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Potential 2020 NBA Draft targets for the Spurs: Patrick Williams

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A potential 3-and-D target for the Spurs.

Syracuse v Florida State Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

Injury History

  • Missed 2 games (01/25 vs. Notre Dame, 01/28 @ Virginia) with a sprained toe

Frame/Athleticism

Patrick Williams’ combination of size, length, and fluidity for his position makes him a positive NBA athlete overall. Offensively, there should not be many serious issues in terms of physical attributes causing issues in the NBA. His lack of burst is not great, but it is nothing frightening. However, his defensive value is significantly dependent on one issue. Based on a combination of an interesting Twitter thread (linked below) and some light research, it seems as if Williams has a muscle imbalance in his lower body, which hampers his lateral movement. This limits him to guarding strictly big forwards. In order to reach his high end outcome as a versatile and switchable defender both on and off ball, Williams will need to fix the root cause of the issue. Now, this is not something that is an easy fix. Thus, the quality of the strength and conditioning department for the team that drafts him could have a major impact in Williams’ developmental outcome, taking him from a solid defender to an extremely valuable defender, especially in playoff settings.

  • Above average length (+3 WS)
  • Good, not great vertical athlete

o Seems much more impressive in transition than half court

  • Very good overall strength for age (not much to work on outside of quads)

o Should have relatively easy transition to playing as a small ball big in certain instances

  • Quad imbalance, hampers lateral quickness and mobility significantly (hips also need some work but rather common among similarly built players at his age)
  • Passable burst/first step, but nothing spectacular

o Separation often gained from stride length

Offense

Williams’ offensive game starts with his plus shooting for a forward, where a bevy of shooting indicators in combination with a promising (but still a little low) 32% three point mark on limited attempts provide reasonable hope for him as a floor spacer. However, teams cannot just run him off the line, as he attacks closeouts well and has even shown a propensity to create from those situations. When he does have the ball in his hands, having a 6-foot-8 forward who can create even a little out of the pick and roll is dangerous in today’s NBA. As long as Williams is able to shoot and provides enough ancillary skills, that defenses will likely have to treat him as a threat at all times on the floor, opening the court up for his likely better teammates to do their thing.

Personally, I feel like Williams fits perfectly as a role player for the Spurs. Dribble/pass/shoot guys are always valuable in the NBA, and are even more regarded when they project as a big wing/forward in the NBA. Williams seems like a rather safe bet to shoot, something I would hope San Antonio is looking for, and is one of those high IQ players who will almost consistently make the right play without making the ball stick and completely relying on his teammates.

Finishing

  • Aggressive finisher
  • Able to finish with both hands, but seems slightly more comfortable with right hand
  • Length + strength makes it seem like he is a better finisher in traffic/contested, but misses a few too many shots in those situations
  • Lack of self creation, burst limits him from even getting to rim in half court

Shooting

  • Solid base

o Shot stays compact

  • Slight hitch near the top of release
  • Ball slightly in front, but size + release likely mitigates potential issues

Handle

  • Basic, yet functional

o Does not piece together moves often, but flashes are encouraging

o Sticks primarily to hesitations

o Also uses spin move, but more harmful than helpful

o Ball not as tight as it could be

  • Lots of unforced errors, should be a relatively fixable issue

On Ball (Pick and Roll, Isolation)

  • Flashes of running PnR’s shown at Florida State

o Mostly takes elbow, 3 point jumpers (not much rim gravity) or makes pass

  • Lack of burst, handle limits him as an isolation option
  • Relatively high pull up shooting upside dating back to high school/AAU days

o Specifically comfortable with one or two dribble pullups (using pump fake or hesitation move) from right side mid range

Off Ball (Catch and Shoot, Movement Shooting, Cutting)

  • Primarily a catch and shoot player
  • Able to knock down shots off slight movement, but doubtful that will be ever be a major part of his shooting arsenal going forward
  • Attacks closeouts extremely well, handle shines brightest in these instances
  • Has all the tools, IQ to be a dangerous cutter

Passing/Decision Making

  • Better passer than numbers suggest
  • Solid as an outlet passer
  • Shows flashes making reads in the half court both stationary and on the move, but also misses some reads that he probably should be making

o Specifically effective hitting the roller in the PnR

Defense

Most lottery wings and forwards are mostly regarded on defense for their work on ball. This is not the case for Williams. While he has the ideal frame to be one of those uber valuable switchable wing defenders, his lack of lateral mobility and ability to make adjustments and change direction make it difficult for him to be a supremely effective defender at the point of attack. Where Williams shines is as an off ball and team defender, tagging player moving towards the basket, playing the nail to stifle guard penetration, and consistently making the correct decisions as an interior defender.

Thankfully, San Antonio has a plethora of on ball defenders, whether it be DeJounte Murray, Derrick White, and maybe even Lonnie Walker and Keldon Johnson eventually. This makes Williams’ role tailormade for the personnel the Spurs currently have. He will probably end up guarding a spot up threat that lacks high end burst or bigger forwards. However, his value will not come from what he does when the ball is in his matchup’s hands. Rather, Williams should be effective helping Jakob Poetl as a secondary rim protector, interior help defender, and as an effective nail defender who can momentarily stifle drives and recover quickly back to shooters.

On Ball (Isolation, Pick and Roll)

  • When guarding within position group, effective due to combination of strength and length

o Struggles guarding quicker wings/forwards due to lack of lateral mobility, exacerbated when defending guards, many of whom beat him off the dribble or off closeouts with almost worrying ease

o Keeps low center of gravity (which is a positive), BUT does not move or rotate well using his hips or feet

  • Probably will be guarding the screener in most PnR situations

o Will likely be unable to switch onto ball handler unless 1) improves lateral mobility significantly 2) he switches onto a wing

o If staying with the screener, drop coverage is probably the best utilization of his skillset

o Don’t trust him to hedge (giving 2-3 good slides and then recovering back to man)

Off Ball and Team Defense

  • Specifically valuable on the bottom half of the court (baselines and paint)
  • IQ keeps him in the correct position most of the time when not guarding the ball

o Effective as a nail defender, recovering back to man

  • Does a great job of timing when he stunts on drives

o Makes it difficult for the player with the ball due to frame that Williams presents

  • Makes sure to tag cutters/rollers, physicality and strength helps here and makes it easier for teammates to recover
  • Occasionally overplays on help and is susceptible to backdoor cuts

Other (Rim Protection, Rebounding, Switchability)

  • 5.6% block rate is impressive for a non center

o Despite lack of length, has good timing and anticipation + stays vertical in the air

o Blocks come mostly from rotations and straight up contests, not as effective in on the move

o Has tendency to get a little block happy and jumpy sometimes, susceptible to pump fakes

  • Subpar rebounding numbers for a big forward, limits his potential as a small ball 5
  • Currently just a single position defender, could extend to a 2-4 defender with significant improvements in lateral quickness

Summary

As the Spurs continue to add talent to their stock of prospects, Williams has a very good shot to be a real piece in their future plans. As jumbo wing creators increase in the NBA, every team needs a player who can guard some of those big forwards. Williams already has that potential, and can be a wonderful boon to boost team defense. He also provides flashes of skill in almost every offensive area, and while all of those will likely not be fulfilled. Just having those multiple ancillary skills in addition to his shooting could make him a valuable piece on not only San Antonio, but almost any NBA team.


To check out more potential 2020 draft targets, click here.