|Position:||PF/C||Team/Class:||Texas A&M (So.)|
|Dom Hand:||Right||Stats:||Click here|
Last spring, Robert Williams was projected to be a first-round pick, but to the surprise of many, he returned to Texas A&M for his sophomore season. At the time, Williams stated publicly that he needed more time to mature and develop his game before moving on to the NBA. Following an up-and-down sophomore year, I am not positive that Williams achieved his goals, but his draft stock remains very high.
Williams was suspended for the start of this past season, and he did not play in a couple of December games due to a concussion. In total, he missed only five games, but he was unable to establish himself as a consistent force and make the progress that was expected of him. His stat lines from his freshman and sophomore years look very similar, with the most significant increases of this season coming in field-goal percentage (63.2) and defensive rebounds per game (6.9). He did, however, finish his sophomore campaign ranked among the top 40 in the NCAA in a number of categories, including total rebounds per game (9.2, 37th), blocks per game (2.5, 17th), and plus-minus (11.9, 8th). He also was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year for the second straight season, though he did have to share the honor this season with South Carolina’s Chris Silva.
Williams very much relies on athleticism as opposed to skill. In terms of running and jumping, he is one of the most athletic big men in this draft. He is quick, long, muscular, and explosive, and he has a solid frame with room for growth. He is a fantastic finisher on lobs and putbacks, and he finishes emphatically with rim-rattling dunks. He is a very good all-around defender, and is an excellent rebounder and shot blocker. However, just about everything else about his game is a work in progress.
Williams averaged just 10.4 points and 25.6 minutes per game this past season. His lack of offensive skill cost him playing time on a Texas A&M squad that lacked firepower. Even when he was on the floor, he seemed invisible at times on the offensive end of the court. Part of that was due to center Tyler Davis’ effective post-up game being the focal point of the Aggies’ attack, but some of it also fell on Williams, who didn’t always work to get open.
This past season, most of Williams’ shots were taken around the basket. Seventy-eight percent of his shots came within eight feet of the basket, with 58% coming at the rim. From eight feet and in, he made 74% of shots, while he converted an outstanding 84% at the rim. Seventy-five percent of his touches came from fast breaks, cuts to the basket, offensive rebounds, or post-up plays. Able to run like a gazelle and having great length and lift off the floor, he was at his best in transition, averaging 1.43 points per possession (94th percentile). He produced very similar numbers for similar reasons as a cutter, averaging 1.48 points per possession (93rd percentile). On putbacks, his numbers were not as impressive, but they were still very good, as he landed at the 73rd percentile. Post-up situations accounted for the majority Williams’ touches (28%), and he averaged .98 points per possession (82nd percentile). Including offense derived from his passes in the post, he fared even better (87th percentile).
On the low block, Williams is most comfortable spinning to the left and shooting right-hand hook shots. He also likes to go to the basket in the same direction, and he displays impressive quickness when using drop steps. He will occasionally make fadeaway jumpers in the low post, and he is capable of making face-up jumpers from 15-20 feet. Overall as a jump shooter inside 17 feet this past season, Williams made a very modest 38 percent of his shots, including 6-of-18 in post-up situations.
Williams would seemingly be an ideal player to use as a screener in the pick and roll, but he was sparingly used in this fashion, which was partially due to the Aggies’ scheme. It also likely didn’t help that Williams does not do a very good job of setting solid picks and is not proficient at making himself available after setting those picks. Only 6% of his touches this season came off the pick and roll, and he averaged just .88 points per possession (33rd percentile). He was very effective when rolling to the basket (1.44 points per possession), but he attempted just nine such shots all season.
Williams is not much of a threat from the perimeter. He can get in trouble when he puts the ball on the floor, and his outside jump shot is anything but reliable. This past season in spot-up and isolation situations, he turned the ball over 21 percent of the time, and when shooting jumpers from beyond 17 feet, he made just 3 of his 26 shots (12%). In two years at A&M, he made only 2 of his 30 three-point attempts (7%), and it should also be noted that his free-throw percentage over the same span was 54%.
His ability to play defense is the reason why Williams is a top prospect this year. In addition to his outstanding rebounding and shot-blocking skills, he has the mobility to effectively guard on the perimeter, and he covers a ton of ground due to his length and speed. This skill set allows him to be effective as both a one-on-one and team defender. He can be disruptive when hedging and trapping, frequently forcing ball handlers to commit turnovers, and with his ability to get up and down the court, he is capable of breaking up transition plays. On switches, even elite guards can have trouble driving past him, and when they do get by him, there is still a good chance that their shot will be swatted away. The same goes for spot-up shooters who think that they are open, only to have him close out in an instant and contest their shots with his combination of length and vertical.
According to Synergy, the one area where Williams struggled to defend this season was in the post, allowing 1.08 points per possession and ranking in the 13th percentile. Those numbers, however, do not consider that he was rarely challenged in the post (19 shot attempts). Of all of this year’s draft prospects who are big men and played significant minutes this season, only Duke’s Marvin Bagley (11) had fewer shots attempted against him in the post (see the table below for a comparison of some of the other prospects). This is not to say that Williams does not have his flaws on the defensive end. There are times when he tries to do too much, resulting in needless fouls or defensive breakdowns; for example, on closeouts, he can be too aggressive and bite hard on shot fakes. And there are other times when he is clearly not dialed in – he will saunter up the floor, or have an inexplicable mental lapse when playing team defense.
Curiously, Williams passed on attending the NBA Combine. Currently projected to be a mid-first-round pick, he is either satisfied with his status, or he is concerned that his stock could drop. Given that a good portion of the combine is based on athletic testing, and his best selling point is his athleticism, a bad day at the combine could be very costly. Then again, he had an opportunity to dispel doubts about his game and possibly improve his stock. Personally, I am a bit leery about his unwillingness to compete, and I doubt that I am the only person who is thinking this way.
Williams is the type of player who can look fantastic one day and mediocre the next. His athleticism and physical tools are always evident, but his focus, effort, and offensive productivity wax and wane. I have serious doubts that he will ever be much of a shooter, but if he puts in the effort, he should be very effective as a cutter, roller, rim runner, rebounder, and defender. There are a number of players already in the NBA with a similar skill set, with Clint Capela being the first to come to mind. The team that drafts Williams will be getting a player who can protect the rim and rebound without being a defensive liability on the perimeter. What they won’t be getting is a player who they can count on for offense. From there, it will be up to Williams – does he become a Capela-like contributor, or does he become another shot blocker who rides the pine more than not?
Sources, Credits, and Acknowledgements: Stats used in our scouting reports mainly come from Synergy Sports and RealGM, and occasionally from Hoop-Math.com and Sports Reference.