Detroit Pistons draft preview: rising Patrick Williams checks off a lot of boxes at No. 7
History says it’s a virtual certainty a future All-Star, perhaps even a future MVP, will be available when the Pistons go on the clock to make the seventh pick in the 2020 NBA draft.
It’s too early to judge the 2018 and ’19 drafts – though early returns suggest form will hold as young players like Tyler Herro (13th pick in 2019) and Shea Gilgeous-Alexander (11th pick in ’18) already appear on an All-Star track – but go back a decade and every draft has produced players who either already are or will be multi-time All-Stars or even MVP winners who were taken with the seventh pick or beyond.
The 2017 draft has already produced All-Stars in Donovan Mitchell (13th) and Bam Adebayo (14th). Jamal Murray, a breakout star of the NBA’s Orlando bubble, was the seventh pick in 2016. Devin Booker was the 13th pick in 2015 and Nikola Jokic went 41st in 2014.
Two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo was the 15th pick in 2013 and three-time All-Star – and three-time NBA champion – Draymond Green was the 35th pick in 2012. His Golden State teammate, Klay Thompson, was the 11th pick in 2011 when two-time NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard went 15th. Paul George was the 10th pick in 2010 and two-time MVP Steph Curry was the seventh pick in 2009.
So when Dwane Casey said in early October, after months of digesting video of top prospects, he was confident the Pistons would get a foundational piece at the seventh pick, he had history – and faith in the eye of new general manager Troy Weaver – in his corner.
Leading to the Nov. 18 draft, Pistons.com will profile 12 candidates to hear their name called when the Pistons announce the pick. Next up: forward Patrick Williams.
FIRST-ROUND CANDIDATE: PATRICK WILLIAMS
ID CARD: 6-foot-8 forward, Florida State, 19 years old
DRAFT RANGE: Ranked 12th by ESPN.com, 14th by The Athletic, 11th by SI.com
SCOUTS LOVE: Williams was a widely sought recruit coming out of Charlotte, N.C., in the class of 2019 but nobody was touting him as a one-and-done candidate. He wasn’t a starter on a deep Florida State team, though he was fourth in minutes played (22.5), scoring (9.2) and rebounding (4.0). The youngest college player in the 2020 draft, Williams has a terrific 225-pound frame and easy athleticism that makes him a prototype for the versatile, switchable defender teams covet – someone capable of chasing wings or holding their own when confronted with more conventional post players. In bursts, Williams puts on displays of a breathtaking array of skills – 3-point shooting, passing with either hand, vision, finishing ability, open-court speed, defensive instincts for passing lanes, rim protection. It takes projection of the likelihood that he can tie all of those things together consistently and in that will be the key to how high in the draft Williams ultimately will be chosen.
SCOUTS WONDER: Read that last part again – about the likelihood of tying it all together. That’s the looming question. The ability to play at or near peak levels night to night and quarter to quarter can be elusive and identifying raw prospects whose inconsistencies could be traced to other factors – inexperience, foremost – as easily as to the inability to motivate oneself consistently is a trait that separates successful front offices from also-rans. Then there’s the question of what level of scorer Williams could ultimately become. The tools are there to be a dynamic, versatile scorer given Williams’ athleticism around the rim, ability to put the ball on the floor and what he flashed as a shooting threat. The defensive skill set is obvious and, at minimum, Williams should be an almost immediate plus on that end once he absorbs the nuances of pick-and-roll schemes and rotation keys. His appeal, then, comes down to where scouts believe his ceiling is at the offensive end. Can he be more than a catch-and-shoot option and, if that’s what he is, can he do it with enough efficiency to justify being a top-10 pick? Does he have the mentality to become an alpha scorer to match his athletic gifts?
NUMBER TO NOTE: 1.0 – That was Williams’ per-game average at Florida State in three categories: assists, steals and blocks. The assists number is a little low, though not terribly alarming given the depth at Florida State and the fact Williams was never a primary or even a secondary facilitator on a team with veterans like fellow lottery prospect Devin Vassell, Trent Forrest and M.J. Walker to dominate the ball. But the blocks and steals in his role underscore the defensive versatility and potential of an athletic 6-foot-8 prospect.
MONEY QUOTE: “Williams should be considered one of the big risers of this draft class. The more teams watch him and his tape, the (more) interested they are in his upside. He’s enormous at 6-foot-8 with a near 7-foot wingspan. He is already 225 pounds, but looks like due to his enormous shoulders he’s going to be able to put on great weight. His defensive instincts in help are outrageously good and he’s an underrated playmaker with the ball in his hand. There is a very real shot that he goes somewhere in the top 10.” – Sam Vecenie in The Athletic.
BOTTOM LINE: Williams wasn’t a 2019 McDonald’s All-American, though probably only Anthony Edwards and James Wiseman will go ahead of him on draft night from those who made up that group. As something of a late bloomer – mitigated by the fact he’s many months or even a year or more younger than many college freshmen in this draft – perhaps Williams hasn’t been a more irrepressible scorer because he’s not yet viewed himself that way but could be growing into such a role. From a sheer tools standpoint, he might be a top-five talent and scouts are more apt to bet on the tools of a prospect on the low end of the age curve. Plus, that Florida State roster was very deep and talented and Williams rose to prominence even if he was coming off the bench. It’s more likely than not that Williams will be available to the Pistons with the seventh pick and it likely would be judged as a reach by media and fans if he were to be the pick. But Williams, who has zero red flags from a character standpoint, seems to check off a lot of boxes for the type of player the Pistons are seeking. The unknown will be how new general manager Troy Weaver views some of the intangible characteristics as far as toughness and competitiveness for Williams.