Former NBA scout Doc Martin breaks down potential lottery pick Patrick Williams of the Florida State Seminoles.
Position: PF/SF | Height 6’8” | Weight 225 | Team: Florida State | Class: Freshman
Can you remember the times when you were preparing to watch your favorite Marvel movie at the theater or in the comforts of your own home? How the comic book pages flipped really fast and helped build the anticipation and excitement of what you were about to see? Well, that’s how I felt as I began to break down the essence of what makes Patrick Williams a potential lottery pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.
Any talent evaluator with either a seasoned or rookie eye for talent can plainly see the level of physicality and tenacious energy Patrick Williams brings to the table. For a freshman, he is put together solidly, and I couldn’t help but compare him physically to the likes of current NBA players such as Luc Mbah a Moute and Marvin Williams. At first glance, his numbers won’t impress you, but his intangibles and potential of being a more offensively efficient threat should intrigue anyone. It’s going to take him some time to find his niche on the next level, but I think he can be better than the players I mentioned above.
The Florida State Seminoles primarily run a four out one in motion offense. It’s a versatile system that requires spacing of the floor, hard cuts, and moving the ball. Williams was able to display all of those skills during his 22.5 minutes per game this past season.
Oftentimes, freshman prospects that are rumored or advised they will likely be one and done candidates frequently become overwhelmed by pressure to solely look for scoring opportunities for themselves and stray away from their team’s game plan. One thing I really like about Williams is that he doesn’t appear to have a selfish streak in him, and there’s no visible evidence that he’s desperate to score every time the ball touches his hands. However, he is a viable threat when the ball does get in his hands. He does a good job of ball reversals and spacing out to the corner. His versatility and hard hat mentality will likely get him on the floor in the NBA. Still, his player development is going to be the deciding factor to determine how soon he can become an integral part of his future NBA franchise. One key aspect that will need to be addressed will be his shot mechanics. Currently, his shot looks stiff and rigid, with no fluidity to it. He shoots a high arching shot with good elevation, but with his standstill attempts, he uses more of his upper body than his total frame, which leads to a stiff and rigid release. His numbers aren’t great from the collegiate three-point line, and he only made 16 out of his 50 attempts at a 32% clip. I get the impression that he’s a young man that’s not opposed to hard work, and I feel that he will put the necessary time to get better in this area. There are several instances where NBA players-- Jason Kidd and Kawhi Leonard, for example — became significantly better outside shooters in the NBA than they were in college. I feel like Williams can do the same.
With a live dribble, Williams doesn’t have a lot of wiggle to his game. He’s a straight line driver that tends to finish lower around the rim when his lane is cut off or if there’s physical contact. In some cases, he attempts to go through the defender or over them if he can. I think he’s going to need to add a few secondary moves to counter his opposition. Possessing a 6’11” wingspan and sturdy frame, he needs to be more intentional about finishing strong at the rim because of the better defenders and increased length he’s going to face at the next level. To help counter that, Williams has a smooth pull up game. He clearly has the confidence to go in either direction and has a high release point. Once he finds his go-to spots at the next level, he’s going to be a load to contend with. This year, he averaged 1.0 assist per game. He has decent handles, but having played in a system where it calls for you to pass, move, and cut, there weren’t a lot of opportunities for him to show what was in his arsenal.
Off the ball, he doesn’t just stand around spectating; he gets deep within the mix, battling for rebounds and attempting putbacks. His gritty energy is on full display, and it makes me excited about what this young specimen could bring to an organization.
Although he only averaged 4.0 rebounds per game, I do think his numbers would have been higher if he had played closer to the basket, or if he had played in a different offensive system. He has a solid feel for the game, and he clearly had a firm grip on the Florida State offense, because he instinctively knew when to cut to the basket during penetration from teammates. He also understands the drive and slide principles.
Williams is versatile enough to operate anywhere on the floor, but there’s not enough evidence to support that he’s comfortable with his back to the basket. By no means am I suggesting that he can’t play on the post because of his size and strength, it’s just not the role he was asked to play within their system. I’m curious to see if he adds a post up element to his game long term.
The Seminoles are a team that will consistently switch with any position on the floor at all times. They consistently pick up full or 3/4 court, particularly after a made basket. They were nationally ranked 13th in steals (8.8 per game) and 12th in blocks (5.2 per game). Although it may look chaotic to some, there’s a method to the madness. Leonard Hamilton’s coaching style might be the closest thing to Nolan Richardson’s “40 Minutes of Hell” from his time leading the great Arkansas Razorbacks’ teams of the 90s.
Overall, Williams was a solid piece of the Seminoles’ defensive game plan. His ability to defend 1-4, and in some cases the 5, is a very intriguing aspect of him. Young prospects that can defend their position alone tend to ease their coach's mind. Williams has some things he needs to clean up because the spacing and defensive rules will be slightly different in the NBA. A couple of areas, in particular, include improving his closeout techniques and learning how to be a second jumper when contesting shots. On defense, it appears that the Seminole players are taught to be aggressive up the line, on the line, in the passing lanes, and to be prepared to take a calculated gamble for a potential steal or deflection.
While on the ball, he struggles to keep the ball handler contained due to a lack of lateral quickness, but he more than makes up for it with his effort to get back into the play. A few NBA teams tend to run some modified versions of a backdoor Princeton offense, a system that can lead to potential scoring cuts and lobs to the basket. Williams will have to show enough poise to not revert to his collegiate tendencies because he could end up on ESPN — and not in a good way. His weak side defense is reasonably reliable. He was often in a proper position, ready to rotate to help clean up any defensive mistakes made by teammates, or battle for defensive rebounds.
The untapped offensive potential that’s there with Williams can only be unlocked by an organization that has a sound player development department. I agree with those that say Williams’ statistical numbers will not wow you. Still, I think the message that needs to be delivered to young prospects is that their job is not to come in and score right away, as most teams already have someone that is being paid a lot of money to do that. A young player’s job is to come in and continue to help build the culture and identity that’s being created. There’s a lot to like about Patrick Williams and the potential of what he could ultimately become. His defensive versatility, frame, and level of physicality will get him into an NBA team’s rotation.
I spoke to Charlton Young, an assistant coach at Florida State that recruited Williams. Without prompting him, he said that Williams could be a poor man’s version of Kawhi Leonard. I found it to be quite interesting that in the most updated Babcock Hoops 2020 NBA Mock Draft, Williams is currently at #11 to the San Antonio Spurs. Is he worthy of being selected that high? Most definitely. Ultimately, what will determine if he is able to maximize his potential is if he is willing to put in the necessary work after his name is called. And that we will have to wait and see.