“Situational Analysis” is a series of articles that seeks to examine the circumstances that most often influence an NBA prospect’s success. Each player will be scored on a scale from 1-10 in four different categories: NBA-specific skill(s), fatal flaw(s), collegiate/overseas/pre-NBA environment, and ideal NBA ecosystem.
Patrick Williams is a 19-year-old wing from Charlotte, North Carolina, who averaged 9.2 points, 4 rebounds and a few truly wild dunks during his freshman season for the Florida State Seminoles. He is expected to be selected among the top-10 picks in the upcoming NBA Draft and as high as No. 4 overall. NBADraft.net currently has him projected at No. 7.
Is Patrick Williams even real?
He seems like a laboratory creation. Some mad basketball scientist gathered every physical attribute that makes NBA scouts salivate and condensed them into one human being.
Size? Check. He’s 6-8, 225 and carries himself like he’s 28, not 19. Length? Check. His 7-foot wingspan make Williams the ideal switch-everything Swiss Army defender who can jump passing lanes and protect the rim. Athleticism? Double check. It’s almost unfair to see anyone at this size possess his speed and his explosion.
He carved out a role for himself on a loaded Florida State squad due in large part to his do-whatever-it-takes mentality. He didn’t come to Florida State needing to dominate the ball and put up Westbrookian usage rates. He found ways to contribute as a cutter, a lob threat, a hellacious offensive rebounder, and even as a spot-up shooter later in the season. Perhaps most encouragingly, he showed a little spice as a pick-and-roll ball handler just before the Seminoles’ season was cut short due to COVID-19.
Williams wasn’t a high-volume 3-point shooter, but he showed enough promise from beyond the arc to convince some that he might have true floor-spacing capabilities with enough coaching. The free-throw percentage (just shy of 84%) is particularly encouraging.
His real intrigue lies on the defensive end of the floor. Williams emerged as a truly terrifying switch-everything wrecking ball for the Seminoles, proving equally adept at staying in front of shifty dribblers and hanging in with post brutes. The ideal version of Wililams is exactly the type of player you need to match up with the NBA’s most valuable players – LeBron, Kawhi, Giannis, KD, Jimmy Buckets, you get the idea.
On a scale from 1-10, Williams’ athleticism and upside rate at a 9.5.
Why didn’t he start?
I understand that Florida State was uniquely loaded for a college basketball team – especially at Williams’ position – but I am always hesitant to spend a lottery pick on any player, regardless of potential, who could not find a way to crack his team’s starting lineup.
Granted, Williams won the ACC’s Sixth Man of the Year Award, so I don’t want to make it sound as if his freshman season was insignificant. It’s just hard to envision a scenario in which any truly impactful NBA player didn’t start for his college team.
The immediate comparison that jumps to mind is Marvin Williams, who was taken ahead of Chris Paul in a draft decision that seemed insane at the time and seems downright negligent now. Williams carved out a lengthy NBA career, but nothing that could possibly justify his No. 2 overall selection.
A lot of the intrigue surrounding Williams seems based almost entirely on projection. We don’t have a lot of on-court evidence of Williams being an offensive focal point. He would need to have a Kawhi Leonard-esque transformation in his mentality to develop into a first-option scorer. He seems much more comfortable at this point in his development picking his spots and letting teammates create the scoring opportunities.
On a scale from 1 (not a concern) to 10 (serious hindrance), Williams’ lack of first-option (or even second- or third-option) reps rates at a 9.
Williams did everything a high-level prospect needs to do in high school, starting for four years for West Charlotte High School and racking up strong numbers in all the counting categories.
After receiving offers from a variety of top-shelf programs, he selected Florida State specifically because he wanted to improve his defense. This quote from FSU assistant coach Charlton Young in this Williams profile on The Ringer tells you everything you need to know about Williams’ mentality: “(Coach Leonard Hamilton and I) both looked at each other like, ‘What?’ We never talked to a top recruit in the country who said, ‘Teach me how to play defense.’ They all ask, ‘Can I start? How many shots can I get? Will I have the ball in my hands? Are you going to run plays for me?’ He’s the first kid in my 26 years of coaching that said, ‘I need to learn how to play on the other side of the ball.'”
That kind of humility and work ethic will serve him well in the NBA. I know I just criticized Williams for not starting in the previous section, but it’s rare to see anyone – not just a future NBA lottery pick – humble themselves to that degree. It’s also not every day you find someone with this level of self-awareness.
It’s hard to say what kind of impact a full NCAA season would have had on Williams’ draft stock. It’s possible he would have been one of the breakout stars of March Madness and we wouldn’t be concerned with his 22.6 minutes per game.
On a scale from 1-10, Williams’ pre-NBA career rates at an 8.
Ideal NBA Ecosystem
It’s the worst-kept secret in the NBA right now. The Detroit Pistons really like Patrick Williams.
Every rumor site on the internet has the Pistons allegedly promising to take Williams if he is available at No. 7. It makes sense. The Pistons need something – anything – to reignite interest in that franchise. A healthy Blake Griffin and Williams would make for an entertaining forward combo. Griffin also makes a lot of sense as a Williams mentor – he is a fellow athletic marvel who willed himself into an extremely skilled All-NBA performer before injuries intervened.
But it’s exceedingly possible that Williams won’t be available at No. 7. If the Atlanta Hawks hang onto the pick, it’s possible that they would select Williams to augment what they have in De’Andre Hunter. There is no such thing as “too many athletic two-way 6-8 studs.”
It’s entirely possible the Chicago Bulls could get frisky and reach for him at No. 4. It’s clear that Otto Porter isn’t the long-term answer and Williams makes a great deal of sense paired with Lauri Markkanen.
Williams’ situational independence is hard to rate on a scale from 1-10. All 30 teams could use him, thanks in large part to how the pro game has shifted in Williams’ direction. But given his relative rawness – particularly compared with other lottery prospects who have already carried heavy offensive workloads – Williams might need a bit more patience and coaching to reach his ceiling. Let’s rate this a 9.