The mega man is back in style in the NBA once again. Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid and Giannis Antikonmo have named Player of the Year. The Warriors and Celtics boasted versatile defensive encounters to defeat them, with Al Horford and Robert Williams starting III with Boston, and Kevin Looney and Draymond Green at the Golden State. Although speed, space and small ball continue to define the league, the seniors have now also migrated to the periphery, just as the shorter players did for the first time in years.
More big guys with peripheral skills are on the way. Two could hear their names in the top three of the 2022 NBA Draft on Thursday. One of the best shot-blockers in the league in years is Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren – he can drain 3 seconds. Duke’s Paolo Banchero is an advanced shot creator for his age as a player and playmaker. Even the 6-foot-10, striker Jabari Smith Jr. could play a Role 5 in his future. The steady increase of big stars also requires a response from the teams to find the big ones who can fight the inner volume And the Switch to Ambient Scorer.
“It shows just how much basketball has evolved,” says Mark Williams, a 7-foot, 242-pound center who is expected to go in the middle of the first round. “There was a little time that was the thing, and before that you had 5 more. Now it’s a mix with guys who can do a little bit of everything.”
Williams, who played alongside Banchero, averaged 11.2 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.8 blocks during his sophomore year at Duke. At the baseline, he’s a high-altitude blocker and can perform his duties as a big step by sprinting on the ground, rolling hard to the ledge, finishing inside, and snatching offensive planks.
He fits more than a bounce block with a wingspan of 7 feet, 7 and 9 feet and 9 in standing, the second tallest in recorded history behind Tacko Fall. Players like him are doing their best to adapt to a changing league where defending a 7-foot player who can create ocean shots is the norm.
When asked which game showed his best skill last season, Williams referred to Duke’s pre-season win over Gonzaga. “We both were undefeated at the time. It was in Vegas, a real big stage. Obviously a lot of hype got into the game beforehand,” says Williams. “I feel like in that match I was just able to show it all. I simplified things in that game as well. I defended without pooping, grabbed my boobs, did a little bit of everything.”
Williams stopped six shots, showing off his ability to raise his arms straight to challenge shots of successful college scorers like Drew Tim. His backing defense was excellent, as he took turns painting to beat shots on the edge. He looked like a bit of an inside port, but he also demonstrated the interchangeability that makes Time Lord a fully defensive team player for the Celtics and not just a weak blocker. Same goes for Looney, who went from smashing the plates to moving on to Luka Doncic in the Western Finals. Adults need at least the ability to survive on the outside.
At Duke, Williams was inconsistent when trying to move sideways with the outside scorers. But he improved after his freshman season to qualify as a sophomore. He struggles and displays the ability to implement various schemes, whether it is a drop or a hedge. While training in Miami this summer, he says he’s working on his mobility so he’s as versatile as possible.
The team that drafted him will help him make a big move in this division, just as the Nets did with Jarrett Allen, or Jazz with Rudy Gobert. With players in the Williams mold in demand, particularly on affordable contracts, Duke’s sophomore has cemented himself as a potential lottery pick. Center Galen Doreen is also expected to be drafted in Memphis, while three other centers (Walker Kessler, Christian Koloko and Ismail Kamagati) are expected to be late in the first round or early in the second. But Doreen or Williams would be the first position chosen after Holmgren and Panchereau.
“Obviously it would be great to be drafted into the lottery. It’s definitely something I want,” Williams said. “But at the end of the day, fitness is going to be the most important thing.”
Last week in Washington, Williams told reporters that his previous training included the Wizards, Tottenham, Knicks, Hornets and Bulls. All of them choose between the ninth and eighteenth.
Williams has a sister, Elizabeth, who graduated from Duke University and finished fourth in the 2015 WNBA Draft. She won the MVP award in 2016, and became an All-Star in 2017. Mark saw his sister fulfill her dreams while he was still in the ninth grade, watching a ball The basket is changing before his eyes. That same year, Roy Hebert played his final NBA season at the age of 30 just three years after being named an All-Star. Joubert turned into a meme for Steve Curry. And the post’s top scorer in Brooke Lopez suddenly turned into a hard-hitting scorer. The league was changing. The adults needed to defend the perimeter, hopefully with a triple shot. Throughout his career, Williams was never asked to shoot. But it’s something he’s been working on in preparation for the NBA.
“We’ve gotten to the point that if a defender is holding back, I have confidence to shoot the ball,” Williams said. “I’m going to keep improving, being confident to hit the ball, but now I think it’s definitely seen as more of a cherry up front than the foundation of my game.”
As a sophomore, he hit five of the nine jumpers, according to Synergy. It’s a small sample, but he also moved from 53.7 to 72.7 percent of the streak after making that focus in his training the previous summer. Williams went from an expected pick in his twenties to his mid-teens in part because of his progress. In college, he made some great shots, including a turn from the right baseline against Michigan State. In the pros, he’ll just need to shoot a steady triple like Lopez, Jonas Valancinuas, or one of the many top players who have stretched their games behind the line so he can play with anyone in the front zone.
“I work as I want right away,” Williams said of the success in the NBA. “Obviously it won’t. But I have to keep working on my game even if I don’t get the chance to do things right away.”
If Williams is drafted by a team that features a highly-used pick builder like the LaMelo Ball in Charlotte or DeMar DeRozan in Chicago, his primary role will be to check and finish strong at the edge. Against Gonzaga, Holmgren put on a poster.
Although tempted by Williams’ highlights, he says he feels equally satisfied doing the little things the center is asked to do, like hinting at an offensive board.
“It might not necessarily be cute, but it helps you win,” he says.
The NBA has changed, but the huge man is never dead. The league has just entered a wave of superstars and superstars in their roles. The team drafting Williams hopes he can be another big who does a little bit of everything.