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The Versatility of Vince Williams Jr. | The Prospect Overview
VCU's Vince Williams Jr. spent his senior season stuffing the stat sheet; what does it mean for his NBA chances? Plus, Jason Roche is The Draft Sicko Deep Cut Prospect of the week, and more!
Two weeks back, I noted that I love Vince Williams Jr. as a “when the smoke clears” prospect. Once the tournament is behind us, and scouts have time to dive back into the tape for players who flew under the radar, Vince Williams Jr. seems like the type of guy who will stand out. The 6’6” senior forward did everything for a good VCU team, posting 14.1 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.6 SPG, and 1.1 BPG. Given that teams can never have enough players with size and length who can shoot and play defense, he seems like a no-brainer. Still, he’s yet to receive his flowers from the draft community, going unranked on Corey Tulaba’s latest Top 55 $DRFT Stock Market Update. I wanted to make the case for Vince Williams Jr. while also touching on the understandable reasons that holdouts remain.
Perhaps the best thing Williams will have going for him is that he’s a real shooter. This past season, he knocked down 38.7% of his attempts on 5.6/game. The release isn’t lightning-fast, but it certainly isn’t slow, and his mechanics create a smooth lefty stroke. He’s comfortable stepping into his shot, and he’s a willing mover when he doesn’t have the ball. Williams sets good screens for his teammates, and I believe the pick-and-pop was an underutilized tool for him at VCU last season. Williams only took 11 shots in that setting, but he scored 1.375 Points Per Possession on them, per Synergy. His ability to absorb contact, move his feet, get set, and knock down a jumper is an NBA-level skill.
Williams also has a masterful sense of his defender’s feet. He’s like a judo player who will use his opponent’s momentum against them. When opposing players make a reckless closeout, Williams has a rock-solid first step to get past them. Once he does that, he’s even more dangerous. Williams ranked in the 84th percentile on Synergy for dribble jumpers, so he’s a threat to pull-up.
Additionally, Williams does a fantastic job of keeping his head up, allowing him to find spot-up shooters, cutters, and big men for lobs. To make matters more complicated for the defense, he boasts a potent floater and has the size to finish at the rim. Nothing is off the table once he’s headed to the cup.
The most significant improvement area for Williams is as a separator. Though he can beat a hot closeout, he’s not going to blow by anyone from a standstill at the NBA level. His handle is functional, but he doesn’t have much in the way of counters off the bounce. As a result, teams with solid athletes smothered him on the perimeter to great success. Wake Forest employed that strategy in their NIT game against VCU, and Williams didn’t have an answer when facing heavy pressure. The pressure forced him to make basic passes to a teammate further out on the perimeter that didn’t move the offense forward or serve to create an advantage for the offense.
I alluded to Williams’ size earlier when discussing his finishing ability, but where it shines brightest is on the defensive end. Though he’s listed at 6’6”, 210, he appears bigger than that on film. He’s powerful, which allows him to guard up with ease. In a game against Richmond, their center Grant Golden had fits trying to push him around down low. Williams also has an excellent nose for blocks. His shot-blocking is largely predicated on his coordination and technique. He engages in one of my favorite tactics for shorter shot-blockers— getting to the ball low. Williams isn’t the best leaper, so he doesn’t try to meet opponents at the rim. Instead, he gets his hands on the ball while the opposing player is still in the middle of their form, disrupting them before they even realize the obstruction. He also has an exceptional knack for pinpointing the ball, making this tactic even more effective.
Williams does a nice job on the perimeter, too. When writing about his offense, I noted his sense of the opposing player’s balance, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that his balance is outstanding, either. His closeouts are disciplined, which allows him to alter shots without getting burned. His length comes in handy here, too, as it allows him to keep some breathing room while not giving up an easy look. In pick-and-roll coverage, Williams expertly plays a game of cat and mouse, not allowing a clean driving lane while simultaneously making the offensive player uncomfortable pulling up into a shot.
My primary concern with his defense ties back to his biggest offensive issue: Williams isn’t the fleetest of foot, nor does he have the quickest reaction time. Balance and technique serve him well in college, but I worry about how scalable this will be at the next level. In one of the clips above, Jake Laravia beat him with a quick spin on the block, and LaRavia himself is facing questions about his agility at the next level. Professional perimeter players may be able to force reactions out of him, and his recovery speed isn’t the best. In college, his physical tools compensate for that, but it will be trickier in The Association. Against NBA size, his strength may not be as functional down low, either.
Stat-Sheet Stuffers: Harder to Project Than You Think!
This past week, I posted a poll on Twitter comparing the resumes of two Prospects. The statistics were on a Per-40 minute basis, they were in the same grade in school, and they faced similar competition.
PROSPECT A: 19.6 PTS, 12.6 REB, 4.6 AST, 1.8 STL, 1.1 BLK, 44.9/38.8/72.3 splits, 4.4 3PA, 5.6 FTA
PROSPECT B: 23.3 PTS, 9.1 REB, 9.4 AST, 1.3 STL, 0.3 BPG, 46.2/44.4/85.3 splits, 9.2 3PA, 3.7 FTA
Prospect B won the poll with 89.7% of the vote. Prospect B was Denzel Valentine, and Prospect A was Draymond Green. Obviously, blind resumes aren’t perfect. That’s why we watch film. But it also shows that stat-sheet stuffing doesn’t have the clearest translation to the NBA. The primary issue is the level of competition. Someone who is a good athlete by college standards may be an average or below-average athlete by NBA standards, thus diminishing their ability enough in every area at the next level to the point that they are not worth playing. The second aspect is role. Denzel Valentine got to have the ball a lot in college, and Michigan State’s offense ran through him. He wasn’t good enough to maintain that load in the NBA. More troublingly, his decision-making didn’t translate in a diminished setting. Valentine didn’t move the ball quickly, and he would grind the Bulls offense to a halt when he would unnecessarily put the ball on the floor. Draymond Green’s defense was the specialty skill that got him on the floor, but the way he complimented the offense and acted as an engine rather than a speed bump was a colossal difference-maker for his fate.
So, who are the comparable counterparts for Vince Williams Jr. statistically? They are few and far between, which is an amazing testament to what a special season he put together. Using the fantastic BartTorvik site, I ran a query based on Williams’ most impressive statistics. Since 2012, only three other Division One college basketball players took more than 100 three-pointers, connected on over 36% of them, made over 80% of their free throws, had an assist percentage over 15%, posted a block percentage over 3%, and had a steal percentage over 2%. They are as follows:
-Sindarius Thornwell as a senior at South Carolina
-Derrick White as a senior at Colorado
-Andrew Kostecka as a junior at Loyola Maryland
What a combination! Let’s start to unpack it. As he’s yet to play in the NBA, Andrew Kostecka is obviously the one who sticks out like a sore thumb. He’s also the easiest to explain away, as he posted gaudy numbers as a 6’4” guard in the Patriot League. What he did was impressive, but his lack of size and lower-end competition play a factor in why he never popped up on the NBA Draft radar. Sindarius Thornwell is currently out of the NBA, but he played in the league for four seasons. As a rookie, it seemed like he was truly going to stick as he posted efficient numbers in a minor role for an overachieving Clippers squad. Sadly, he never received a similar opportunity again, and in the chances he did receive, he performed poorly. He currently plays in Germany for Ulm, a respectable squad competing in the EuroCup. Derrick White is the big success story of the group. He’s had a great NBA career, starting for the San Antonio Spurs before becoming a vital bench player for the surging Boston Celtics after the most recent trade deadline.
So, which of these guys is Vince Williams Jr.? Is he the guy who doesn’t sniff the league, the guy who gets a cup of coffee, or the guy who becomes a long-term rotation player? If I knew the answer, I wouldn’t be writing this. But what we can draw from the exercise is a general understanding of where his issues as a prospect arise. While Williams played in the Atlantic-10, a far better conference than Kostecka’s Patriot League, it still isn’t as competitive as Thornwell’s SEC or White’s PAC-12. Another key difference is that both Thornwell and White got buckets. White scored 18.1 PPG in his final college season, while Thornwell posted 21.4 and won SEC Player of the Year. While Williams’s efficient 14.1 PPG is nothing to sneeze at, there are levels to this, and his scoring output isn’t on the level of White or Thornwell. It’s reasonable to worry about his lack of juice as a scorer.
White was drafted 29th overall, while Thornwell was selected 48th. On paper, this bodes poorly for Vince Williams Jr. Still, merely looking at where those two were selected strips away an important piece of context: position and size. White is a guard, and he has good positional size for the spot on the floor. Thornwell, however, was a tad undersized for a wing at 6’4” even though he did have a 6’10” wingspan. Williams is a bigger player than either of these two, and the forward spots are of massive importance in the modern NBA. Teams can never have enough players with size who can defend and shoot. The shooting is also worth touching on again; while Thornwell lit it up from deep as a senior, his career percentage was 33.9%. Williams, meanwhile, has a more reliable track record at 36.7%.
There is a real possibility that too much of what Vince Williams Jr. did in college won’t be scalable to the NBA. When you add in that he is also an older prospect who will have a shorter time span to develop his craft and will likely not have a ton of organizational focus as a lower-tier prospect, it could get ugly in a hurry. Still, I feel that Williams is definitely worth a try for a competitive team picking in the second round. His position is simply too important, and players who can do what he might be able to do in the NBA are few and far between. Forwards this versatile don’t grow on trees, and it’s usually the savvy ones that figure it out. That’s Vince Williams Jr.
The Draft Sicko Deep Cut Prospect of the Week is The Citadel’s Jason Roche!
Jason Roche caught my attention when he entered the transfer portal this past week. A 6’5” freshman wing who shot 39.7% from three on nearly nine attempts per game? Sign me up! I dug into the film, and he’s every bit the sniper he’s advertised to be. He got to work in a hurry, posting 27 points in an upset victory over Pittsburgh in his college debut. Roche impressed me with his movement; he looks like a high-major player running around the court. He has a quick trigger, gorgeous shot prep, and he knows how to fill the empty spaces along the three-point line to get open. In transition, Roche is comfortable stepping right into his feet. He’ll throw in the occasional fake pass to confuse the defense, too. On the other side of the ball, he does a good job of staying in front of his man.
The bad news is that jump shooting is basically all Jason Roche does. 94.2% of his shots in the halfcourt were jumpers, per Synergy, meaning he took 14 total shots around the basket, of which he made seven. Part of it could have been his role, but so far, he hasn’t shown the ability to do anything at a high level other than move and shoot. Still, you could pick two worse things to do at a high level. Defensively, he’s prone to ball watching. Though his footwork is nice, he can feel a bit frantic and reactionary on that end when covering the ball. He’s not the strongest and would be prone to bullying against high-major competition. His 1.1 STL % and 0.6 BLK % were iffy for a perimeter player based on SoCon standards, and it’s hard to see him being more impactful against better players.
Perimeter players need to be multifaceted to make it in the modern NBA. Roche has a long way to go. He’ll need to add driving, finishing, and passing craft to his game, and that’s before we even touch on his defense. When the shot isn’t falling, he’s downright painful to watch. Still, as a 6’5” sharpshooter with quick feet, I’ll be monitoring him as a multi-year prospect. He’s likely three years away if he ever gets there, but I’m still intrigued.
-Being the Draft Sicko that I am, I, of course, caught up on the big tournament. That’s right, folks: the NIT. Two big things stuck out, and we’ll start with the bad one first. Toledo’s Ryan Rollins is an absolute mess on defense right now. This isn’t earthshattering information, but it would have been nice to see him crank up the effort dial when Dayton stifled his offensive production. On a positive note, Santa Clara’s Jalen Williams is a better athlete than I thought he was. I had Rollins around 30 and Williams around 42 on my last board, and I doubt they’ll both be in their same spot the last time around— both for different reasons.
-Bennedict Mathurin’s passing improvements down the stretch may have been enough to push him to the top of my crowded second tier.
-Mark Williams is the Hansel of college basketball: he’s so hot right now. This is now the second column in a row with a Zoolander reference, and I cannot apologize enough for that. Still, for the second consecutive season, Williams has taken giant strides as the year went along. He goes up strong better than any prospect in this draft, keeping a death-grip on the ball and sending the ball through the basket with ferocity. He’s not going to let anyone knock the ball loose or let anyone bump him into a miss. Williams is so exceptional at the fundamental aspects of big man offense. Add in his catch radius on lobs, passing development, rim protection, agility, and willingness to play a role, and it’s impossible for me to see him not being around the NBA for a long time.
-I caught up on some G Leauge Ignite action, and Dyson Daniels continued to impress me. There will be a bigger piece coming to No Ceilings on him shortly, but I just wanted to quickly note something I haven’t seen him get enough credit for— his nose for rebounds. Daniels has an exceptional sense for the glass and gets into position quickly. Because he’s such a good transition player and leads the break well, rebounding is a crucial skill for him. A lot of players like to grab-and-go, but you have to do the grab part first. For Daniels, it’s there.
-I was on the You Know Ball podcast this week! You can listen to it on podcast apps everywhere or watch it on YouTube here! If you’re a Sixers fan, you won’t find a better show. Go subscribe!