Top NBA Prospects in the Big 12, Part 7: Prospects #13-16September 15, 2014
Joining a West Virginia team desperate for size, Devin Williams was able to step right in during his freshman season and provide the Mountaineers with an inside presence. The 6'9” big man scored 8.4 points to go along with 7.2 rebounds in 23 minutes per night during his freshman season, helping West Virginia bounce back from their disappointing 2012-13 campaign.
The thing that stands out first when watching Williams play is his imposing physical presence. Standing just a shade under 6'9”, with a 6'11” wingspan, broad shoulders, and a well-developed frame, Williams looks the part of an NBA big man. His physical strength is a key part of his game on both ends of the court, as he's willing and able to bang in the paint, using his size and strength to gain and hold position.
On the offensive end, post-up opportunities represent over a quarter of his offensive possessions, per Synergy Sports Technology. He flashes some skill in this regard, with decent touch over his left shoulder, improving footwork, and ability to use his size and brute strength to establish good position and to dislodge a defender to get a look at the basket.
There are a few issues when trying to project this as a major offensive part of his game, though. He still needs to refine his left hand, as he's a little bit uncomfortable going over his right shoulder, which tends to make him predictable. He compounds this by not being the best at reading the defense, and his moves frequently seem predetermined, and he struggles to adjust.
His biggest problem when projecting his post-up game, particularly to the next level, is his lack of explosion around the basket. He's relatively earth-bound, playing largely below the rim in the half-court, and struggles to finish over length. This shows up not only in the post-up game but also when trying to finish offensive rebounds, where, while he pulls down a very impressive 4.1 offensive rebounds per 40 minutes pace adjusted, he struggles to convert. According to Synergy, he shoots only 24.2% in post-up situations and 45.5% when converting off offensive rebounds, both well below average. Considering these situations use up over 46% of his possessions, his struggles converting around the hoop are a major contributing factor to his inefficiency, as he shot only 41.4% from the field and had a true shooting percentage of only 45.5%, both far below average for a big man who operates largely in the paint.
The one positive around the rim, though, is his ability to draw fouls. As such an imposing physical presence, one who seeks out and is able to play through contact, Williams is able to draw nearly 7 fouls per-40 minutes. This helps his efficiency somewhat, although not enough to fully make up for his struggles finishing around the rim—considering he makes his free throws at just a 57% clip.
Williams offers more than just brute strength around the rim, though, as he flashes an intriguing skill set away from the hoop. While not a huge sample size, Williams showed an ability to step away from the paint and hit shots at an impressive clip. Williams shot 45.2% on jumpers per Synergy Sports, yielding 0.903 points per possession, including an excellent 0.963 points per possession from midrange. His form, particularly when he's shooting in rhythm, looks good, and this does appear to be something that he can make a consistent part of his game. His ability to hit shots will be a key for him going forward, and it will be interesting to see whether he is able to maintain efficiency as this becomes a bigger part of his game, and whether he is able to extend this to three point range in a few years from now.
On the defensive side of the court, Williams does a good job holding his own on post-ups. He has no problem fighting for, and holding, position down low, and uses his length well to contest shots. It becomes a little bit more adventurous away from the hoop, as he can struggle to change direction laterally, both on pick and rolls or when being asked to defend a big man who can play on the perimeter. He compounds his lack of lateral foot speed by frequently being too upright on the perimeter, and there's a chance he can make some strides defensively with improved technique, although his foot speed will likely always be a question mark. While he rotates relatively well from the weak side, his lack of leaping ability limits what he can offer as a weakside shot blocker, as he blocked only 0.4 shots per 40 minutes pace adjusted.
Another area where he makes a significant contribution is on the defensive glass, as he pulled down an impressive 7.9 defensive rebounds per 40 minutes pace adjusted, something West Virginia desperately needed. He does a great job anticipating rebounds and putting himself in position, shows good box-out technique, a high effort level, great physical strength and ability to hold position, and a good job of getting the ball at its highest point, all of which makes him a very good defensive rebounder. He's also a good outlet passer, able to get rid of the ball quickly and make good decisions doing so.
Devin Williams will be an interesting prospect to watch for the Mountaineers this season, with very defined positive attributes, but also some very clearly defined weaknesses that could be difficult to overcome. He has the ability to combine a throwback big man, with an imposing presence in the post and on the glass, with a burgeoning jump shot, which could create an intriguing inside/outside combination. A tough and physical rebounder who can also step away from the hoop is something virtually any team could use.
However, while his physical profile in terms of size and strength form the basis of part of his intrigue, his physical profile also provides perhaps his biggest question marks, this time in the form of a lack of explosion around the rim and struggles with lateral foot speed away from the hoop, which becomes a bigger concern at the next level. How well he is able to combat these problems will be key when trying to project how legitimate of a prospect Williams is going forward.
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