Arizona’s Derrick Williams Among Early Entrants So Far

Half the league has nothing to play for right now. So General Managers throughout the league have their eyes turned toward the NBA Draft. The potential upcoming lockout is scaring away some of the best underclassmen, weakening an already pretty weak draft class.

Still, while there are likely no superstars in this draft and possibly very few All-Stars, there are still guys that are going to contribute and have long careers (as there always are).

Perhaps the biggest name, short of Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger, declared for the draft Wednesday and announced his intentions to sign an agent. Arizona’s Derrick Williams, who averaged 19.5 points per game and 8.3 rebounds per game while shooting 59.5 percent from the floor and 65.0 percent effective field goal percentage (sixth best in the nation).

Williams did an incredible job in his two years at Arizona proving a lot of naysayers wrong and turning all of his raw talent into something very solid. Williams came up huge in some big moments for Arizona, recording a game-saving block against Memphis in the NCAA Tournament’s second round and converting a three-point play to defeat Texas in the third round. He then scored 32 points in a 93-77 upset win over Duke.

During Arizona’s run to the Pac-10 Tournament Finals and NCAA Tournament Regional Finals, Williams averaged 22.4 points per game while shooting 53.8 percent from the floor. When the pressure was on Williams and his teammates to win, he stepped up. He sometimes even put the young Wildcats on his shoulders and carried them further in the tournament.

Williams is still a bit of a “tweener” at 6-foot-8 and a still-improving 3-point shot. He is not big enough to likely play power forward and he does not have the range to be a stretch-4. But he is so talented. He is definitely a prospect to go No. 1 depending on how he works out with teams throughout the draft process.

And with Sullinger deciding to stay in Columbus and Harrison Barnes deciding to stay in Chapel Hill, it definitely opens up who could be No. 1.

Kyrie Irving of Duke created a lot of buzz with how he played in the NCAA Tournament despite missing almost the entire season with an injury. Irving has all the hype to be the No. 1 pick, but he will have to re-prove that he is healthy enough to merit that top pick. His talent can certainly write that check.

Joining Irving and Williams, there are plenty of other underclassmen who should intrigue in the draft.

San Diego State big man Kawhi Leonard and Kansas’ Marcus Morris and Markieff Morris will test the waters. So too will Kansas’ Josh Selby and Butler’s Shelvin Mack. And then there is Connecticut sparkplug Kemba Walker foregoing his senior year to play in the NBA. Most of these guys are lottery picks and all look like first round picks at the moment. There is still a long way before the Draft.

You can also throw in a talented group of international players led by could-have-been Kentucky star Enes Kanter from Turkey (he was deemed ineligible by the NCAA although he continued to practice with the Wildcats this year) and Lithuanian big man Donatos Montiejunas (a projected late first-round pick last year before he pulled out).

There is talent, albeit likely undeveloped talent, in this draft for the lottery teams to focus on. The fact most of them are all potential means that those teams with high draft picks have a lot of work to do now that the season is officially over.

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily