Articles

Rodney Williams

SF Minnesota 6’7” 210 lbs 7/23/91

 

Offense: Physically, Williams an almost prototypical wing prospect, a 6’7 athlete who can get to the rim and finish with strength. His offensive game is built on this athleticism; Williams constantly looks to attack the paint, using his long strides and quick first step to get to the rim, and his elevation and length to finish. His combination of quickness and athleticism often leads to highlight reel dunks, and he is Minnesota’s go-to guy for momentum-swinging plays.

 

When the drive is shut off, however, things start to break down on the perimeter for Williams; he is a decent ball handler but struggles to stay low to the ground, leaving him prone to deflections and turnovers, especially when he is faced with more active defenders. Williams is good at finishing and playing through contact near the rim, but on the perimeter he struggles with defenders who body him up and prevent him from

 

Furthermore, Williams’ jumper is weak; he elevates well, but his release is inconsistent and his shot often comes out flat. He is only shooting 24% from 3 (albeit on just 1.3 attempts per game) and is only slightly better from mid range. His 50% shooting clip from the field is not as low as his poor shooting would suggest, but that is an indicator of his effectiveness around the rim. He finishes well through contact, and despite a pedestrian 66% from the line, Williams does not shy away from contact in pressure situations.

 

Williams is comfortable with his back to the basket, and while he has yet to develop a consistent variety of post moves, he is consistent with both his left and right jump hooks in the lane. At the next level, however, Williams will struggle to establish this position; he tends to get pushed out of the paint by wider post defenders, and will need to put on weight to bang with bigger bodies in the pros. This may be a catch-22 for Williams, and more weight may limit his explosiveness.

 

On the positive side, Williams turns and faces well out of the post, and is a willing passer. He can create for teammates both off the dribble and from the post, but as a general rule he struggles as a playmaker when he takes more than two dribbles without making a pass or a move towards the hoop.

 

He is constantly talking on the offensive end—rare for a guy who is neither a point guard nor a pure post man—and has good understanding of spacing, yelling at teammates when they are out of position and telling them where to go.

 

Despite his high IQ, Williams gets uncomfortable when moving without the ball, and can get too screen-happy. He sets good screens both on the ball and away from it, and rolls to the hoop with a purpose, but when he attempts to screen too often Williams disrupts the flow of the Gopher offense.

 

He also lacks any sorts of pick and pop game (partly due to his lack of trust in his jumper); if he cannot roll straight to the hoop, Williams tends to get caught in between the roll and the pop, leading his guards into turnovers by failing to make himself a strong target.

 

Like most athletic wings, Williams is very comfortable running the floor as a target in the fast break. He fills lanes well and looks to drive and dunk whenever he has room to do so.

 

Strengths:

 

-       Uses athleticism to attack the hoop and finish

-       Comfortable on perimeter and with back to basket

-       Fast break/open court situations

 

Weaknesses:

-       Jump shooting

-       No real elite level skill

-       Struggles when athleticism is neutralized

 

 

Defense: Williams is a solid but not spectacular on-ball defender, both on the perimeter and in the post. On the perimeter, he struggles with quickness, and does not move his feet laterally as well as expected given his athleticism and explosiveness on the offensive end. He tends to rely on his ability to recover and tremendous shot blocking too much on the outside.

 

Williams needs to get lower in his defensive stance, and gets lazy because of his ability to elevate and block shots at any time, letting too many guys go around him to the hoop. He is still a solid defender though, and his teammates trust him to guard the opponents’ biggest perimeter threat on many nights.

 

In the post, Williams will need to put on muscle in order to guard the range of players he’ll need to if he is to stick on an NBA roster. He bodies up well, not really reaching or committing silly fouls, but he needs to do his work earlier in the possession; too many opponents establish position before Williams begins to really work in the post.

 

Williams has a tremendous wingspan, and often plays bigger than his 6’7, 205 pound frame. This not only shows itself in the variety of opponents Williams matches up against, but also in the different roles he plays within the Gophers’ man-to-man defensive schemes. He is able to play not only as a paint protector—especially when Trevor Mbakwe is out of the game—but also as a wing defender, and just like on offense, Williams is a very good communicator on the defensive end.

 

Despite Williams’ high IQ and ability to communicate concepts and switches on the defensive end, he sometimes struggles with off-ball screens and misdirections, appearing to lose focus especially when he is forced to play defense for longer periods of time. His versatility makes him very good at defending the screener, as he is usually able to guard both opponents involved, but he struggles more when guarding the ball in ball-screen situations; again he doesn’t stay low enough, so he gets caught off-balance more often than a guy with his athleticism should.

 

Down low, Williams is lethal when left as a weak side defender, and he has excellent timing on his jumps, leading to his 1.3 blocks per game, good for 6th in the Big Ten this season. His timing allows him to be aggressive in protecting the rim without fouling (only 2 fouls per game), which could be a valuable skill moving forward.

 

Williams is a good rebounder and has all the physical tools to be a great one, but he needs to work harder, especially when fighting for position. Too often he seems content to stay behind his man and try to jump over him. He gets over 5 rebounds per game, a solid number that is good for second on the team, but if he worked harder early in possessions I believe this number would creep up around 7.

 

The biggest question for Williams in the next few months leading up to the draft will be if he can show the capability to reach his physical potential, and distinguish himself enough to convince to team to take a chance on him in the 2nd round

 

Strengths:

-       Versatile defender

-       Athleticism, length and wingspan

-       Veteran leader, communicates well

-       Timing; blocks shots and defends rim without fouling

 

 

Weaknesses:

-       Needs to work harder; too reliant on physical tools

-       Occasionally lazy; needs to contest

-       Questionable lateral quickness given his athletic abilities

-       Will he ever reach his physical potential?

 

Overall: Williams does a little bit of everything for Minnesota—top four on the team in minutes, points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals—but the question is if he does anything well enough to allow him to contribute at the next level. If he was younger, these questions would be framed in a more positive way, but as a senior Williams should have realized more of his considerable potential than he has at this point. There are a hundred guys like Williams—athletic wings who can make plays in the open court, don’t shoot particularly well, and should be better defenders than they are based on physical profile.

 

Williams has talent and could develop with some work in the D-League, but at this point he will has distinguish himself in workouts to impact the 2013 draft. There is no doubt he will play professionally somewhere.