Even before the 2015-16 college basketball season, the rumors coming out of Morgantown were that this would be the last year in gold and blue for junior forward Devin Williams.
Those rumors turned out to be true, and on Tuesday Williams made himself eligible for the draft and released a statement that makes it sound like there's no chance he's changing his mind.
This is something I've thought about over and over, and I believe that this is the best decision for me and my family," Williams said in a statement released Tuesday morning. "I can't say enough about the three years I have had at West Virginia University. At the same time, I'm grateful to be in this position to be able to fulfill a lifelong dream. I would like to thank my teammates, Coach Huggins and the coaching staff, Mr. [Shane] Lyons, President [Gordon] Gee, all of the basketball support staff and the entire Mountaineer Nation for all their guidance and support during the last three years" Williams said in Tuesday's release. "This has been a tremendous experience for me and I will always be a Mountaineer."
So now that he's moving to the professional ranks, what are the odds that the big man from Cincinnati is selected in June's NBA draft?
If you believe the draft experts, they're not great.
Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress.com, easily the best site on the web for the draft, doesn't even have Williams in his top 100 prospects. Givony has Williams outside of the top 30 juniors in college basketball, placing him at #34.
Chad Ford, ESPN's draft insider, ranks Williams as the 94th best prospect. Ford has Williams as the 24th best power forward prospect, behind Big 12 members Cheick Diallo (10), Carlton Bragg (11), Perry Ellis (18).
So in a draft where only 60 players are selected, it's a major longshot that Williams will hear his name called on June 23rd.
There are two skills that NBA scouts today are looking for among bigs more than any other: the ability to stretch the floor on offense, and the ability to protect the rim on defense.
Williams, to his credit, improved his shooting every season:
And while he's shown an ability to knock down the 18 footer, the three point range just isn't there. Williams shot (and missed) only one three pointer in his three year career. In a league where having more than one non-outside shooter on the floor is death for your offense, teams are certainly not going to look past that.
Williams post defense is solid, but his lack of foot speed and athleticism results in him simply not being a good rim protector. Block rate is a fairly good indicator of a player's ability to protect the rim, and Williams' is alarmingly low. For the 2015-16 season, Williams had a block rate of 0.9%, meaning that he blocked less than one percent of the shots attempted while he was on the floor. For reference, the Big 12's leader in block rate (Prince Ibeh) swatted away 11.87% of his opponents' attempts. Williams ranked 9th on his own team, blocking a smaller percentage of shots than even Jevon Carter.
NBA defenses (at their best) have all five players moving on a string. If you're not incredibly quick on your feet, you are going to get exposed.
There are some skills that would translate to the NBA for Williams, mainly his dominance attacking the offensive and defensive glass.
Williams was 21st in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage this season, grabbing 14.8% of the Mountaineer misses while he was on the floor. He ranks even better on the defensive end, coming in at 10th in the nation at 29.2%.
Though his 6'9 frame is worrisome in the land of seven footers, Williams has a ferociousness on the glass that would allow him to grab his fair share of boards no matter what league he plays in.
Another number that will jump out to scouts is Williams' ability to draw fouls. Williams was able to draw 7.5 fouls per 40 minutes, per KenPom, a number that ranked 10th nationally. Granted, he was able to draw those fouls in an offense that was centered around him, but he also put up a solid number last season (7.2 FD/40) when everything was going through Juwan Staten.
As I've said, Williams is a longshot to make it to the NBA, but let me be clear: I think he made the right decision and most everyone (whether they will admit it or not) would have done the exact same thing. Consider:
- The flaws in Williams' game that hold him back from being a top NBA prospect are not going to change with another year in college.
- Though he hasn't been injury prone, there's always that risk. Just ask Da'Sean Butler.
- Athletes have a very limited time period to make money playing sports. Why play another year for free when you can get paid?
- There will absolutely be plenty of opportunities for Williams to play professionally and get paid handsomely to play basketball overseas. The international route has worked out very well for several former Mountaineers, including Butler, Kevin Jones, John Flowers, and Devin Ebanks.
Williams departing early is a huge blow to the 2016-17 Mountaineers, but you can't blame a guy for doing what he feels is best for him. And if you think another year in Morgantown is better for him than making six figures in Europe, you're just being selfish.
He may not be a pro in the NBA, but he will certainly be a pro.