Latavious Williams Ready to Make History in the NBA Draft
Williams left high school last year, and instead of going the Brandon Jennings route of heading to Europe for the big bucks, he became the first player ever to jump directly from high school to the NBA D-League when he wasn't able to make the academic requirements to enroll at Memphis. He spent a year with the Tulsa 66ers, owned by the Oklahoma City Thunder. And if ever there was a story of what the D-League could do for a kid, Williams has it.
Williams came into Tulsa as the embodiment of the term "raw." He simply wasn't ready to contribute at an NBA level. While the denial of players into the NBA from high school is a stone's throw away from disenfranchisement, there's still something to be said for players like Williams, who, had they entered at the level they were at, would have suffered, been marginalized and likely fallen out of the league.
And that's where the D-League came in.
Over the last several months, the training staff in Tulsa under head coach Nate Tibbetts worked with Williams to control his play and refine his movements. His first game showed great promise, but from there, he faded a little bit. But as the season went on, he continued to, well ... develop, just like the Development League's name implies. But don't take my word for it. That's why we have charts!
Here we've got Williams' D-League points as he progressed throughout the season. You'll notice that nifty trendline indicating his improvement as the season went on. Some of this is to be expected for any prospect, but the improvement is enough to show that Williams is on track to be a solid late first-, early second-round pick. Williams' offensive versatility also improved, refining his mid-range jumper while improving his under-the-basket skills (think Glen Davis, only not as much flab, and without looking like a drunken seal). Maybe you're concerned about what effect his minutes had on this. Good thing I've got you covered!
So we see a similar effect on the per-minute numbers, and late in the season as the 66ers made a playoff push, Williams' improved that much more. He averaged 28.5 minutes per game and 15.7 points over the last ten games of the season.
Williams' rebound numbers show a similar effect as he adjusted to the D-League level of talent, which for all its criticism, does feature a number of talented rebounders, as those are the players most likely to get a call-up.
Williams' is no super-youngster, though. He's 21 years old. But he also presents an opportunity to draft a player who has proven he's coachable, who committed himself to improving his game, and who has already played among NBA-caliber players. Williams has been a terrific example of what the D-League can do for a young player. We'll find out Thursday if he can translate that work to a draft spot.
Keep an eye on teams that have strong D-League ties who might recognize his worth. Oklahoma City is the obvious answer, as he's worked in their system and with their coaches. But other teams such as the Spurs, Rockets, Jazz, and Warriors may spot him late and decide to take a chance before anyone else can grab him.