Robert Williams, III Scouting Report

(First posted at RealGM)

CONTEXT

Robert Williams, III was the 50th-ranked prospect in the 2016 high school class[1].

Despite an up-and-down first year at Texas A&M, he was expected to go one-and-done after compiling a pretty good statistical profile and standing out from a physical-standpoint but surprised many by opting to return for a second season.

I think it’s fair to say that decision didn’t really pay off, though it didn’t backfire either.

Williams is currently expected to be drafted around the same range he would have been last year (late lottery), with some chance that he might drop after skipping the 2018 NBA Combine and starting his workout tour late in the process.

In his two years at Texas A&M, the 20-year-old[2] accumulated 1,570 minutes of college basketball experience. But other than that, he has just 45 minutes in the 2017 adidas Nations under his belt[3].

Most recently, the six-foot-10 hyper athletic big man averaged 16.2 points per 40 minutes[4] on 63.2% effective shooting and compiled a 24.1 PER in 30 appearances last season.

Texas A&M played the fourth-toughest schedule in the country[5] and had a +22.2 pace-adjusted point differential with him on the floor[6] – which led the team.

His positive impact on a team that played tough competition is impressive when you consider he played out of position on defense and wasn’t given many chances to max out his potential on offense due to the fact he logged most of his minutes alongside Tyler Davis, a pure center.

Defensively, that offered him a chance to guard a little further away from the basket, which is how he figures to be deployed in the switch-happy NBA, at least in the near future. But on the other end, Williams didn’t have many opportunities and space to roll to the basket out of the pick-and-roll – a big problem, given he projects as a catch-and-score finisher in the pros.

FINISHING

Williams got to finish out of rolls to the basket just nine times all of last season[7]. In those few instances, he showed to be a decent screener who plants his feet and looks to influence the on-ball defender. Williams also flashed some quick recognition skills setting drag screens in transition.

But other than that, he had more than a few opportunities to prove he is an explosive leaper off two feet and can play above the rim as a target for lobs – in transition, sneaking behind the defense roaming around the baseline at the dunker spot and going up in traffic without needing to load up on cuts across the lane.

More impressively, perhaps, he has proven to be coordinated enough for instances where he needed to catch the ball on the move, take a dribble for balance and score around rim protectors on non-dunk finishes.

His touch on non-dunk finishes was pretty impressive as well, as Williams converted his 128 shots at the rim at a remarkable 83.6% clip[8].

He can crash the offensive glass hard and stress the defense as a putback threat. Williams has a seven-foot-four wingspan[9] to rebound outside of his area and a quick second jump to fight for tip-ins or 50-50 balls – collecting 10.3% of Texas A&M’s misses when he was on the floor and converting 75% of his 38 putback attempts.

PASSING

After his finishing ability, passing is the most developed aspect of his skill-set on offense.

Williams has shown he is an adept passer on kickouts to the perimeter even when trapped against the baseline, out of working with his back to the basket in the low post and in instances where the defense collapsed to him when he caught the ball, dribbled for balance and went forward – assisting on 11% of Texas A&M’s scores when he was on the floor last season.

He struggled when crowded and doubled hard in the post, though, yet to show dexterity putting the ball on the floor for an escape dribble. His average of 2.7 turnovers per 40 minutes was sky-high for someone with a 19.3% usage rate and his 0.8 assist-to-turnover ratio was quite lousy.

POST GAME

Williams doesn’t use his 241-pound frame[10] to set deep position often and doesn’t play with a lot of toughness looking to back his man down with power moves.

He also didn’t show a particularly deep skill level in terms of trying to get his defender out of position with the use of head fakes, shot fakes, pivot moves or turnaround fade-away jumpers.

Williams can set up basic right handed hooks and was a so-so proposition in these looks – hitting 40% of his 80 two-point shots away from the basket last season, but doesn’t appear to consider his left hand a real option, as he was often seem contorting his body on awkward-looking baby jumpers when his defender forced him to his off hand.

SHOOTING

Williams was once envisioned as a potential unicorn – a center capable of protecting the rim on one end and spacing the floor out to the three-point line on the other, but he hasn’t developed as a shooter.

He gets little elevation off the ground but fully extends himself to launch the ball from up top, so his release is high and he brings the ball up fluidly, even if a bit slowly. The touch on his jumper is iffy, though, and his biggest problem is getting enough arc on his shot with some consistency.

Williams missed all 12 of his three-point shots last season, after missing 16 of his 18 such attempts the year before. More of an indictment in his potential as a shooter, perhaps, is the fact that he hit just 54.1% of his 170 free throws over his two years in college.

RIM PROTECTION

Williams made more of a tangible impact on defense when he had the chance to patrol the lane. His explosiveness off two feet translates in him acting as a constant shot blocking threat and Williams flashed some awareness making a lot of corrections on breakdowns around him, alongside pleasing effort on plays that required multiple efforts.

It’s fair to point out that he sold out for blocks at times and bit on more than a few shot-fakes from time-to-time, aside from not yet having developed the ability to make preventive rotations that keep the opponent from getting to the rim at all.

But Williams made a lot of positive plays rotating all the way in from the weak-side in help-defense, stepping up to the front of the rim acting as the last line of defense and blocking shots on the ball keeping pace with smaller players or face-up big men from the foul line down – averaging 4.1 blocks per 40 minutes last season.

He is not a stout post defender but used his reach to make plays on the ball for strips, which was also the case when a face-up big man took him off the dribble – averaging 1.2 steals per 40 minutes.

Williams puts a body in the closest opponent somewhat regularly but isn’t very physical with his boxouts and tougher big men can push him out of the way. However, he is very quick chasing the ball off the rim and can highpoint it in a different stratosphere than a lot of his matchups – collecting 27.2% of opponents’ misses when he was on the floor last season.

Thanks in large part to his ability to create events in volume, Williams led a team in defensive rating that ranked 14th in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency.

PERIMETER DEFENSE

Logging most of his minutes alongside Tyler Davis, Williams was forced to extend out to the perimeter often.

Against face-up big men, he did well closing out to the three-point line in pick-and-pop defense and on stunt-and-recover’s to spot-up floor-spacers, not only blocking quite a few jumpers but also showing on a few instances that he is able to closeout, run the shooter off his shot and stay balanced as he forces that opponent to put the ball on the floor.

His performance on hedges was far less impactful, as Williams often showed subpar effort and didn’t influence ball handlers out in the perimeter with any regularity, though his hustle returning to the middle and spotting someone open to cover was OK.

Against smaller players on switches, Williams doesn’t bend his knees to get down in a stance but has long strides and can keep pace on straight line drives, at least well enough to block or effectively contest shots from behind.


[1] According to ESPN

[2] DOB: 10/17/1997

[3] According to our stats’ database

[4] According to sports-reference

[5] According to Ken Pomeroy

[6] According to our stats’ database

[7] According to research by ESPN’s Mike Schmitz

[8] According to hoop-math

[9] According to Draft Express

[10] According to Texas A&M’s official listing

EDITOR’S NOTE: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara

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Robert Williams, III Scouting Report

(First posted at RealGM)

CONTEXT

Robert Williams III surprised many with his decision to return for a sophomore season at Texas A&M. After 10 double-doubles in 31 games and a 25.3 PER in 801 minutes as a freshman, the six-foot-eight big man was projected to go in the lottery last June. He is the exact sort of athlete who often wows teams during the organized workout part of the pre-draft process and whose stock rises once there are no more games to evaluate.

But the 19-year-old[1] might have made a good decision coming back for a second year of college. ESPN’s Jonathan Givony ranked him seventh in his latest mock draft last week and Mike Schmitz has mentioned before he believes Williams has a real shot to be in play for the number one pick depending on how much improvement he shows this upcoming season.

Williams is a very appealing prospect because he might be the unicorn teams are looking for to place at center these days; someone who can space the floor out to the three-point line on offense and protect the rim on defense. He will be considered undersized to play that position full time by some due to his height but Williams has a seven-foot-four wingspan[2] and is listed at 237 pounds, measurables that suggest he could be able to play up to standard.

He’s, of course, not that player yet. Despite that weight, Williams hasn’t developed the strength and toughness needed for coaches to feel comfortable having him matchup against centers with prototypical size on an every-possession basis, aside from the fact that his jump-shot and general skill level are mostly theoretical at this point of his development.

ATHLETIC ABILITY

As of now, Williams gets most of his production thanks to his athletic prowess, which materializes on defense in his quickness rotating off the weak-side as the last line of help and explosive leaping ability protecting the rim.

Though it sometimes came at the cost of him overhelping or selling out biting on shot fakes, he averaged 3.8 blocks per 40 minutes last season[3] and was probably the biggest reason why opponents shot just 55.9% at the rim against Texas A&M[4].

But despite his agility and length, Williams hasn’t yet developed into as impactful a defender away from the basket.

He does well sliding laterally against stretch big men and can closeout effectively, sometimes even blocking the eventual jumper. But he struggles containing dribble penetration if these types put the ball on the floor, as he is not yet inclined to playing with the toughness needed to contain his opponent’s momentum.

Picking up smaller players on switches, Williams doesn’t bend his knees to get down in a stance, too spaced out to stay in front in isolation. He also hasn’t shown much in terms of shuffling his feet laterally to prevent dribble drivers from turning the corner guarding the pick-and-roll at the foul line.

That said, Williams has long strides and can keep pace with smaller players on straight lines well enough to block or contest shots effectively from behind thanks to his incredible length, though it’s fair to expect that in the pros he’ll meet more guys who get all the way to the basket before he gets to them.

But the biggest concern about his defense regards his lack of physicality. Williams plays post defense with active hands trying to generate strips[5] but more often than not can’t hold his ground, which is also a problem in the defensive glass, as he struggles with his boxouts, collecting just 21.2% of opponents’ misses when he was on the floor last season.

On the other end, his athleticism is his meal ticket as well.

As a remarkable leaper, Williams can play above the rim as a target for lobs, not just off one foot in transition and sneaking behind the defense spotting up in the dunker’s spot but bouncing off the floor off two feet explosively in a crowd as well, as he averaged 1.44 points per possession as a pick-and-roll finisher[6].

And yet, what caught people’s eyes the most, perhaps, were the instances where Williams caught the ball on the move and showed impressive coordination to take a dribble before laying it up around a defender trying to wall off the basket. Defenses can’t cover everything and what they are giving up the most these days is the in-between area[7], so players who do can things like that will become more coveted.

His leaping ability and length also translate in the offensive glass, where Williams collected 13.6% of Texas A&M’s misses when he was on the floor last season. He can rebound outside of his area thanks to that massive seven-foot-four wingspan and has second jump-ability to fight for tip-ins and go up for putbacks, which he converted at a 64% clip[8].

But as a shot creator, there isn’t much there yet. Due to his lack of physicality, Williams can’t set deep position in the low post and hasn’t shown much ability to back opposing big men down with power moves for short range attempts.

SKILL LEVEL

He also hasn’t shown much in terms of shot fakes, launching turnaround fadeaway jumpers and feeling double teams, mostly relying as his go-to move on a simplistic turnaround right-handed hook that has decent touch but isn’t quite a money maker, as he averaged just 0.83 point per possession on post-ups[9] and turned the ball over on 18.2% of his possessions with his back to the basket.

When he was unable of simply catching-and-dunking, Williams still showed nice touch on non-dunk finishes, impressing especially in the aforementioned plays where he needed to navigate his way through the in-between area, converting 72.4% of his 145 shots at the rim.

But as impressive as his finishing is, the chance of him potentially going number one overall in the draft is mostly linked to his ability to turn his jumper into a reality.

In sporadic moments, Williams flashed a catch-and-shoot three-pointer out of the pick-and-pop, a face-up jumper from the mid-post, a catch-and-shoot three-pointer spotting up in the corner and even a fluid stop-and-pop one-dribble pull-up off an isolation move.

But those were only glimpses. He missed 38 of the 47 jumpers he attempted, including 16 of his 18 three-point shots. The touch on his shot is pretty good but he has a methodical release and launches the ball from a low point. The fact he converted just 59% of his 100 free throws also casts doubt into just how real that jumper can really become.

His ability to help facilitate offense is closer to a real asset, though. Williams has can spot shooters on the opposite corner, pass out of the short roll, participate in post-to-post pre-arranged reads and aid dribble hand-offs from the elbows or the high post, assisting on 12% of Texas A&M’s scores when he was on the floor.

[1] Who turns 20 in October

[2] According to Draft Express

[3] According to sports-reference

[4] According to hoop-math

[5] He averaged one steal per 40 minutes last season

[6] According to research by Mike Schmitz

[7] Think about the way the Spurs defended the Rockets in that second round playoff series

[8] According to hoop-math

[9] According to research by Mike Schmitz

Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara