The NBA draft is approaching on June 23 and the Minnesota Timberwolves have the No. 19 overall pick. After a march to the playoffs this past season the Wolves will be looking to take the next step forward and it starts with the draft.
Who might they be interested in with the No. 19 pick?
In this edition, we take a look at Duke center Mark Williams.
An imposing dunkaholic, who hammered home 97 dunks in 2021-22 (the second most in a season in Duke history), Williams is outstanding in a couple areas: finishing above the rim and contesting shots.
Rated as the No. 30 overall player and No. 5 center in ESPN’s rankings for the Class of 2020, Williams spent three seasons at Norfolk Academy in Virginia before transferring to IMG Academy in Florida. He was a 2020 McDonald’s All-American and committed to the Blue Devils over Michigan, UCLA and others.
During his freshman campaign, Williams started 15 of his 23 games and shot 66.4% from the field with averages of 7.1 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks, the latter figure he doubled this past season. Williams emerged as a major frontcourt threat in 2021-22, upping his numbers across the board and improving in a major way at the charity stripe – he sank 72.7% of his free throws compared to 53.7% in Year 1.
Despite limitations offensively – both assumed and explored by an occasional dearth of touches – Williams is flying up mock-draft boards and garnering some lottery noise because of freaky measurables.
Williams did not participate in the drills portion of the combine.
Weight: 242 pounds
Wingspan: 7-6 1/2
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
“One of the most athletic centers at the college level … He uses his length and size masterfully on the defensive end, altering almost every shot at the rim and blocking nearly three shots per game … Great awareness of the positioning of opposing defenses as he is always finding himself on the receiving end of lobs … Great free-throw shooter for a player of his size (75%), suggesting he could expand his range out past the charity stripe with a few years of development on his jumper … Crashes the glass with strength and length … Led the country in Player Efficiency Rating (PER) and posted the 6th best career PER in the NCAA since 2009 … Athletic big man with great footwork who defends the pick-and-roll at an elite level because of it. Uses long arms to disrupt lobs and bounce passes in the lane and create turnovers … Decent court vision and passer who rarely turns it over with less than one turnover per game … Some teams don’t like to draft big men early because their value has been marginalized to some degree, but Williams is a safe choice to make an impact and carve out a long career as an all-NBA defender with potential to grow offensively … Third on the Duke team in scoring, despite not having many plays calls for him … Started showing some ability to create baskets on the block towards the end of his sophomore year, an intriguing development. Granted a majority of his production came from the fact that 71% of his fgs were assisted plays at the rim.” – NBADraft.net
“A massive 7-foot-7 wingspan combined with fluid hips and strong fundamentals made Williams one of the best rim protectors in college basketball. His skills should immediately translate to the NBA, which is atypical for young bigs. Fundamental post defender who rarely commits careless fouls. He’s also a stout defensive rebounder who boxes out. Good hands to catch difficult or surprising interior passes, plus the athleticism to elevate and finish. He’s an aware cutter, timing his motion from the dunker’s spot to get open. He’s also an explosive leaper who can flush lobs over the defense, making him a major weapon as a screener in the pick-and-roll. Capable ball handler who can take a few dribbles when necessary. Can create his own shot by sealing off a defender away from the rim or simply posting up. Excellent offensive rebounder with a natural feel for whether to go right back up or find a shooter with a pass. He has a high basketball IQ and good vision to target teammates as quickly as he does.” – Kevin O'Connor, The Ringer
HOW HE FITS
It’s naive to think Williams will be available once the Timberwolves are on the clock – unless they package some picks and/or players for an earlier slot in the first round – but he’d be a beautiful fit as a paint protector and rim attacker for head coach Chris Finch and Co. Williams’ game has shades of Jarred Vanderbilt to it, give or take a few inches. Like “V8,” Williams’ biggest impact likely is to come near the basket; crashing the glass, crowding the lane and affecting all activity on the inside. His improvement at the line as a Blue Devil is an encouraging sign for his shot development, however, not a guarantee that part of his game evolves much further. The bottom line, fit-wise: Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota’s tallest player currently, isn’t much of a shot blocker. Williams could totally change the dynamic of the Wolves defense.