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2021 NBA Draft Prospect Profile: Ziaire Williams

Is this the wing Memphis has been looking for?

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2021 NBA Draft Combine Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Ziaire Williams, FORWARD, Standford

  • 6’8” (6’11” wingspan) 185 pounds from Lancaster, California
  • Last season with Stanford - 20 games played, 27.9 minutes per game, 15.3 points per 40 minutes, 37.4% from the field (29.1% from three on 79 attempts), 79.6% from the free throw line, 6.5 rebounds per 40 minutes, 3.2 assists, 1.2 steals (all per 40 minutes).
  • ADVANCED STATS TO IMPROVE - Effective FG% (.431), FTA rate (.241)
  • ACCOLADES - Preseason Wooden Award Watch List, 2nd Triple Double in Stanford History
  • CURRENT BIG BOARD PLACEMENTS - 27th (Tankathon), 17th (The Ringer), 24th (ESPN), 18th (CBS Sports)
NCAA Basketball: Oregon State at Stanford Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

When you think about what most of the great teams in the NBA today have, what comes to mind? Is it a sharpshooter like Damian Lillard or Stephen Curry or is it the do it all big like Nikola Jokic or Karl-Anthony Towns? Those type talents are more unicorn types than the standard prototype, no the real necessity in today’s league is a dude on the wing. Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James, Giannis Antentokounmpo, Kevin Durant. Outside of being other-worldly talents, these are wing players with length and size.

There is no rule that says you have to have a guy 6’8” on the wing that can defend, shoot and make plays for others, the reality is that those guys are the real unicorns and not everyone gets Durant or Kawhi on their roster. Having someone with that size and even above average skill, is still something to be coveted in the NBA.

This type of player has eluded the Memphis Grizzlies, a dude on the wing. Rudy Gay was traded for in hopes he would be that. Jeff Green was acquired with the same fleeting dream that never panned out. Chandler Parsons was the dream shooter and playmaker with size that fizzled out faster than you can say Chancun.

The Grizzlies need that dude that can play beside Ja Morant and just get buckets on the wing, a Brandon Ingram type possibly.

The current construct of the Memphis Grizzlies is one that allows this front office to “take a swing” on a guy if they choose. It is likely not going to be their window in the upcoming season and they could very well choose to stand pat and run it back. If they choose the route of further roster evaluation with a healthy Jaren Jackson Jr. and Justise Winslow, taking a guy that does not have to contribute right away, with a high ceiling could make sense at 17.

One of the upside swing guys in this draft is Stanford Freshman Ziaire Williams. Williams stands at 6’8” with a 6’11” wingspan, with an eerily similar build to the aforementioned Brandon Ingram.

What he does well

Jumping to a Brandon Ingram comp would be quite hasty as Ingram is an NBA All-Star and budding superstar for years to come. To temper the expectations a little, Ziaire resembles a current day Cam Reddish in terms of build, style of play and poor shooting efficiency. Reddish showed flashes in this year’s playoffs, of the potential to be a stud in this league, many believed he had. The tools are there for Williams to do the same, however, he could have a very Kevin Knox type vibe as well.

At 6’8”, Williams is as fluid an athlete as they come. He has the ability to create his own shot off the dribble, but relies too much on that pull up one dribble jumper and not enough on getting to the rim and creating contact — shooting under 50% from 2 and only getting to the line less than 25% of the time.

I know what you are thinking - “aren’t you the guy who hates inefficient scorers?” Yes, that is me, but there is a stat in the NBA that tells a story beyond the stat and that is free throw shooting. A young player such as Williams may struggle to shoot the deep ball in college as he is still very early in the development of his game, but the free throw shooting percentage can typically paint the picture beyond just free throws. A player that shoots 80% or better from the charity stripe has shooting touch. Of the 34 wing players in the NBA that shot 80% or better at the line this past season, only 7 shot worse than 35% from deep (Devin Booker, DeMar DeRozan, Dillon Brooks, Caris LeVert, Terrence Ross, Jimmy Butler, Dwayne Bacon).

For his size, he also a plus ball handler and playmaker. Having a player on the wing that can create for himself with some size, but is also willing with the ability to play make for others is a match made in heaven for this roster.

Check out this heady pass for a young wing:

His length created many problems on the defensive end, blocking shots and clogging the passing lanes. Imagine adding his wingspan to the team that led the NBA in pass deflections or a guy that can block a three point shot and run down the floor to hit one himself:

How about this scenario instead: Ziaire on the wing while Jaren Jackson Jr. comes to set a ball screen. Rudy Gobert sags in his coverage to protect the roll from Jaren (after all, Ziaire is good passer, so the lob is a threat), as Rudy sags, Williams gives Utah a taste of their own medicine:

Here’s this to get you out of your seat if you aren’t excited yet:

Where he needs to improve

Obviously, there are some negatives if he is outside of the lottery falling into the back end of the first round, but they are truly raw stat based. His shooting arc and release are very solid and repeatable, so the chance for him to develop into an above average shooter is there. He’s just not a prospect that is ready to step in and be a rotation player on a team with winning aspirations right now.

Ziaire Williams is exactly the kind of guy that spends some time on the Memphis Hustle, honing his game in the G League, dominating and forcing his way into some playing time with the big club. This front office has done such a wonderful job drafting and building this roster, they have finally earned the breathing room to take a swing.

Williams defines a High Risk/High Reward type player. He could not pan out like Josh Jackson or Kevin Knox, he could be Cam Reddish or even Brandon Ingram. He may not be the type that Kleiman has seemed to covet in the past, but we have not seen him in this position as a GM yet either.

The Verdict

I would not be shocked to see Memphis pass on him at 17 as I believe other, more sure players will either slip or still be available then. However, if Memphis wanted to move back to gain another pick in this draft, he is a perfect 20+ pick to swing at.

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