The 2020 NBA Draft has been criticized for its lack of star power, which is true when compared to years past, but some of the criticism is not warranted.
Not every Draft has a Zion or a Luka, and the past two have set a high bar which this one is sure to fall short of. Lucky for Brooklyn, there’s no need for a savior. There are many role player ceiling types littered throughout this class, players who can come in and make an impact.
Of course, things change and players develop (or not), but the truth of the matter is that this Draft has the potential to benefit teams that are shoring up their rotation and looking for bench contributors at the back of the first round than helping teams in the lottery.
The Nets check that box. So, Brooklyn can grab a player who fills a hole, can work in a seldom used role and hopefully contribute in 2020-2021. If he doesn’t, that’s alright, because there isn’t as much pressure for the prospect to perform.
Brooklyn doesn’t have any glaring holes, but frontcourt depth is probably the biggest question mark. Nicolas Claxton showed serious flashes this year, but his exact position is a bit of an unknown right now. With his current frame, he can’t be counted on to be part of the rotation solely as a center. He is going to have to beef up or keep pushing that jumper if he wants to play the 4.
Kevin Durant will take a lion’s share of minutes but behind him the Nets don’t have much stability. Wilson Chandler is a free agent once again so having him back in the black-and-white remains an unknown. Rodions Kurucs couldn’t hold a rotation spot after bursting on the scene as a rookie and wound up behind mid-season find Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, but TLC is more of a 3 than a 4.
Taurean Prince received some heat this season for his play, but his role is best suited as a tertiary creator and the role may have been too much for him. With Durant on the floor, and a healthy Kyrie Irving next to him, Prince can hopefully settle into a lesser burden on the floor and in what may be his more natural position of a 3.
The Nets can use a bigger body to help with this depth issue while also a catch-and-shoot threat who can help play off of Durant and Irving and hit the open shot while also being able to hang with smaller players on the perimeter. There are several players that can fit with Brooklyn next season via the Draft, but the one draftniks like for the Nets is Florida State’s Patrick Williams. In our most recent Draft Watch, five out of 13 mock drafts had the Nets taking Williams.
Williams is a strong 6’8” forward with a reported 6’11” wingspan. Playing in head coach Leonard Hamilton’s democratic rotation — 10 players played at least 10 minutes per game — Williams didn’t jump off the page as a prospect when looking at his stat lines. But when you watch the games he was one of the Seminoles’ most effective players.
A freshman, Williams showed savvy as a weakside defender. He could slide down and challenge the opposition as they got into the paint to look for their shot, but also tip some passes out on the perimeter. Williams did gamble a few times which sometimes led to a steal and other times had him out of position. This could burn him in the NBA, but his awareness as a team defender is high. I would call him an opportunistic defender not a reckless one with an ability to read ball handlers and make plays but may need to reel it in during his transition to the league.
Sometimes it looks like the above, where he left his teammate down low to deal with two bigs, but other times it looks like this:
Playing off the notion that he could become an opportunistic defender, Williams flashes very active hands, causing a bunch of deflections simply by being in good position.. And sometimes, he’ll just jump the lane and start the break.
He projects as a 4 in the association with his long wingspan and big frame. He’s not afraid of contact down low and can probably guard true bigs in a pinch but he is not a small-ball 5 a la Kenneth Faried. Ultimately, he may be more of a finesse player despite his strong stature. An issue for Williams is that while he can stick with some guards on a switch, he can’t hang with faster wings. He does not project as a defensive stopper, but rather a fine team defender. Out on the perimeter, he is slow in opening his hips and beating the ball handler to the spot. In small doses, he can stay with the ball handler, but often times he is slow to react and gets beat off the bounce.
It’s a plus that Williams has long arms and a high motor so he can stay in plays despite being a step behind:
In this video, the defense was a bit contorted with the shot clock winding down, but Williams made the insane recovery and block.
As mentioned, Williams played on a deep FSU team. He only played around 22 minutes per game while his teammate, Devin Vassell, who projects to be a lottery pick (in my opinion he should go top 10, maybe top 5) played nearly 29.
Still, one can see the seeds of growth in Williams as a player who can learn a role very quickly and make strides as a player on a team like the Nets, where his role would be a bit more defined ... and isn’t asked to do a ton of heavy lifting.
Williams can also add some bruising qualities to lineups that feature Claxton and Jarrett Allen who may need some physicality injected into them. While Williams does showcase sound defensive instincts — even if his man-to-man defense is not stellar — and can fit in nicely on defense alongside a true center and a plus defender at the other forward spot.
As for his offense, the No. 28 ESPN high school recruit should transition neatly into the league. First, Williams has sound catch-and-shoot mechanics. The numbers didn’t show a lot, but there’s cause for optimism on this front.
Williams shot 32 percent on 3-point attempts this season, with more than 87% of them being assisted. Looking closer, his free throw metrics were very strong, which tend to be strong indicators for three-point success. The freshman sported an 86% mark from the charity stripe with a free throw rate of 35%. He got there a good amount, and then made it once there. As for the shot itself, it is smooth, and I buy it long term as a threat off the catch.
I slowed down this clip to highlight a few other factors for the open shot. Trent Forrest drives to the lane and makes the nice skip pass but look at how many North Carolina defenders are watching the ball and not their man. The defense isn’t sound, but Durant or Kyrie Irving will command attention similar and Williams can take advantage.
Here’s a similar look for Williams who relocates to the opposite corner and gets a nice shot that doesn’t fall. The form was solid with just a minor dip off the catch, but Williams was able to catch it and go right up with it. Despite the miss, this type of opportunity gives me confidence with his off-the-catch game.
Williams is a heady player. Playing off a pick-and-roll at the top of the key, Williams keeps moving towards the corner and gets some space from his man who is focused on the primary action up top. Williams’ movement takes a little bit longer to load and get off — it is a more difficult shot for sure — but he is still able to get to his spot, rise up and drill the three. If Williams was able to work this into his game regularly, we are looking at a best-case scenario for him as an NBA prospect.
The role for Williams would be clear in Brooklyn, and it would best suit his skills right now. On top of being a capable threat to shoot off the catch, Williams can find holes in defenses and is a strong cutter. Hammering home the point that Durant and Irving are going to be drawing a ton of attention, Williams’ offense, like his defense, could be opportunistic. Here, he heads toward the rim behind his occupied defender.
Williams marked pretty high as a cutter in his lone season in Tallahassee, placing in the 63rd percentile according to Synergy, posting 1.2 points per possession and shooting better than 60 percent on his 33 attempts in that action. It wasn’t a heavy data set, but Williams is a prospect with a high IQ.
One gripe with Williams is his off-the=bounce game. It’s not bad, but this is going to be where he needs to develop the most. Williams too often goes side-to-side before he head downhill. He’s not particularly quick off the catch, so he allows his defender to stick with him. Too easy.
While being well covered, Williams is bursting out towards the baseline off the catch rather than going downhill towards the rim. It is a habit that he is going to have to knock off, but when he is able to get a clean dribble or two heading towards the basket, he’s able to use his body to get to the rim, or pull up for two.
His favorite shot is dribbling in from the perimeter and pulling up from around the elbow. He likes getting to his spot and rising up over the defense. He has shown he can hit it this shot in traffic with his high release point, but the results are mixed. It is not cut and dry, but according to Bart Tovirk, he shot 26/72 on shots not in the paint but inside the three-point line, and I imagine a majority of them were of this variety. 36% isn’t great, but only 11% were assisted so these are mostly self-created shots, which wouldn’t be his task in Brooklyn.
Williams’ athleticism may be overstated. He looks the part, but he is more mechanical than you’d think He did not show much speed with the ball in his hands, which could be a product of him not being super fluid with his movements, but also his propensity to go lateral before vertical on the floor. Maybe the two are intertwined? Williams needs to be able to catch and attack quicker.
The forward is a willing passer, flashing live dribble passes that make it easy to keep the ball humming even though he posted a negative assist to turnover ratio. FSU’s team construction diminishes some stats and Williams does show optimism as a complimentary passer in my eyes, able to make the simple read.
Bottom line, while Williams is far from a finished product, there are some tools to work with here. He is a sound defender who may not be the most pliable and switchable from point guard to center, but he is able to hang on the floor with his good awareness, his strong frame and great wingspan that gets him involved all over the floor.
On offense, he tends to stay within his game while flashing strong jump shot mechanics and makes the simple read. He may not be adept at attacking closeouts yet and his handle is a work in progress, however these will not be deal breakers in Brooklyn. The Nets can help Williams hone in on this skill over time.
Now, will Williams be there for the Nets to pick him at around No. 20? My personal big board has him somewhere in between 15-19. but it’s still early in the process. There is a case for Williams to sneak into the late lottery due to his raw tools, but no one knows how the lack of access to players will influence decision makers in the league.
I’ll stick with wishful thinking and Brooklyn gets a chance to take Williams (insert date of the Draft here) due to his potential fit with a team of veterans.