It’s far, far too early to fall in love, especially after Hickson earlier in the season, but it looks like Jawad has a good chance to stay in the rotation after Moon comes back, because he’s doing in the NBA what he’s been doing for a while at lower levels.