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West Coast Swing: Marcus Williams, Jay Williams, D.J. Strawberry
by: Jonathan Givony - President, Eric Weiss - Sports Aptitude
June 2, 2006
In the second workout of the weekend trip to Southern California, DraftExpress got an exclusive glimpse at Connecticut Junior Marcus Williams and Maryland Junior D.J. Strawberry as they went up against former Duke standout Jay Williams, who has been working out with Marcus and trainer Joe Abunassar of Abunassar Impact Basketball (AIB), for the past month.



The workout began with the typical warm-ups and ball handling drills to show off each players’ dribbling ability. Behind the backs, dribbling laterally, crossovers and more. This led into a series of shooting drills ranging in location and movement as well as distance; coming off curls, pulling-up off one dribble going left and right, adding a freeze fake, pulling-up from game speed at the free throw line, simulating pick and roll plays and more. There were initially a series of stationary shooting drills, with the players being fed spot-up shots from different spots. The three then progressed into more motion shooting drills consisting of step-backs, hard cuts, inside-out dribbles, hard drives left and right, curls and just about every other shot a quality NBA guard needs to possess. The final shooting drills consisted of multiple position shots from each baseline, catch and shoot college 3-pointers, changing speeds and exploding off the dribble, as well as some floaters and other to the basket finishes. The players then went into about half an hour of very competitive 3 on 3 games, with Jay Williams being matched up on Marcus Williams for a bulk of the action. Being able to watch these players workout for us in a 3 on 3 pick-up game is a luxury that NBA teams does not have during this period (a maximum of four players on the court are allowed in workouts), so this was really a treat for us, and a very telling one at that.

M. Williams Interview

Player Evaluations

Marcus Williams, 6-3, Junior, Point Guard, Connecticut

Jonathan Givony

Marcus Williams had himself an excellent workout and did it almost without breaking a sweat. In the drills he was the best shooter seen here from distance, and he even turned it up a notch in the shooting competition from the NBA 3-point line, knocking down 9 of his 11 shots from straight in front of the basket, best of anyone here. He looked good shooting while moving both left and right, looking smooth and effortless while doing so. In the spot-up “baseline to baseline” NCAA 3-point contest, he barely missed. His shooting mechanics are a bit on the slow and on the deliberate side, not the most efficient seen here in LA, but it goes in for him very effectively regardless, which is all that really matters. He gets better elevation on his shot when shooting from mid-range than he does from the NBA 3-point line, something that he might have to work on.



If the workout would have ended with the drills we would have come away thinking that Marcus Williams is a pretty good player, but that’s about it. But that’s when the 3 on 3 started…

Williams showed off everything he did during his college career in the half an hour plus that the players went at it in this private workout, looking like every bit the top 10 pick that he was billed as coming in. His superb ball-handling skills were the first thing you noticed, utilizing outstanding footwork and phenomenal change of direction ability, using a series of hesitation moves, and getting by absolutely anyone that attempted to guard him, whenever he pleased. He plays the game at a tempo that is unique only to him, knowing exactly when to speed up and when to slow down, being able to keep the defense honest with a long-range bomb at any moment--even off the dribble--and being in complete control of his body and motions for every second he has the ball in his hands.

When penetrating to the hoop, he uses his strength extremely well to shield the ball with his body and finish strong at the hoop, either with a left-handed floater, an old school lay-up, or a short little pull-up in the lane that we certainly did not see enough of at UConn. His balance and footwork are outstanding and he always keeps himself extremely low to the ground with a playground handle, ready to fire off bullet passes at any moment and in any direction utilizing his massive hands. He goes left or right equally well and will surprise you with a no-look alley-oop lob or a sharp bounce pass to a cutter just as the play starts to develop, always placing the ball in perfect position for his teammate to catch and finish, regardless of the fact that he just started playing with most of the players here and should have no idea what their tendencies are or where they like the ball.

Williams looks like a savvy NBA veteran and plays like one too, showing an “old man’s game” according to one of the people that trained him the most here, Dan Barto, and never looking rattled or out of control. The quiet confidence he shows in himself might be the most impressive thing we came away from, not quite being cocky, but just knowing that he is that good and not being in any rush to prove it beyond what he’s willing to show you at his own pace. His feel for the game was evident throughout the workout, and this is the exact reason he will be able to fit in right away on almost any team in this year’s lottery and contribute heavily as a rookie, especially when you take his size, strength and experience into consideration.



Much has been made about Williams’ conditioning recently, or lack thereof rather, but this was not something that we would have even thought twice about when watching this workout had it not been brought up before. He probably isn’t in the shape of his life, but is in no means fat or out of shape the way he’s been portrayed to be. So much of his game relies on his strength and basketball IQ that he’s been accustomed to not having to be in phenomenal shape, but this is something that will obviously change once he reaches the NBA. What is scary is how easily he gets by players in the shape he is currently in, making you wonder just how lethal he will be once he indeed reaches his full potential as an athlete. Williams told us he is 214 pounds at the moment, not the 220 that is being reported elsewhere.

The only real negative we could take away from this workout was his defense, which looked lackadaisical at best. He needs to become a bit quicker in getting his shot off, but there was absolutely nothing to complain about as far as the results are concerned. Once again, we came away thinking that there is very little doubt in our mind who the best point guard in the draft is. It’s just a shame that NBA teams won’t be able to see what we did in two on two private workouts, but that’s what game footage is for, particularly from the NCAA tournament. The UConn vs. Kentucky game would be a great place to start.




Eric Weiss

Marcus Williams was certainly the main attraction for this workout initially and he didn’t do much to disappoint. The amount of exposure and attention he got this past season at Connecticut left very little in doubt from our perspective, but it’s always nice to see things in person.

Williams has the size that teams love out of the point guard position. He’s strong without being stocky and looks like he has plenty of room to mature physically into his body. With the weight training and nutrition planning that being an NBA professional can afford, Williams has the ability to mold himself into a specimen at his position.

If shooting the ball was a concern for some going into this process, it didn’t show itself to be a concern during this workout. Williams does get a slight ¾ spin on the ball, but his shot has great arc and is very smooth coming out of his hands. Williams shoots above his head and really had no problems getting off a consistent shot during any of the drill work. His feet are almost always square and he elevates and releases with consistency that belays hours of repetitive practice. No matter what direction or motion Williams was sent in, he always made his shots look effortless while still getting the quick release he’ll need at the next level.

As far as shot variety, Williams looked equally as good from every position on the floor. Williams shot floaters from both the baseline and head on and mixed glass in with pure swishes. Williams hit with consistency out to 18 feet on the step backs and drove well to the elbows both laterally and on the pull-up, showing a solid use of the glass on these shots as well.

During the competitive 3 on 3 play, Williams maintained his solid shooting form and got the results as reward for his discipline. He missed a series of reverse lay-ins and leaning lefty scoops, but the shots were put up with such poise and body control that one gets the impression that those shots are there for the taking on most occasions.

What was most impressive during the competitive play was Williams’ ability to get to where he wanted to go, not through shear speed or power, but through his amazing footwork and the weight distribution and hesitation he uses to set up the defense. Williams’ feet are a study in and of themselves when he’s got the ball in his hands. It’s a given that Williams has complete control with his dribble, but his footwork enables him to keep the defender from being able to settle into a defensive stance. Williams also has the natural ability to hesitate and stutter his motions in a manor that can lull an opponent into a false sense of security just before he springs into action with his quick first step.

Williams was able to look easy on the court while still giving us the sense that he was going at it hard. He’s not a frenetic player, someone who is going to run around the court like Allen Iverson. Williams takes a measured approach to his actions and is able to create the passing lanes for himself by moving his man out of position with planned maneuvering.



As far as timing and delivery, Williams showed all the court vision we expected out of one of the purest passers to come into the draft in a while. His peripheral vision is outstanding and his ability to work both sides of the court with either hand makes him a complete offensive player in the half court.

The only real knock on Marcus to come out of this workout could be directed at his defense, though Jay Williams’ spectacular play certainly didn’t help in this regard. Williams has the ability to stay in front of his man, but will settle into a static position and simply try and react to his opponents’ attack. Williams doesn’t have the quickness to be able to simply counter an aggressive move, so he’s going to have to step up and use his hands and footwork to make his opponents as uncomfortable on defense as they are when defending him.

Walking out of this workout there was nothing Marcus Williams showed that would prevent him from being a top flight NBA point guard. His game is predicated on skill, strength and deceptive movement as opposed to raw speed and power, so his adjustment to becoming an impact player on the next level will take some time. But, his passing ability should be game ready on opening night and as he adjusts to his teammates and the pace of the game he will only improve.




Jay Williams, 6-2, 24 years old, Point Guard, Duke

Eric Weiss

The real surprise of this workout to be sure, Jay Williams’ comeback has been rumored since the beginning of last season. Jay picked an excellent workout partner to spar with over the past month in picking Marcus Williams. The two players are so similar in size and skill set it just a great pairing for all that they are working on.

While Jay Williams’ game may at one point have consisted of raw speed and power, it now has taken on a much more cognitive tone. Williams is still a physical marvel as his body looks to be hewn out of stone. He uses his strength and physical presence on both sides of the ball and was extremely vocal as well.

Jay was perhaps the best overall shooter of the 3 players working out. While Marcus hit his shots equally well from any point on the court, Jay clearly had the cleaner and quicker shot. Jay had a little bit of difficulty hitting his step back jumper driving right to left, but these misses were shots that rimmed out and Williams displayed all the form and ball rotation any player could ask for. His drives were strong and he finished with a series of different in-between shots, including reverses, tear drops from the baseline, tear drops from the center, finger rolls, off glass, off the wrong foot, etc.



It makes sense that Williams would have developed his shot significantly over the past two seasons because it is probably the first thing he could do on a basketball court while recovering from injury. But, Williams certainly seized the opportunity and put the time into his shooting consistency and it showed. Williams started off by rimming out some of his three point attempts, but finished off with a strong 8 for 10 showing. His ball rotation, arc, and elevation were fundamentally flawless.

In the competitive play, Jay’s experience and physical maturity made him stand out. Jay put on a passing clinic with every type of quality assist in the book. He looped easy entry passes over the top of a fronting defender, he drove right or left and found the spot up shooter, he would bounce a pass to the cutter out of the corner of his eye, or he would cut the bounce pass with the quick no-look that would give his teammate a clear path for the dunk. Jay out-passed the more heralded Marcus Williams and really stole the show in the assist department, showing far more pure point guard tendencies than the Jay Williams of a few years ago who was recklessly diving toward the lane looking to score or simply looking to figure it out when he got there.

As far as motion was concerned, Jay looked controlled and confident in his movements. He used a good crouch and wide footing to keep a low center of gravity to accelerate out of his breaks, and handled the ball very well even when the defensive pressure was brought to bear. Jay looked as comfortable going left as he did right when attacking the basket or setting up teammates, and controlled the ball with either hand. His change of direction and footwork enabled him to get to spots on the court where he could make plays, and almost every possession he controlled resulted in a basket. Jay showed nice footwork and foot speed and kept himself moving much like Marcus Williams.

The most outstanding element of his showing was the vocal nature he displayed on almost every play. He would mix it up between playful banter and serious council. You could tell on the court that everything that transpired was important and worthy of detailed attention.

There were not a tremendous amount of negatives to his showing. He had a little difficulty finishing shots going left, but nothing evident from his movement or delivery indicated that this was some type of problem. Also, not getting a chance to look at his physicals, there is no way for us to determine how durable he is now or what possible issues may remain from the past. But NBA teams will certainly look into the possibility of all physical concerns and if he is cleared to play there’s not much to complain about. With 6 or 7 workouts already in the books, starting with the Toronto Raptors, it shouldn’t take long for Jay Williams to find a suitor for his talents.




Jonathan Givony

Just seeing Jay Williams walk onto the court was a surprise in itself (we had no prior warning), but then seeing the strides he has made in the past two years since his accident came as a downright shock.

From the moment the workout started and till the second it ended, there was absolutely no doubt how committed Jay Williams is to the task at hand. He wants to play in the NBA more than any player I have seen train in the past 3 years, and he goes at it with a determination that would impress even the most casual of fans. Williams executed every drill with tremendous precision and intensity, going the extra mile and doing more than he was told even when there was absolutely no need to.

In the shooting drills he showed the best form of the three, but was streaky in the way that he would heat up and then cool off abruptly. He shot 3/8 in the first straightaway NBA 3-point shooting contest, then 3/7, and then 8/10 His ball-handling skills are phenomenal as always, and his personality made this a light-hearted workout when appropriate, but still serious enough when it was time to truly get down to business.



In the 3 on 3 was when we really started getting feelings of déjà vu. Williams got his team off to a very quick start by absolutely dominating through his passing; showing outstanding court vision both on the drive and dish as well as from static positions. Bounce passes, lobs, or two-handed bullet passes threading the needle between multiple defenders for an easy basket; everything was made so simple for his teammates. He hasn’t lost anything in the ways of his point guard skills from his time at Duke, and to a certain extent appears to have greatly improved, and he did it all gracefully and effortlessly with no hesitation whatsoever. Readjusting himself to the speed of the NBA will be one of the first things he will need to do, but from what he showed us here, he is clearly on the right track.

Being so strong in his lower body with an extremely low center of gravity, he changes gears quickly and powerfully and gets to where he needs to on the floor with the greatest of ease. His first step and overall quickness looked absolutely fine, and this might have been the best sign to come out of this workout as far as his recovery process goes.

Further emphasizing the type of player he is at the moment was the activity level he showed. He was constantly getting in the passing lanes to come up with steals, going down to the low post for offensive rebounds, and just outsmarting and outplaying everyone else in stretches with his intelligence, experience and sheer tenacity. His 3-point shot warmed up quickly as the game progressed, particularly from the corners where he knocked down a number of 3-pointers from NBA range.

Where Williams really shined was with the leadership skills he’s always possessed throughout his career. He was constantly talking to his workout buddies and giving them little tidbits of advice, encouraging them, showing them how they might improve on certain things, and seemingly telling them to take every opportunity they have right now since you never know when that opportunity might be gone.

Williams looks the part on an NBA point guard and plays like one too. His full explosiveness might never be back, but he’s obviously coming to grips with that and is learning how to do the little things that most basketball players pick up later on in their career. His lateral quickness might be the thing that he needs to improve the most on at the moment, as players like Strawberry and Marcus Williams blew by him at times with their initial first step. With that said, there is little doubt from what we saw here that he can contribute somewhere next year in a backup role, and there is always the upside of him regaining most or all of the physical tools that made him such an incredible college player to start with. The passing, shooting and intangibles he brings to the table should allow him to start off in a 10-15 minute role, and anything beyond that is gravy both for him and the lucky NBA team that is able to sign him. What's strange is that at age 24, he is actually younger than a few players in this draft.




DJ Strawberry, 6-5, Junior, Point Guard, Maryland

Jonathan Givony

Strawberry is a player that we initially expected not to pay much attention to in a workout consisting of two extremely interesting NBA prospects in Jay Williams and Marcus Williams. What we saw, though, led us to believe that is more to his game than meets the eye initially and that he might be on the verge of a breakout senior season at Maryland next year.

In terms of pure physical attributes, Marcus and Jay Williams cannot hold a candle to what Strawberry possesses. He has great size at 6-5 with a terrific frame and all the athleticism he will ever need. His wingspan is solid and his quickness and leaping ability are both up to NBA standards.



Starting off with the shooting drills, Strawberry got off to the hottest start, not missing anything in the mid-range portion of the workout and showing excellent consistency with his feet set out to the college 3-point line. From the NBA 3-point line he is a bit streakier due to his unorthodox mechanics, going 3/10 in the first straightaway contest and then 3/3 in the second. He was not as good from the left side of the floor, particularly when forced to put the ball on the floor and pull-up off the dribble. For a player that was only working out here for the first time, though, he was looking very good considering the competition he was going up against.

In the 3 on 3 he was forced to take a bit of a backseat to the more dominant point guards Marcus and Jay Williams who did most of the ball-handling for their teams, but he still managed to drop glimpses of potential that gave us a lot to look forward to next year. He got to the basket nicely on a number of occasions and proceeded to finish strongly and athletically off the glass. Strawberry knows how to his size and wiry strength to his advantage, and even showed some post-up skills taking his man down to the block. His swagger was impressive and you could see him becoming more and more confident as the workout went on.

Defensively he was excellent and did a great job staying in front of whoever he was asked to guard. His calmness and overall intelligence on the court was always evident, and it appears that being forced to play the point guard position this year has made him a much better decision maker for the long term, something Maryland should reap great benefits from in the 2006/2007 season. If he gets a chance to play heavy minutes at the point again next year, he’ll find himself in very good shape for next year’s draft.




Eric Weiss

DJ Strawberry is a player we had not paid strict attention to over this past season. Aside from his defense, he hadn’t previously shown any exceptional ability worth taking note of. However, as we’ve been discovering throughout the workout process with other players who play in rigid college systems, there is often more than meets the eye when they are liberated from the restraints of their team.

Strawberry has great size and strength for the point guard position. His shoulders are wide and he has a good amount of length to him. In this group of strong point guards, DJ clearly had the physical advantage with his dimensions, although Jay Williams may indeed by stronger. He moved well through the drills, displaying fluid motion and a solid handle of the ball. He didn’t show as much out of his left hand as the other two players did, but it certainly wasn’t a liability to him.

As far as his skills, DJ was hitting his shots from all over the court during the shooting drills. Inside of 17 feet he was simply automatic, using a soft touch and consistent motion to drop his shot in with regularity. Strawberry gets good rotation on the ball, but his shot does not have the same arc as Marcus or Jay’s shot due to the fact that he shoots a bit in front of himself instead of above his head as the other two do. Because of this, his accuracy falters once he steps outside toward the college 3 point line. On the spot shot, Strawberry can hit from NBA distance if given the time to really set himself up, but he’ll need to work on increasing this range by either changing his arm angle or adjusting in some other way.

Strawberry’s dribbling skills and passing ability weren’t on full display during this workout as he played off-ball for most of the competitive portion of the workout. But, when he did have the opportunity he was able to be patient and had some decent drives to the basket, using his shoulders to good effect in order to free up his shooting hand. It’s hard to knock him off balance as he is just solid when in motion.

Overall, Strawberry showed us enough to be very encouraged about his Senior season at Maryland. If he continues to work on his ball-handling and decision making as a point guard he’ll generate some attention for himself for sure. Adding the extra range on his shot shouldn’t be labeled a priority for DJ because he can effectively make motion shots and finish moves to the basket quite well, but it can only help if he has the increased range when going through this process again next year as he looks to make it in the league.
 
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Feedback for this article may be sent to jonathan@draftexpress.com eric.weiss@gmail.com .

 

Marcus Williams
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 7"
Weight: 205 lbs.
Birthday: 11/18/1986
27 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Roosevelt
Previous Team: Shanxi , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 2, Pick #3 in 2007 Draft
by the Spurs
Positions:
Current: SF,
NBA: SF,
Possible: SF
Quick Stats:
28.9 Pts, 5.3 Rebs, 3.7 Asts


D.J. Strawberry
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 5"
Weight: 199 lbs.
Birthday: 06/15/1985
29 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Mater Dei
Previous Team: Fortitudo Bologna , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 2, Pick #29 in 2007 Draft
by the Suns
Positions:
Current: SG,
NBA: SG,
Possible: PG/SG
Quick Stats:
10.3 Pts, 5.1 Rebs, 1.3 Asts


Jay Williams
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 2"
Weight: 197 lbs.
Birthday: 09/10/1981
32 Years Old
Teams:
High School: St. Joseph
Previous Team: Duke , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #2 in 2002 Draft
by the Bulls
Positions:
Current: G,
NBA: G,
Possible: G
Quick Stats:
6.0 Pts, 2.7 Rebs, 5.3 Asts


Allen Iverson
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 0"
Weight: 167 lbs.
Birthday: 06/07/1975
39 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Bethel
Previous Team: Georgetown , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #1 in 1996 Draft
by the 76ers
Positions:
Current: PG/SG,
NBA: PG/SG,
Possible: PG/SG
Quick Stats:
9.3 Pts, 3.0 Rebs, 3.0 Asts


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