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2019 NBA Draft Profile: Grant Williams, University of Tennessee

A big body who can guard almost any position on the floor and shoot it from outside. Is he the next Paul Millsap?

Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Grant Williams - Tennessee

Power Forward, 6’7, 240 lbs, 21 years old

56.4% FG%, 32.6 3P%, 81.9 FT%

18.8 PTS, 7.5 REB, 3.2 AST, 1.1 STL, 1.5 BLK, 2.2 TOV

The Jazz come into the draft as one of the top teams in the league with significant flaws that can be addressed with their draft pick. A player that has a significant chance to make an immediate impact at a possible position of need is Grant Williams, a bruising, skilled forward from Tennessee. If all pans out, he has a chance to be PJ Tucker without the shoe collection—give him some time and he can probably amass the walk in closet full of shoes.

Grant Williams has had an amazing collegiate career with two SEC Player of the Year awards and was a first team All-American. He is lower on most draft boards because of his weight and by virtue of being an upperclassmen. In addition to having high basketball IQ, he’s just a bright kid. He had turned down offers from the Ivy League (Harvard and Yale) to go to Tennessee. While PJ Tucker could be a strong comparison, an even better comparison would be Paul Millsap if Williams is able to reach his potential.

Strengths

Williams is a physical, compact big who brings a lot of skill. At Tennessee the offense ran through Williams in the post who scored with a soft touch at the rim with deft passes. He got the free throw line quite a bit as well. In one game he went to the line 24(!) times.

He has an insanely high motor. It’s not just his physical tools and talent that carries him, he just goes. Sounds pretty Millsap-ian doesn’t it? Whether it’s setting a crushing screen or diving for a ball, Williams is willing to do whatever it takes to win the game and that includes the defensive end of the floor. Williams has remarkable hands and has a knack for blocking shots and stealing the ball.

He’s also shown an ability to spot up from three. His three point percentage doesn’t jump off the screen but his free throw shooting and mid range game show promise. Most of those three pointers come as he’s playing trailer in transition. It’s a Memo like catch and shoot opportunity. If that can translate to a higher percentage from the corner three and trailer three in the NBA, Utah found the steal of the draft.

Weaknesses

Williams is a bit undersized and lacks explosion. In college he was able to overpower defenders and score in the post. Williams is not going to be featured in the post in the NBA and will have to alter his game to fit the needs of whoever drafts him. Part of that explosion could be he’s coming in at 240 lbs. That’s the same weight as Derrick Favors after Favors slimmed down. Williams will benefit from an organized nutrition and training programs that can get him to an NBA playing weight.

Because of his lack of explosion, Williams isn’t going to blow by anyone in the NBA. He’ll have to become a reliable shooter while also showing an ability to defend.

His hands are great, and he has a lot of strength, but is he quick enough to stay in front of NBA athletes? He has the motor to switch to the perimeter and strength to guard the low post, but as the game gets faster and more perimeter oriented, he’ll find himself doing less work down low and more work chasing guys on the perimeter. Can he adapt and have that high motor run for 82 games?

Like Paul Millsap, he is very foul prone. In the NBA his gambles for steals and blocks will get him to the bench faster as he’ll get a rookie whistle from officials. He also is more likely to try to post people up rather than shoot the wide open midrange or three point shot. That’s not going to fly in the NBA. He also has had trouble staying in front of quicker guards. In college that’s not a problem as he doesn’t face those type of guards every day. In the NBA, however, that’s every day on the job. His weight and conditioning will become a major focus should the Jazz draft him.


Q&A with Terry Lambert of Rocky Top Talk

I talked with Terry Lambert, Site Manager of Rocky Top Talk, about Grant Williams. He had the opportunity to watch almost all of Grant Williams career as a Tennessee Volunteer. Would Grant Williams be a good pro and—most importantly—an even better Jazzman? Responses are Grant’s.

What strengths of Grant Williams will translate well to the NBA?

First off, Grant is a relentless dude, pretty much all around. He’s a former three-star recruit that turned himself into a back to back SEC Player of the Year. He’s not going to be outworked, which is the main reason why I’m so confident he’s going make it at the next level.

On the floor, Williams consistently wins with his back to the basket. He’s got a variety of moves to pick from and routinely scores through contact and draws a ton of fouls. He’s really worked to develop a mid-range game, which was nearly automatic last season. He’s worked to push that shot outside as well, which helped expand his game as a junior. He’ll have to continue working on his outside shot, but Williams shot 32 percent last season which was a massive improvement from his sophomore year.

Something that sets him apart is his basketball IQ and passing ability. This is a guy who saw a TON of double-teams over his career. He learned how to make the correct pass out of those situations and averaged over three assists in his final year.

What weaknesses of Grant will need to be improved in the NBA?

He’s going to have to prove he can handle defending length, being that he’s just 6-7. He’s also likely going to have to prove that he can guard on the perimeter more as he’ll likely have to guard some small forwards.

That lack of length will obviously limit his upside all around, though he found plenty of ways to score at Tennessee. However, he struggled to consistently rebound and heard from Rick Barnes quite often on that subject.

Grant also handed out quite a bit of fouls over the last two seasons, fouling out of four games last season alone.

Finally, while we saw improvement in his shooting last year, it’s yet to be seen if he can be consistent with it. The flashes have been encouraging, but that’s an evolving part of his game.

What role do you see Grant being in the NBA?

Grant has talked a lot about P.J. Tucker over the years, telling us that he has watched a lot of Tucker’s film with Coach Barnes. It’s safe to say he sees himself in that mold as a player. He’s going to be a guy that can hit the open three, give you some offense in the post, all while offering some versatility as anything from a big wing to a small-ball center.

Would you consider Utah a good landing spot for him?

I think it’s a pretty interesting fit, considering the similarly-sized players on the roster that Grant could learn from. Grant could learn from guys like Joe Ingles and Jae Crowder, each in different ways, while giving the Jazz another versatile piece off the bench.

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