Let’s be honest: First impressions are important, especially in basketball. The most heralded guys, whenever you learn about them, are usually the ones with crazy mixtapes, 40-inch verticals, or the ability to shoot from 30 feet.
Grant Williams doesn’t have any of these things. Your first impression of him, if you happened to see him play at Tennessee, was probably less than charitable. Barrel chested and floor bound, Williams’ frame screams defensive lineman more than it does NBA lottery pick. He can dunk (quite easily, in fact), but doing so in traffic doesn’t come as easily to him as it does Zion Williamson. He’s not a prolific shooter, he’s not skying for rebounds and blocks, and he’s not flying through the lane for a crazy layup.
What he can do, however, is be exceptionally good at basketball.
Williams, a back-to-back SEC Player of the Year Award winner, would have been the most overlooked great player this past college basketball season if Brandon Clarke didn’t exist. Then again, as a scorer and leader, he was probably a more dependable threat than Clarke to lead a team to victory, which he did 57 out of 72 times and 28 out of 36 times in SEC play over the past two season.
The scouting report on Williams is hard to contextualize, because there aren’t really many players like him. Undersized as a big man and oversized as a pure wing, he’s a post scoring, post passing, close contact player in an era that emphasizes movement on the perimeter over anything else. His raw numbers are good (18.8 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.1 steals, 1.5 blocks per game), but don’t leap off the screen the same way that, say, Ja Morant’s do.
He can still hold up in the NBA because he possesses three rare attributes that almost every good NBA player has: he’s smart (both in the traditional sense and in the basketball sense), he’s strong, and he’s got great touch. Those three things can make even a sub-NBA athlete into a star (see: Jokić, Nikola).