At 6’4”, 205lbs, Lucas Williamson was one of the nation’s best defenders for the Loyola Ramblers last season. Projected as a late second-round to undrafted prospect in the NBA Draft, Williamson’s incredible on-ball defense could turn him into one of this year’s best sleeper picks. On Thursday, the Utah Jazz brought in Williamson for a pre-draft workout, potentially indicating their interest in the former MVC Defensive Player of the Year.
Per Game: 13.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.3 blocks, 2.0 turnovers, 44.0/39.0/72.8 percent shooting splits
Advanced: 58.5 percent true shooting, 7.1 box plus/minus (4.1 offensive, 3.0 defensive), 5.1 win shares, .194 WS/40
Physical: 6’4”, 6’7.5” wingspan, 205lbs, 23 years old
In his time at Loyola-Chicago, Lucas Williamson stood as one of the best defensive players in the nation. He collected a plethora of defensive awards throughout his colligate career, most notable of which are his two MVC Defensive Player of the Year honors in the 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons. The guy is simply a bulldog on that end. He’s got incredible defensive instincts and discipline, moves his feet well, reads passing lanes, has active hands, and does an incredible job of always positioning himself correctly on the court. More than just an individual defender, Williamson’s phenomenal spatial awareness allows him to effectively rotate, switch, and cover up his teammate’s mistakes. In a Marcus Smart-esque manner, as an undersized as a shooting guard, Williamson uses his strong 205 pound frame to fight against opposing forwards. His good wingspan and physicality give him a fighting chance against any matchup he faces. There is a reason why he won two DPOY’s as a 6’4” guard.
I could go on for ages about his defense, but for the sake of brevity, just know this: if added to Utah’s roster, he would instantly become their best perimeter defender (and it probably wouldn’t be close).
On the other end, Williamson grew into a solid threat at Loyola. He’s not outstanding at anything, but he’s a more than adequate shooter, playmaker, and scorer off the dribble. His 39.0 percent shooting from three in his final season is a good indicator that he could effectively space the floor in the NBA. Off the bounce, Williamson doesn’t have a plethora of moves in his arsenal, but he uses his body well to find open looks. He often bullies his way into the paint and shoots a short post-fadeaway shot akin to the move Jalen Brunson shredded Utah with in the playoffs.
Although I just went on about how well Williamson defends as a small guard, the unfortunate reality is that size rules in the NBA, especially for guards and wings. Just take a look at the teams in the 2022 NBA Finals: both the Warriors and Celtics have fantastic positional size, strength, and length. If played as a point guard, Williamson would match up fantastic in the league, but unfortunately, his offensive game isn’t developed enough for that role. He’s not good enough as a ball handler or playmaker to run the point, forcing him to slot in as a shooting guard. In that role, he instantly becomes undersized and his effectiveness on both sides of the court are diminished. He simply doesn’t have the first-step or leaping ability to make up for his lack in height.
This issue becomes obvious when he attempts to attack the rim. He’s not a good enough athlete to finish over defenders, and lacks the creativity to score around them, leading to rough awkward shots. He’ll need to clean this up or focus on becoming a deadeye shooter if he wants a real shot in the league. Given that he’s 23 years old, Williamson’s time in the NBA to do so would be relatively short.
Off his defense alone, Williamson is a solid fit for Utah. It’s no secret the Jazz are in dire need of good perimeter defenders, and Williamson is the best there is in the draft. Yet, given that Utah’s guards are all undersized, Williamson wouldn’t contribute to bolstering the Jazz’s relative positional size. Should he be available late in the second round, I think he’s worth a buy-in pick. But the Jazz need size, and repeatedly drafting 6’7”-6’10” wings until one sticks might be more worth their while.
All stats from sports-reference.com