What Mark Williams brings to the Charlotte Hornets

Mark Williams could have done all this a year ago.

The NBA Dragging, turning professional, making mountains of money: all of this. And why not? In the last game of Williams’ new season at Duke, he broke Ralph Sampson’s record as a freshman on a rebound in an ACC tournament game, with 19 boards. Over Williams’ last nine games as a freshman, he averaged 13.6 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.9 blocks, all while shooting better than 70 percent from the ground. So, that metaphorical momentum we’re all talking about? Williams had a lot to do if he wanted to leave Durham and start the next phase of his basketball journey.

But he didn’t. He discovered the recruiting process a year ago before finally deciding to return for a sophomore season with the Blue Devils. And with his return came goals – real goals, he even took the liberty of writing them down.

“Things he wanted to achieve,” says Chris Carwell, Duke’s assistant technical director. “We held him responsible.”

On the list: to be named the All-ACC Defensive Player…to be the Conference Defensive Player of the Year…and Naismith Defensive Player of the Year…to win a national title…and eventually become a first-round draft pick or picking

Well, over the past 12 months, Williams has checked everything near every one of these boxes — and now he’s got the last tick, too, courtesy of Charlotte Hornets His #15 pick in the NBA Draft on Thursday.

What makes Williams the real best prospect in the class this year? bunch of things. Start off fit, i.e. the 20-year-old stands 7-foot-2 in the shoe, with a 7-7 lateral wingspan and 9-9 reach. (Since Williams’ departure this spring, Duke has appropriately installed a new wingspan banner in his facility bearing his portrait.) It is this frame that makes Williams an attractive attacking threat, and what forms the basis of his defensive identity.

So, let’s dig in there. defensive identity. You mean, as one of the best bullet blockers and tire protectors in this category? Williams had a No. 17 by mass percentage in college basketball last season, per KenPom, averaging 2.8 blocks per night. In fact, he had nearly twice as many multi-block games in college (41) compared to his games with only one block or no blocks (21).

“We built it from the inside out,” Carwell says. “You have to protect our paint.”

Perhaps learning Williams was more interesting than learning how to block shots when he’s not. On points earlier this season, Williams was so effortlessly into the blocks seemingly on every two-point attempt that he was putting himself out of position on defensive rebounds from fouls. Instead, Mike Krzywski and his crew had to teach Williams when not to go to the “champion” blocks and, instead, in a position to keep track of rebounds.

But that’s not where Williams’ defensive growth ended. Williams struggled earlier in the season with defending the flankers and attackers faster on the perimeter — Duke ended up playing low coverage and even an area in the NCAA Championship to accommodate — but he improved once the staff gave him specific training. Spencer Hubbard, a 5-8 ranger on the Boy Scouts, was dribbling around the perimeter…and Williams, who is over a foot tall, had to try to keep up. It wasn’t a perfect solution – how Williams would hold up as a changing defender is a point of debate between scouts and residents – but there was still serious growth.

That’s without mentioning Williams on the offensive end, where he is the epitome of an edge runner. For Kienbaum, Williams ranked second in offensive rankings in college basketball last season, buoyed by the fact that he had two throws in the fifth best average (72.3 percent) in the sport. A deeper dive into Williams’ metrics reveals more upside. He was one of the rare players measured in the 100th percentile of scoring efficiency, per synergy, with an average of 1,308 points per possession (PPP). Most of his points came in the traditional ways — post finishes, swinging, transitioning, and as rolling — but there might also be a bit of a shot in the opposite direction here on the trail. How in the eyes of every individual front desk he is, but given that he hit 72.7 percent of his free throws and fired some potential from elbow range, it’s not out of the question that Williams could turn into a shooting threat.

Despite this, the basis for this choice is the low use and high efficiency of a large attack that can also protect the coating to the best of their ability. It’s not hard to imagine Williams catching blisters and running the floor in the transition from day one, as well as clearing and deterring shots on the inside. So, even if his offensive game doesn’t extend to the periphery, what is a fair expectation for Williams’ career?

“He should be a fixture in the NBA for a long time, and a really good player,” Carwell says.

(Photo: Kelley L Cox / USA Today)