(First posted at RealGM)
Robert Williams, III was the 50th-ranked prospect in the 2016 high school class.
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.
Most recently, the six-foot-10 hyper athletic big man averaged 16.2 points per 40 minutes on 63.2% effective shooting and compiled a 24.1 PER in 30 appearances last season.
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.
Williams got to finish out of rolls to the basket just nine times all of last season. 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.
He can crash the offensive glass hard and stress the defense as a putback threat. Williams has a seven-foot-four wingspan 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.
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.
Williams doesn’t use his 241-pound frame 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.
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.
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.
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.
 DOB: 10/17/1997
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