Grant Williams

2019 NBA draft profile: Grant Williams doesn't fill an obvious need but could still be a steal for Sixers

2019 NBA draft profile: Grant Williams doesn't fill an obvious need but could still be a steal for Sixers

As far as college success, Grant Williams is among the most accomplished players in this draft class. He won SEC Player of the Year his sophomore and junior seasons at Tennessee and was a consensus first-team All-American last year, when he averaged 18.8 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.5 blocks per game. The 20-year-old Williams was part of the Sixers’ pre-draft workout group on June 8, which included Oregon's Louis King and Villanova’s Eric Paschall and Phil Booth.

  • Position: Forward
  • Height: 6-foot-7 
  • Weight: 240 pounds 
  • School: Tennessee 

Strengths 

Williams’ long list of strengths has to start with … his strength. His 20 bench-press reps at the combine were most of any player. He knows how to use that strength, too, and is excellent at drawing fouls, finishing through contact and muscling away opponents to earn post position and grab rebounds. As the hub of Tennessee’s offense, Williams was masterful operating from the high post and elbow regions as he showcased his ability to find open teammates, hit mid-range jump shots, seize offensive rebounds and generally make winning basketball plays in high-pressure situations. Defensively, Williams’ intelligence and competitiveness are outstanding foundational tools. He led the SEC in defensive win shares.

Weaknesses

At his workout with the Sixers, Williams acknowledged the weaker parts of his game. He doesn’t have an obvious position in the NBA, he didn’t get much experience guarding on the perimeter in college and he shot 29.1 percent from three-point range in his three seasons at Tennessee.

“I’ve never really believed in positions much because in this league nowadays, it’s not what you play on offense, it’s what you can play on defense,” Williams told reporters. “No matter how big or how small you are, if you can guard multiple positions and be versatile, I feel like you have a place in this league.”

The best case for Williams is he can indeed stay in front of perimeter players in the NBA while also being capable of defending power forwards and centers in smaller lineups. The worst-case scenario is he doesn’t quite have the necessary lateral quickness to guard wings, and that, despite having a soft touch and shooting 81.9 percent from the foul line last season, his range doesn’t comfortably extend to the NBA three-point line. 

Fit 

Williams is not a player who fits into a neat category, such as an elite shooter like Dylan Windler or an athletic big man like Daniel Gafford. He could help the Sixers’ bench right away as a player who can be used in a variety of lineups, and who has offensive skills besides the ability to catch and shoot. Senior vice president of player personnel Marc Eversley has said the Sixers will prioritize need in the second round (see story), which could hint at an openness toward taking the best player available at No. 24. If Williams is still on the board when the Sixers are up in the first round, he might very well be the best player left. 

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Villanova's Eric Paschall, Phil Booth lead Sixers pre-draft workout group with Tennessee's Grant Williams, Oregon's Louis King

Villanova's Eric Paschall, Phil Booth lead Sixers pre-draft workout group with Tennessee's Grant Williams, Oregon's Louis King

CAMDEN, N.J. — The Sixers on Saturday hosted their most interesting and talented pre-draft workout group so far.

National champions and Villanova products Eric Paschall and Phil Booth were reunited while the team also brought in projected first-round pick Grant Williams from Tennessee and fringe first-rounder Louis King out of Oregon.

Not surprisingly, Paschall, who will likely be a second-rounder, Williams and King all stood in the portion of the workout open to the media. 

‘I can’t get away from this kid’

Paschall and Booth have been teammates since Paschall transferred to ‘Nova from Fordham in 2015.

Both went from being role players on the 2018 national championship team to being the leading scorers on last year’s squad. They didn’t lead a repeat effort, but still managed to win the Big East and a Tournament game.

“I think what’s interesting about their group is that they kind of have to accept progression of roles throughout their career,” Sixers senior director of scouting Vince Rozman said. “With Eric, he came in from Fordham and kind of played fifth fiddle [in 2017-18] to their four NBA guys and they move on and he accepts a more dominant role in the offense and started making plays off the dribble. …

“I don’t know how they do it, but they all kind of excel in all of them.”

Paschall and Booth have worked out for a bunch of teams and the process has kept them apart for longer than they’ve been in years.

But there was definitely something special about being reunited in a workout for the Sixers.

“My agent told me, ‘Yeah, Phil is in your workout,’” Paschall said, “and I just started laughing because I can’t get away from this kid.”

While it’s a cool story, make no mistake, there is real interest.

“They’re just really good players,” Rozman said. “We can sell it that way, but we need talent and Villanova and Temple and St. Joe’s and these schools bring them in, they all have really successful college careers and it’s fun to watch.”

That is especially the case with Paschall. While Booth will likely go undrafted and have to fight his way to an NBA roster spot, Paschall will get drafted at some point. There are even those that think he could sneak into the backend of the first round.

With four second-round picks, including selections at Nos. 33 and 34, Paschall would make a ton of sense for the Sixers. He has NBA size, is a decent shooter and is a winning basketball player. Even beyond the actual success he had with the Wildcats, Paschall is a player who just makes winning plays. 

With his experience, it’s possible he could help the Sixers right away.

“I think I’d fit in well,” Paschall said. “I think they’re a very well-rounded team and I could just hop in and help contribute immediately. Just being older and more physical and being able to catch and shoot and just make plays.”

A talented group

Williams and King are both incredibly intriguing prospects, but for very different reasons.

Though Williams is just 20, he played three years with the Volunteers. He’s solidly built at 6-foot-7 and 240 pounds and his basketball IQ is off the charts. The biggest question surrounding Williams is the position he’ll play at the next level.

He’s not at all concerned.

“I’ve never really believed in positions much because in this league nowadays it’s not what you play on offense, it’s what you can play on defense,” Williams said. “No matter how big or small you are, if you can guard multiple positions and be versatile, I feel like you have a place in this league.”

Williams could be a target for the Sixers at No. 24, though Rozman admitted he’s not even sure where exactly Williams would play.

Like Paschall, King could be a fit with one of the team’s four second-round picks. King, out of Jersey City, New Jersey, was a one-and-done player with the Ducks. 

There’s plenty to be intrigued about with King. He’s 6-foot-8 and features a seven-foot wingspan while being able to play on the perimeter. He shot 38.6 percent from three in his lone season and may have quick enough feet to hang with guards. 

He admitted he had to put on weight — as his zero reps on the bench at the combine indicates — but a switchable 3-and-D wing would be on every team’s wish list.

The Sixers are no exception. 

“He’s really skilled,” Rozman said. “He has great size. He can handle and kind of make plays off the dribble … His shot is obviously very, very attractive and projectable. He’s here for a reason. There’s no doubt.”

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