Derrick Williams – How will he transition?Posted: June 21, 2011
I’ve heard it several times during coverage of this years NBA draft that Derrick Williams is an elite rebounder. This really baffles me because it is something that is very easily verifiable. You look up his statistics under the category of rebounding and it’s right there in front of you. It is important to put his numbers in context by accounting for pace, minutes played, level of competition, etc. Derrick Williams just isn’t an elite rebounder, he’s just a good one.
Adjusting for pace and minutes played Derrick Williams averaged 10.9 rebounds per 40 minutes, good for eighth in this draft class. When we look at rebounding rate, which I think is a better measure, Williams ranks 123rd nationally in offensive rebound rate and 113th in defensive rebound rate. So Derrick Williams was an average, maybe slightly above average, rebounder at the college level.
It really doesn’t seem like a big deal that Williams is only an average rebounder at the college level when you consider his ability as a scorer. During his sophomore season Derrick Williams was insanely efficient – he was fourth in the nation in true shooting percentage (69%!). When you consider his high usage and high true shooting percentage I think it is fair to say that Williams was the most elite scorer in college basketball last season.
However, a few things bother me about Derrick Williams transition to the NBA. Derrick Williams thinks he will be a small forward at the NBA level, most scouts think he is best utilized at the power forward position. This worries me and ESPN’s Chad Ford. This is because transitioning from a college PF to an NBA SF doesn’t translate as easily as other positions. Other players who have made this same transition – Wesley Johnson, Kevin Durant, Michael Beasley, Marvin Williams, and Carmelo Anthony have seen their rebounding, as well as other non-scoring numbers, drop considerably from college to the NBA. I predict a similar thing happening to Derrick Williams if he tries to play on the wing in the NBA. He is already non exceptional as a defender and passer, if he becomes a lesser rebounder his production will be entirely tied to his scoring ability.
But this is still okay because Derrick Williams was the best, most efficient scorer in the college game, right? I’m a little wary. Statistically he was the nations best scorer. He made an insane 60% of his two point shots and an even more incredible 57% of his three pointers. He also got to the line over eleven times per 40 minutes. This production is due to come down just by the simple fact that NBA defenses are better. But this scoring production was so astronomical it has to be at least a minor fluke. I still think Williams will be a very, very good scorer in the NBA but I don’t think he’ll match his college production. And when his production rests almost entirely on that elite scoring, this worries me.
While I believe Derrick Williams will be a good NBA player and arguably worthy of the second overall selection, I am not as certain of his future stardom as others. I have my doubts about his abilities transitioning evenly from the college level to the pro’s. In my view Williams should become something like a more talented, efficient, and aggressive Antawn Jamison. In essence, a rich mans Antawn Jamison. That’s not too bad, Jamison made a few all-star teams.